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Five Key Tips to Set Yourself Apart During an Interview for a Law Firm Job

Four professionals sitting at a desk and talking in an interview

There are some important steps you can take to ensure that you put yourself in the strongest position possible when interviewing for a sought-after law firm position in Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, or elsewhere in Florida. The five tips listed below won’t guarantee you a job offer, but they will certainly improve your chances and help set you apart from the rest of the pack.

Tip No. 1 – Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare Some More

When you walk into a job interview prepared, you are much more likely than not to be a serious contender for the open position (and you would be surprised by how even the most basic research and prep work can separate you from the pack). There is no doubt that preparation is the most important element for any successful job interview. Find out as much as you can about the organization’s operations, market niche and corporate culture. When you are fully prepared for a job interview, you will be able to enter that conference room, partner’s office, or another professional setting with a more focused frame of mind.
Since your level of preparation will likely determine how successful you are, be sure you start getting ready for each interview several days in advance. The extra time will enable you to focus on researching the law firm, what your role might be initially, and what you ultimately want it to be in the long run. Furthermore, when you fully prepare, you’re more likely to pose intelligent questions to your interviewer(s).

Tip No. 2 – Know Your Strengths and Do Not Be Afraid to Highlight Them In Your Responses

Many people actually have a difficult time responding to the common job interview question, “what are your biggest strengths?” To help set yourself apart, create a brief list of approximately five or six of your strongest selling points related to the job (e.g., prior work experience, academic achievement, clerkship, law journal experience, etc.). This list should reflect your most notable legal achievements so that it will help distinguish you from the other candidates.

Tip No. 3 – Understand the Importance of the Screening Interview

The screening interview is the very first interaction between you and someone affiliated with the firm. This is a crucial interaction since it often determines if you will be selected to move forward to the “full round” of interviews with firm senior associates, partners, etc.
The level of importance of this interview will depend primarily on the specific position you are applying for. If, for example, you are a junior associate, you will likely be screened to give the interviewer a general feel for your background and personality.  The screening interviews conducted by law firms are usually handled by a hiring partner of the firm or by a member of the recruiting committee. The types of questions most often asked are related to the junior associate’s work and responsibilities. It is important to avoid asking numerous questions about such subjects as salary, vacation, and benefits at this early stage. The junior associate’s job is simply to leave the hiring organization with the impression that they are hard- working, dedicated to the practice of law, easy to get along with and mature. You need to make a positive first impression at this screening interview. You want the firm to believe they can have confidence in you as an excellent advocate working on their behalf.
If, on the other hand, you are applying for a more senior position within the firm, such as a senior associate or partnership, then the screening interview will be different. Many law firms are very careful about interviewing senior associates and potential new partners. The firm will generally expect you to ask various intelligent, probing questions during the interview. Make sure to ask questions about the individuals you will be working with and what your specific responsibilities include; so that you can determine if you will be comfortable in this senior position.

Tip No. 4 – Show Your Excitement and Interest in Joining the Firm

The applicants who most consistently land jobs are those who put their best foot forward in an interview and display legitimate enthusiasm for the opportunity that is before them. Thus, you need to make sure you can keep yourself in a positive state of mind throughout each stage of the interview process. Enthusiasm involves more than simply indicating your desire to work for a particular law firm in Florida, or elsewhere. Most firms are looking for attorneys who will be easy to work with and have a positive, can-do attitude. However, many attorneys applying for a job tend to default to a level of circumspection and caution during an interview. Do not make this mistake.
When you project the right demeanor, you are indicating that you can do the job. If you miss the boat here, you stand a chance of flunking the interview and losing a great job.

Tip No. 5 – Practice Makes Perfect

Interviewing for a job effectively is not something that comes naturally to many people. This is why it makes sense to practice your interviewing skills.  Consider asking a loved one or good friend to sit down and ask you the most difficult interview questions you believe might be asked during the interview. Be sure you practice your interviewing techniques prior to going to the real interview. Your accomplishments have gotten you in the door. The interview is the last hurdle. Treat it with the importance and respect it deserves.