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Major Law Job Interviewing Styles

published February 14, 2013

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Understanding the differences between the four major interviewing styles and preparing a strategy to effectively deal with each of them will also improve your chances for success:
  1. Directive Interview: short, precise questions designed to elicit specific information about your background and interests are asked. The questions are formulated from the contents of your resume.

    Strategy: Answers should be brief and should objectively emphasize concrete accomplishments. Be careful to be concise but do not fall into the trap of responding with monosyllabic yes or no answers.

  2. Non-Directive Interview: The recruiter's intent is to get the candidate to do all the talking. This usually does not work to your advantage. Your goal should be to get the recruiter to do at least 50% of the talking.

    Strategy: Construct a narrative history of yourself in advance to enable you to make a clear concise statement explaining your purpose at the interview. Attempt to draw the recruiter into the conversation by asking questions.
  3. Stress Interview: This is perhaps the most difficult interview of all. Its purpose is to measure your poise and emotional stability. The recruiter tries to appear curt, argumentative and/or impatient, firing questions in rapid succession. The questions may be designed to annoy you or bait you into a topical argument.

    Strategy: Remain patient and calm. Indicating annoyance, tension or nervousness serves no purpose. To avoid a debate, try to change the topic by asking a question. Remember, this type of interview is designed to rattle you.
  4. Free-Wheeling Interview: This type of interview lacks any semblance of structure or direction. Since many attorneys have limited interviewing experience, they have no tactical plan.
Strategy: Control the flow of the conversation by opening the interview with highlights of your accomplishments and then move directly into your own questions. This helps put the recruiter at ease and helps to focus him/her on your assets.

Questions Interviewers Ask

It may help you focus your thoughts if you write down responses to the following questions. This is to help you strategize.
Do not try to memorize these as responses. If you do, they will almost certainly sound "canned." Your responses don't have to be long-just a few sentences each:
  1. Tell me about yourself, (What they're really asking here is, "What in your background makes you a good candidate for this job?" This is not the time for an autobiography)
  2. What are your long range and short range goals and objectives? (Be sure to make the connection between your goals and this job for which you're interviewing)
  3. What do you see yourself doing five years from now? (Again, tie your answer into the position available. Never, ever say you want to be doing something unrelated!)
  4. What made you decide to go to law school? (Show your commitment to the legal profession)
  5. Why should I hire you?
  6. What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
  7. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our firm/company?
  8. In what sort of environment are you most comfortable? (ideally, your favorite environment will be similar to the employer's with whom you are interviewing. Find this information out by conducting thorough research.)
  9. Why do you want to work with our agency/company/firm? (be specific. Show you've done your research!)
  10. What do you consider to be the strongest qualities in your personality and character? (list about 3 and relate them to the job opening)
  11. What are your greatest weaknesses? (Be honest but not negative. Show how you turned a weakness into your strength or discuss a weakness that is unrelated to the position for which you are interviewing.)
  12. I see from your resume that you (play basketball or speak French or are interested in real estate, etc. This is not a statement where you answer "yes" or "no". Hear this as: tell me more about your basketball team or French speaking abilities or interest in real estate.)
  13. What else do you think I should know about you? (From your preparation beforehand you will have an additional strength or accomplishment that you'll want to highlight here. Don't say there isn't anything else. You're more exciting than that!)
  14. Do you have any questions that I can answer? (This usually signals that the interview is beginning to come to a close. Have several prepared questions that are good. Don't ask anything about the employer that you could have found out by reading information that is publicly available. Even inexperienced interviewers can spot a canned or "recommended" question a mile away! In some way, personalize your questions, and make them your own. Some suggestions follow.)
Suggested Questions to Ask Interviewers
  1. From my research, I see that you are involved in the (i.e., Tax) area. Could you tell me how you got interested in this area and a little bit about what your practice is like?
  2. What kind of responsibilities would an associate be assigned?
  3. What do you see as the overall growth areas of the firm/ company?
  4. What departments are likely to expand in the next few years?
  5. I was particularly interested to learn about but you have really covered that information quite extensively. (Restate what you learned)

    You may want to raise this issue if you believe negative assumptions are being made about you, confidently address the issue in order to eliminate the perceptions.
  6. During other interviews, I have been asked about (my ability to accept supervision from someone younger than me, or about my child care arrangements or my commitment to this geographic area) and we haven't talked about that yet.
Avoiding Discriminatory Questions

Hiring decisions tend to be based on somewhat subjective material. Unfortunately, trying to determine if someone "fits in" to a particular environment can lead to subtle forms of discrimination. While interviewers usually try to avoid asking personal questions, most want to know all they can about the applicants. Help them by providing information that you are comfortable with discussing and would like the interviewer to know. The information you volunteer about yourself will be different from what every other applicant offers and will help you stand out in the crowd. A word of caution: do not allow yourself to be lured into intimate chit-chat. Regardless of the kindness of the interviewer, nothing is "off the record." Keep your comments job related and, if you can complement your resume in any way by adding something, do it!

Applicants who are not aware of what questions should and should not be asked are more likely to be victims of discrimination. The general rule of thumb is, if the information is not specifically job related, it should not be asked.

Examples of potentially sensitive subjects include:
  • name
  • residence
  • age
  • birthplace
  • military service
  • references
  • national origin
  • sex
  • marital status
  • family size
  • race
  • color
  • physical description
  • physical condition
  • photograph religion
  • arrest record
  • criminal record
  • fraternal membership

See the following articles for more information:

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