By Kim Wierzel
Congratulations! Your dream job has just called to ask you in for an interview. You thought it was a long shot, but you got the interview. How many times have you said, “If they would just meet me, I know they would love me?” Here are some interviewing tips to help you make that statement a reality.
1. Preparation, preparation and more preparation: Research the firm or company. You should know the firm’s size and number of offices. Take it a step further. Get on LinkedIn and see if any of your contacts work there, or have worked there. Reach out to that contact and ask some questions about the company or firm culture. If you’re interviewing with a particular practice group, you should know something about that kind of law! Were there any recent changes? If you know who you’re interviewing with, you should at least attempt to view their firm profile. You could even search for him/her on LinkedIn. Maybe you went to the same high school. Maybe the person you’re interviewing with just published an article.
2. Everyone’s time is valuable: You would think this goes without saying, but you must make sure you’re on time. Take a test drive to the office if possible. Know the traffic. Ask whether there are security procedures that you’ll have to get through. Make sure you know where you’ll park. But don’t walk in 30 minutes early! Wait in your car or in the lobby until 5-10 minutes before your interview.
3. Travel light: Turn off your cell phone, and leave your coffee and newspaper in the car. Do not bring anything with you other than a copy of your resume, a list of questions (we’ll get to that later) and one personal belonging (a purse or briefcase). But, don’t forget your pen.
4. What to wear: Make sure you have on the appropriate attire. Most of the time that means a suit for men and women – even if you’re interviewing on Jeans Friday. The law is a generally conservative field. Don’t wear flashy jewelry, make sure your hair is neat (including facial hair, gentlemen). The interviewer should be able to look at you and know that you’ll be a great representative of their firm or company.
5. Let’s talk about you: Study your resume and be prepared to answer questions about why you left a position, what you liked or disliked about it, what you learned from any positions and how you think it will help you in the job you are applying for. Be prepared to answer questions about gaps in employment. If it’s on your resume, it’s fair game for the interviewer to ask you about! (And while we’re talking about resumes, it is up to date and accurate, right? Do not ever claim a degree you don’t have, even if you’re just 1 credit short!)
6. Let’s talk about me: When the interviewer asks if you have any further questions, you should be prepared to ask a couple. If necessary, don’t be afraid to type out a list of questions ahead of time. I don’t think any attorney has ever said the paralegal was “too prepared!” Remember, the interview is a chance for everyone to get to know each other. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Do you want to work here?
7. End on a positive note: Shake hands, make eye contact and thank them for the opportunity to interview for the position. This is your chance to summarize why you think you’re a good fit for this position. “Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you; I enjoyed learning more about ABC, LLP and I think my 10 years of immigration experience will be a good fit for ABC. It seems like a great place to work.”
It all boils down to preparation. If you know your stuff, you’ll project confidence, and that confidence will help you land the job!
Kim Wierzel is a Placement Director with Special Counsel, Inc., http://www.specialcounsel.com/ Special Counsel is the nation’s leader in providing legal staff, document review, staffing project management, deposition summarizing and legal nursing to leading law firms and in-house legal departments. With over 40 offices nationwide, Special Counsel can accommodate your staffing requirements almost anywhere in the U.S. Kim specializes in placing temp, direct hire and temp-to-hire legal staff in legal positions throughout the Triad and Eastern North Carolina. Contact her through Raleigh@SpecialCounsel.com.
This article originally appeared in the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division's January 2012 newsletter, and is being re-printed at Practical Paralegalism with Kim's permission.