Interviews are one of the most important aspects of the job search process. Fortunately, there are many things you can do before, during and after the interview to ensure that it goes as well as possible.  

Before the Interview: PREPARE

1.   Determine the skills and experiences you have that are relevant to the position.  To market yourself effectively during an interview, you will need to reflect upon which of your values, skills, abilities and experiences are relevant for the particular position and employer.  You should also be aware of how your career goals and interests fit with the particular employer and position.  A tool to help you catalog your relevant skills and experience is below.

2.   Research the employer and interviewers in advance of each interview.  

·       Identify the mission, culture and future goals of the organization.

·       Research legal or business developments that may be relevant to the organization or its industry.  

·       Research your interviewers – familiarize yourself with their educational and work history, current responsibilities and, if possible, how their position interacts with the position for which you are interviewing.  The goal is to identify common interests or experiences that you can utilize to develop a rapport with the interviewer quickly.

3.   Develop an interview narrative in advance.  Create a narrative that explains:

·      Why you want this particular positionwith this particular employer.  This answer should be unique for each interview.  E.g., for an in-house counsel position, the reason why you want to work for the employer is notbecause you “want to work as an attorney for a company.”  In your answer, adopt the particular mission/goals of the employer. E.g.“…because I want to help ABC Company become the ---- industry leader by providing timely legal advice to its sales team.”  

·      How your relevant skills and experiences would help the employer.

·      How the position fits in to your overall career path, geographic preference, etc.

A tool to help you develop your interview narrative is below. 

4.   Develop specific responses to likely interview questions.  Prepare specific answers to likely interview questions and decide which specific experiences and skills you want to emphasize during the interview. 

A list of common interview questions is included below.

5.   Prepare questions to ask during your interviews.  Employers expect candidates to ask informed questions during the interview. When deciding which questions to ask, focus on questions that demonstrate your interest in the organization/position. Save questions about salary, benefits, time off, stock options, transportation vouchers and other non-monetary perks for after you receive an offer.  

A list of effective questions to ask during an interview is included below.

6.   Prepare your references. Bring a typed list of three references, indicating each reference’s name, contact information, and relationship to you.  To ensure that your references will be able to speak about your relevant accomplishments, provide as much information as possible about the position you are interviewing for and forward a copy of the cover letter and resume you submitted for the position to each of your references.

7.   Consult your network.  If you have any contacts with connections to the employer, the interviewer, the industry, etc. – be sure to alert them to your upcoming interview.  Some of your contacts may be able to provide you additional tips about how to prepare for the interview, and may even be able to influence consideration of your application.

8.   Prepare yourself for the interview. Make sure your suit is pressed and well-tailored, your shoes are shined and that all personal grooming is taken care of.  Put together sufficient copies of all application materials and any other information the employer asked you to bring.  Relax and get a good night’s sleep.  You want to arrive for the interview looking well rested and confident. 

9.   Arrive at least five minutes early for the interview.  Be sure to factor in any time needed for parking, finding the right office, etc.

During the Interview: MARKET YOURSELF

1.    Make an excellent first impression.  The interviewer will develop a first impression of you within 30 seconds of first meeting you.  To ensure that you make the best possible first impression: smile; make direct eye contact; give a firm handshake; and introduce yourself using your full name.

2.    Project a positive, confident attitude.  Focus on the positives of past experiences and employers.  Project confidence by being comfortable with brief conversational pauses – do not feel the need to talk through every break in the conversation.

3.    Clarify the responsibilities of the position.  Ideally, you will have an excellent idea of what the position entails when you begin the interview.  If you have any questions about the position, be sure to ask them in the beginning of the interview so that you can adjust your interview narrative accordingly.

4.    Actively participate in the interview.  Let the interviewer take the lead in the conversation, but don’t make the interviewer do all the work.  Be an active participant in the interview – ask relevant questions throughout (do not wait until the end of the interview) and answer questions specifically and concisely.

5.    Follow the interviewer’s lead.  It is extremely important to adapt to the interviewer’s conversational style and non-verbal cues: does the interviewer use a lot of anecdotes or does he or she tend toward more brief, focused statements?  Does the person want to discuss legal theory, current events, life experiences or just your resume?  Does the interviewer have a list of questions to get through, or is the interview just a conversation?  Watch for signals that the interviewer is bored, confused, etc.

6.    Answer the question asked using specific examples of relevant experiences or skills.  Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions.  Briefly pause before you answer.  If you need clarification, ask for it.  When you answer, focus on projecting confidence by providing a concise, specific, relevantanswer.  Remember, it is up to you to persuade the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job by discussing your relevant experience and skills.  The more specific, relevant details you provide, the more persuasive you will be. 

7.    Be consistent in your answers.  Prepare a narrative (in advance) that appropriately explains any difficult or negative previous professional experiences.  The narrative should be one with which previous employers or colleagues would agree.

8.    Clarify the next steps in the hiring process and thank the interviewer for their time.  Towards the end of the interview, be sure to find out what the next steps in the hiring process are.  If the person is unsure about the next steps, ask if it is all right to follow up in about two weeks.

After the Interview – FOLLOW UP

1.    Send a thank you email or note the same day as the interview.  Briefly thank the interviewer for their time.  If possible, reiterate something you learned about the position or organization and tie it to your specific skills or experiences.  

2.    Contact your references to let them know how the interview went and that the potential employer may be in touch with them.  You may also want to encourage references to highlight certain of your skills or experiences based on topics that came up during the interview.

3.    Alert your network. Let relevant contacts and your references know how the interview went.  

4.    Follow up as per the agreed upon timetable.  Don’t call too early or too late.

5.    Keep your job search momentum going!  It is tempting to halt your job search efforts after an interview, but do not lose time waiting to hear from a single employer.  Continue your efforts to expand your network and generate other opportunities.

Catalog Your Relevant Skills and Experiences

Position Title__________________________________________________________________ 

Skill/Experience Employer Desires

Three specific examples of that skill or experience





















Develop Your Interview Narrative

Why do you want to work as [position]?




Why do you want to work for [company]?



Why should [company] hire you?




Why are you leaving your current position?

Why is this the right time for you to seek another job?

[If relocating]: Why do you want to live in [location]?

Sample Interview Questions

Primary Questions

Tell me about yourself.

Why should we hire you?

Why would someone with your experience and personality be a good fit for our organization?

Why did you accept an interview with us?  What interests you most about our organization? 

Why did you leave your most recent position?

If you could start fresh with your previous employer, what would you do differently?

How long have you been looking for a new position?

What other positions are you considering?

Do you have any other offers?  Tell me about them.

What are looking for in a job/career?

What are your long-term plans?

What are you plans to develop business?

What kind of hours are you used to working?

What are your salary expectations?

When are you available to begin working?

How soon could you be “up to speed” if we hired you?

What would you have to learn/do to get “up to speed”?

If offered the position, how long would you plan to work for us?

Which skill sets are you most anxious to develop?

Describe your biggest professional challenge and how you handled it.

What is the most difficult decision you have ever had to make?

What is your most significant accomplishment?

Which accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction?

What is the greatest obstacle that you have overcome in your life/career? 

What would you consider to be your greatest strengths? 

What would you consider to be your greatest weaknesses? 

How has your work been criticized?

How would people you have supervised describe you?

How would people you have reported to describe you?

How would people you have worked with directly describe you?

How do you respond to guidance, supervision or constructive criticism?

Describe your management style.

Give an example of your creativity.

Under what conditions do you work most effectively? 

Do you prefer to work independently or with others? 

Which professional associations are you involved with?  What is your role?  

What do you read to stay current in your field?

What do you read for leisure?

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

Specialized Questions

Interviewing with a Company

Why are you interested in working with our company?

What do you know about our business/industry?

Do you understand how the company is organized?

How would you effectively support out business units?

Have you done work for any of our competitors?

Describe your legal management experience.

Describe your experience managing budgets.

Are you familiar with the reporting requirements our company has to comply with?

What experience do you have with the legal issues that affect our company?

Interviewing with a Small Organization/Law Firm

What ties do you have in this community?

What interests you about this industry?

What is your understanding of how the organization operates?

Why do you want to work with such a small organization? 

How would our organization satisfy your interests? 

What specific aspect of our work would be interesting to you?

Do you consider yourself an easy person to get along with? Explain.

What are your business development goals?

Are you willing to do administrative duties as part of your job?

Interviewing with a Government Agency

Why are you interested in this particular office/agency? 

Why do you want a career in government?

Why did you begin your career in the private sector?

What do you believe is the appropriate role of government?

What are your feelings about government employees generally and the effectiveness of federal/state/local government?

What experience do you have with the statutes and regulations we administer?

Are you familiar with our rulemaking process?

Are you familiar with our enforcement process?

Do you understand how the agency is organized?

Are you willing to do administrative duties as part of your job?

Interviewing with Legal Aid and Public Interest Organizations

Describe your interest in working for this organization.

How do you identify with our mission?

What is your interest in service to the public generally?

What is your experience working directly with the community our organization serves?

How would you be able to communicate effectively with the community our organization serves?

Why did you begin your career in the private sector?

Are you willing to do administrative duties as part of your job?

Suggested Questions to Ask During an Interview

What do you view as the most important objectives for this position during the first six months?

What are the criteria you would use to evaluate the effectiveness of whoever fills this position?

How would you describe the organization’s culture and management style?

What is the line of authority/reporting structure of the organization?

What are the organization’s future goals?

What are the future goals of the legal staff (or other relevant organizational unit)?

How would you say industry trends have affected the organization? 

How would you say legal developments have affected the organization?

How does legal staff (or other relevant organizational unit) relate to the rest of the organization?

How did you come to join the organization?

What issues are you working on currently?

What do you like best about the working for the organization?

Is there anything you would change about the organization?