Recruiting season is right around the corner for 1Ls, and it’s important to be prepared. The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) removed its guideline that instructed legal recruiters to wait until December 1 to begin recruiting students. This is an important issue because of the potential implications it may have on your timeline to compete for BigLaw jobs.
With these changes to a widely open job market, it’s important to learn how to interview and uniquely stand out as a candidate. Interviewing is more than just answering questions—it should be a conversation. The best way to prepare for your interview isn’t to rehearse answers to behavioral questions (although that is still helpful to do).
Instead, you should think about your interview as an opportunity to tell the employer a story of who you are. You can’t depend on the interviewer’s questions to help you tell your story. You must frame your answers to the questions in a manner that directly answers the question but also conveys your story by weaving in important information about your life journey thus far.
Your resume and transcript are only individual nuggets of your story. Therefore, it’s up to you to craft a strong narrative of why law school is part of your journey. Every question is an occasion to paint a picture of your personality, ability to take initiative, and willingness to learn.
An interview is essentially an extended elevator pitch. When you understand how to pitch yourself, it gets easier to prepare for specific behavioral and skills assessment questions. Your answers to these questions should be framed within the core themes of your elevator pitch and ultimately, your story.
Who are you?
Think about the things that make you you and how those things are connected to your decision to attend law school. What do you like to do? What are your interests and passions? The answer to this question is the foundation for your story.
Most good movies present enough background scenes to help the audience understand the protagonist throughout the movie. It’s not enough to say where you were born and raised or how many siblings you have. Even if these facts are part of your identity, you still need to illustrate why those facts matter.
The value you bring is in the perspective you’ve built from various life experiences and the skills you’ve developed in different working environments.
Why are you here?
Think about how this opportunity connects to your goals and what you bring to the table. Why are you looking for this opportunity? Your job here is to demonstrate that not only are you interested in this work, but you can add value in a very specific way.
For summer law jobs, your client is the senior associate you will be working with. Therefore, you could capitalize on being solution-oriented and knowing how to take initiative to make the attorney’s life easier. To take your answer to the next level, you can discuss your interest in a specific area of law, which that organization may specialize in. Be sure to mention where this interest originated from (e.g., a thesis you wrote in college you read or a personal experience).
Where are you going?
Think about your long-term goals, your personal and career non-negotiables, as well as what you’re willing to be flexible about. How do you connect who you are with your present position–career-wise and personally? How do you plan to integrate your skills, passions, and your education? How is this opportunity part of that plan?
Here, it’s important to capture the balance between confidence and open-mindedness. You should be confident in your abilities, but you should also be willing to try new experiences and work with subjects you may have never considered.
The “end” of your story should convey an openness and optimism about the future. Think big. Don’t be bashful about your dreams. You can discuss the current opportunity as preparation for your future in a manner that exudes humility and eagerness.
It’s also important to connect your potential employer to your future, but not selfishly. The employer will be able to tell if you only plan to serve yourself and your own goals, rather than also help further the interests of the organization.
What about “The End”?
Remember that your story doesn’t end. Law school is merely the start of it. It helps to think about all the experiences and emotions that come with law school as part of the journey to becoming a successful attorney.
These three questions should help jumpstart your brainstorm of the common themes of your journey thus far. Once you determine and understand these themes, you can then weave them into every question you ask and every answer you give.
Employers are looking for authenticity, eagerness, and value. These characteristics are displayed when you have a conversation with the employer about who you are. In turn, the employer may relate with you and will share her own insights about her career.
Everyone has a story to tell. It’s up to you to share yours.
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