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Tips for a Law Job Interview and Thank You Notes

published February 14, 2013

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When you suspect an interviewer has lured you into a dangerous area, you have several response options:
  1. You could answer the question. Realize, however, that you are providing information that is not job related and you risk harming your candidacy by responding "incorrectly."
  2. You could refuse to answer the question. While you are in your rights to do so, you will probably alienate the employer and come across as uncooperative, confrontational and hostile. Not exactly the ideal description of a desirable applicant.
  3. You could examine the intent of the question, in other words, you could try to hear the question behind the question. For example, is the employer asking about your birthplace because there is a concern about your social status or is it because the interviewer grew up in the same place and is simply trying to make small talk.
Avoid becoming angry, hostile or argumentative. Calmly examine the clumsily expressed question to uncover the underlying concerns of the interviewer. For example, an employer who questions a woman if she is married or about her plans to have children. The employer is not really interested in the candidate's personal life, but rather is most probably attempting to learn how committed the candidate is to the job. You may answer such a question effectively by saying, "I am assuming by your question that you are concerned with whether or not I will be able to spend long hours at the office required to get the work done. I'd like to reassure you by mentioning that throughout law school, I held a full-time job, did well in my classes, studied long hours in the library and was not held back in any way by child care responsibilities."

Do yourself-and the employer-a favor: interview as if everything depended on you. Walk in with a clear idea of two or three selling points you would like to express. Use the interviewer's questions to introduce those points and back them up with real-life examples. At the end of the interview, summarize your qualifications and articulate your interest and enthusiasm for the job. If you leave the interview having convinced the employer you have something to offer, your color, sex, age, disability, sexual preference, nationality, etc. will not stand in your way of landing the job that you want!

Each of these subjects has many variations, which adds to the complexity of the problem. Asking "Are you a U.S. Citizen?" or "Where were you born?" is different from asking you "Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?" Similarly, while it is acceptable for an employer to inquire "Are you willing to relocate?" it is not acceptable for him/her to attempt to infer the answer to that by asking "Are you married?"

In most states there are laws that render some questions illegal. Employers are advised not to ask an applicant: Additional Points to Remember
  • Establish your connection to out-of-town cities for out-of-town employers.
  • Be yourself.
  • Feel free to pause when framing an answer.
  • Never say anything negative about anything! It always ends up reflecting back onto you, and you will be remembered as a negative person.
  • Be especially enthusiastic for later in the day (after 3:00 pm) interviews.
  • It's O.K. to say "I'm not sure of the answer to that."
  • You're interviewing the employer as much as he/she is interviewing you!
Thank You Notes

It is appropriate to send a thank you note shortly after the interview. Your letter should be crafted to not only thank people for the time they spent with you and the information they provided, but also to restate your interest and clarify or highlight any pertinent information you want the employer to remember.

If you interviewed with more than one person, you could send a thank you note to each person, however, you ought to vary the letters to reflect a specific aspect of the conversation you had with each individual person. Do not send three or four people the exact same letter.

Another option would be to send one letter to either the most senior person or the person with whom you established the greatest rapport. In your letter, ask that person to extend your thanks to the other individuals (refer to them by name!)
Finally, try to avoid the temptation to interpret what the employer is thinking. Remember, lawyers are trained to not give away clues. Just because you do not hear from the employer the next day or even the next week, do not assume a rejection will follow. Selecting candidates is a slow, time-consuming process. While two weeks on your end of the telephone seems like an eternity, that same time frame seems like nothing to an employer. If three or four weeks have passed and you have not heard from the employer, feel free to call to "check on the status" of your application.

Your questions should not convey concern over salary or time off or any of the more mundane aspects of the job. Stay interested in important aspects such as challenge, responsibility, and those which show a mature and forward-thinking mentality. The dollars and cents concerns can be ironed out after an offer has been made.

See the following articles for more information:

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