Being Your Best Advocate During an Interview: Part Three

During the program Intelligent Interviewing: Telling Your Story, Selling Yourself at the New York City Bar Association on October 14, 2009, panelists Lori Freudenberger, a legal recruitment consultant and former prosecutor, and Maureen M. Reid, principal of Maureen M. Reid, LLC, shared advice on how job hunters can tell their stories most effectively during interviews. They also provided tips on what to do after the interview, and how to continue looking for jobs and making yourself more marketable.

Always follow up with everyone. Ms. Reid stated that email is an acceptable way of following up because people respond to emails. However, she cautioned against sending the same cut and pasted thank you letter to everyone at the same firm or organization because such letters are often put into the applicants file and will be seen and compared. Ms. Freudenberger mentioned that a follow up wont turn a no into a yes, but it still reiterates your interest in the position.  Ms. Reid stated that it’s perfectly fine to ask an interviewer when you should follow up with them, but cautions that stalkers are not very well received and are generally ignored.

Utilize Your Networks. Both panelists stated that they have gotten the majority of their jobs through networking. Expand your networks. Let people know what you’re interested in and what you’re looking for. And realize that like anything, professional relationships must be nurtured and developed. You may not reap immediate rewards.

Continue developing yourself. Whether you’re currently working or unemployed, always look for ways to make yourself more marketable. Ms. Freudenberger advised one unemployed recent graduate wishing to practice criminal defense to volunteer at prosecutor’s offices. She advised another attendee wishing to switch practice areas to take relevant CLE courses and join bar association committees. Other examples include writing articles in newsletters and bulletins, taking on more of a variety of responsibilities at work, professional and extracurricular activities.

Behavioral interviewing.  Ms. Reid spoke about a type of interviewing that many employers use called “behavioral interviewing.” Behavioral interviewing seeks to discover how an individual would react in a situation by reviewing their past behaviors. The underlying premise of this interviewing style is that past performance is the best indicator of future performance. Rather than asking a hypothetical question, the interviewer asks you to give them an example of how you reacted when in a specific type of situation or when you’ve had to display a certain quality. For example, one interviewer may ask “Mr. Smith, how are your leadership skills” and Mr. Smith may say “My leadership skills are great. I always take the lead.” An interviewer may probe further to ask for examples, but Mr. Smith may just keep saying “I’m always a leader.” Another interviewer seeking the same information but employing the behavioral interviewing technique may ask the question in this way: “Mr. Smith, give me an example of when you’ve had to exhibit leadership skills. What did you do? How did you feel?” This technique forces the interviewee to be more specific. Employers sometimes tell interviewees in advance that they will be using this technique, but it’s something for which you should be prepared even if it’s not mentioned. 

This won’t be a surprise if you’ve followed the other tips given by Ms. Reid and Ms. Freudenberger: know your skill set, know what employers in general and your interviewer in particular are looking for, and have examples of how your skill set meets the employer’s needs. Ms. Reid pointed out that this type of interviewing style fosters a more conversational style during the interview, which is preferred. She also cautioned attendees not to make up stories during such an interview (or any interview). You know the old adage: liars need a good memory. If interviewers ask follow up questions and discover inconsistencies, you can say goodbye to a job offer and hello to a tarnished reputation because it’s a small world and the legal community is even smaller.

Parting Words. Ms. Freudenberger reminded the audience to:

  • See yourself as a product
  • Have your “elevator pitch” ready
  • Know what your “value adds” are
  • Articulate how you will be able to make the employer’s job easier if you are hired and how your skill set will help them
  • Determine whether the vacant position is a new position or a replacement position
  • Follow up, and
  • Talk about salaries last.

Ms. Reid reminded job hunters that your next job doesn’t have to be your dream job or an “I should have known better job,” but it will add value. Many students graduate from law school with the dream of practicing in a certain area of law. However, your first job offer may not be in that area. All things happen in due time. For today, appreciate the ways in which a current job offer will help you achieve your long-term goals.  

Both panelists also reiterated that we all have a unique story to tell, and that the key is to find your story and tell it in the most compelling manner. Just as all future experiences will shape us, we are inevitably shaped by our past experiences. Draw upon the lessons and experiences from your past, and use them to advocate for your most important client: you!

So, what interview and job search tips do you have?

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