Interviews — they’re a necessary part of any career, and particularly in the career of an aspiring lawyer. My own law school application adventure included numerous interviews related directly to my law school apps, and later on for scholarships. You reach a point where interviewing really does become a better experience and you learn something about what it takes to be truly effective when you have your moment to shine.
Your own repeat experiences with interviewing will inevitably give you those benefits, but there’s a lot I can share about what I’ve learned from others and from my own trials and errors to help ease your way into interviews.
Here, I’ll give you my top ten interview tips that you should be using at every stage of your journey to law school.
1. Try to pretend like you’re having a good time
You’ve got to regulate your energy level during interviews. I tend to become more reserved when I’m nervous, and other people reach a 10/10 of Redbull-overload, frantic energy. You can’t always “be yourself” in an interview because your true self is probably uncomfortable and wishing you were somewhere else. Instead, think of the interview like a performance, like the host from your favorite podcast does. Even if they’re probably sitting in a sad, dark basement speaking into a microphone, they still sound like they’re having a great time. So should you in an interview.
2. Make an elevator pitch for yourself
We’ve all heard of an elevator pitch, but it really just means that you should provide a clear and concise narrative for yourself in your interview. Your pitch is not only a spiel you should be able to use for the inevitable “tell me about yourself” question, but it’s also the core message you want to get across for the interviewer to remember you among dozens of other applicants. Don’t know where to start? Answer these three questions: What’s unique about your background? What’s compelling about your current work/talents? And what are you excited about in your future?
3. Practice interviewing, obvs
I know it can be painfully awkward. Whether you’re a law school applicant or a Miss America contestant, interviewing is uncomfortable. But what you really don’t want is for your discomfort to feed into the interviewer’s, so the best thing you can do is practice. Are you especially uncomfortable mock interviewing the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question? Then you need to practice that one until those feelings fade away.
4. Record your practice, even if that feels ever weirder
Record yourself practicing. If you thought practicing interview questions with a friend was awful, you’ll love replaying the video of your practice that much more. Again, most of us don’t like watching ourselves on video (Oh god why is my hair doing that thing?), but it’s the best way to identify any nervous ticks like your foot tapping and hair fixing.
5. Prepare good questions for your interviewers
If you thought that an interviewer was asking if you had any questions just to be polite, know that it’s really just another interview question for you to master. It’s the time to show your interest and research into the place you interview with, so don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
6. Get to the interview early
If they say to be there 15 mins early, you should be waiting in the area well before that.
7. Have a plan for while you wait
But if you need to be somewhere early, are you going to wait in a hallway with a dozen other applicants sweating in their new suits? Are you going to hull up in the bathroom to avoid contact with any other humans? It’s different for everyone, so you don’t have to wait around the same way that everyone else does, but only the way that’s going to put you in the optimal state of mind.
8. Research with your own informational interviews
An informational interview is essentially when you reach out to someone with a connection to your area of career interest in order to ask them about their work, get their advice, and make more connections. If you can talk to people with some connection to the place where you’ll soon be interviewing, you can gain a lot of knowledge to prepare you for the experience, and you can also get used to talking to new people about yourself in a professional way.
9. Don’t dwell on the negative
Sometimes an interviewer asks you about a specific flaw, like a bad grade on your transcript, and others will dig for things like “a time you made a mistake.” You want to address these things as confidently as you can, and then direct the conversation back to what you want to get across.
10. Be ready for Skype/recorded interviews
Among law schools, some will interview applicants via video calls, and others will even use special services like Kira Talent (a company, not a person) that automates the whole process. On the Skype side, make sure you have your computer system set up for your interview, you dress the part, and you have a quiet place to talk. For Kira Talent, you get an interview question on a screen, followed by a set amount of recorded time to respond to each question. For this, be sure to practice, practice, practice (you can do this as much as you want before recording the real thing) and get used to the amount of time you will be allocated to answer each question.
In sum, for every interview tip, there’s another person who learned the hard way what you can get right on your first try. Follow the tips above, and you’ll be ready for the interview opportunities that come your way.