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Preparing You for the Interview

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In preparing yourself for the interview, try to put yourself in the place of the person who will be interviewing you. He or she is interested in finding an employee who can make a contribution to the company, get along with other employees, and promote the image that the company wants to project. In other words, your professional appearance and behavior may single you out and rate you higher than other applicants whose credentials may be as good as yours or even better.

Remember that your qualifications have already been submitted and have been recognized as appropriate for the position, along with those of other applicants. The purpose of the interview is for a potential employer to assess you: to measure your professional attitude about your work, to evaluate your experience and accomplishments as they relate to this particular job, and to determine how effectively you handle yourself in a stressful situation-your interpersonal and verbal communication skills. If these were not essential characteristics to an employer, the resume itself would have gotten you the job!

How to Make a Good First Impression

According to a recent survey, employers are looking for a person with strong organizational skills, competence, reliability, flexibility, and the ability to become part of the team. They want to know how you will fit in.

The fact of the matter is that personal chemistry often sells a candidate. You would do well to focus on some of the following intangible areas in order to make that important first impression as positive as possible.

It is not impossible for you to change your personality radically, nor would you want to. You might consider, however, ways in which you can tailor your image to suit a company's needs. If you feel that your individuality is being threatened by conforming to a company's dress code, for example, remember that the choice is yours in whether or not to apply for a position within a particular company. Generally speaking, certain traits are desirable in a job applicant. They are part of the packaging that will enable the interviewer to size you up in the first minute or two-the time in which it takes us to form our first impressions. These impressions which, incidentally, are very hard to overcome! Think of your own personal experiences with negative impressions you have formed of certain people, impressions that later proved to be erroneous. This important first impression, therefore, influences all the subsequent impressions and frequently determines whether or not you are offered the job. What goes into creating this favorable first impression, and how can you work on creating the impression you want to convey?

First of all, let's eliminate the notion that this discussion is about superficialities or mere externals. That is often the argument for those who disagree with the "first impression" theory. We are talking about presenting a professional package that gives an interviewer an immediate idea of who you are, based on what he or she sees. The interview itself will either support or invalidate this first impression, but why take the chance of having an impression work against you?

Wardrobe and Grooming

The first clue to your professionalism is your personal grooming. An interviewer will try to see you in the job. What should you wear? When in doubt, err on the side of being conservative. High-quality clothes rather than trendy outfits are a good investment. You are entering a conservative profession that respects understatement in dress. As a guideline, dress in the style you expect to wear when meeting a client or accompanying an attorney to court.

A suit is recommended garb for women and men. Dark colors are appropriate. For women, neutral colors such as beige, taupe or navy are suggested. This is true for coordinates such as blouses, as well. Colors may be fine as accents, but avoid large flowers or prints that may be distracting. Women should also pay attention to the materials they choose. While cotton and linen may be appropriate on the job, they will become wrinkled after a very short time. On the other hand, polyester does not offer a professional look.

These may seem like such inconsequential details, but they are all related to the impression you give as you walk through the door for that interview. Let your wardrobe be your first introduction before you even open your mouth. If you are still hesitant about what to wear, talk to a friend whose professional taste in clothes you admire. Or you might consult with someone in the professional or career women's section in a local department store. These consultants have become very popular and can be very helpful. One young woman who was apprehensive about what to wear to an interview stood outside an office and waited until the employees came out for lunch, so she could see what they were wearing!

Whatever you decide, remember that your clothes should not distract from you in any way. Also remember that good grooming entails more than clothes. Women should avoid heavy makeup, perfume, sunglasses, dangling jewelry, bulky handbags, and hats (that you don't remove). For men, shirts without jackets or ties, and shoes which do not shine - all can build up a negative impression. Do not chew gum during an interview.

Personal Attributes

Below is a discussion of the major personal and professional traits that interviewers have identified as positive qualities. Effective listening skills and appropriate body language are important and are therefore the main topics of the discussion. Other important traits are also listed.

Effective Listening Skills
  1. Make eye contact with the interviewer, but do not stare. Pay attention to what is being said.
  2. Avoid interrupting, even if what you have to say is directly related to a comment being made. Do not dominate the conversation in an effort to impress the interviewer with your knowledge.
  3. Do not jump in immediately with your comments, particularly if the interviewer is not yet finished speaking. Do not override the interviewer's comments.
  4. Answer the question being asked. If you do not know the answer, don't try to impress the interviewer by bluffing. On the other hand, do not answer a question that has not been asked. If you are not certain about the best way to answer a question, rather than give a rambling answer, ask that the question be qualified. For example, if the interviewer says "Tell me something about yourself," respond with "Would you like to hear something about my personal background or work history?"
  5. Avoid making confrontational remarks if you do not agree with a statement made by the interviewer.
  6. Do not try to fill up short silences with needless talking. On the other hand, learn to use silence as a transition to saying something you would like the interviewer to know about you.
  7. If you are not certain what the question was, rephrase what you think you have heard, to make certain that your perception is accurate. This is an important skill to develop, particularly if you feel that a comment or question has put you on the defensive.

See the following articles for more information:

About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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