As a legal staffing service, Kent Daniels & Associates has many years of experience preparing candidates for job interviews with Southern California law firms and we’ve had plenty of feedback from hiring managers and administrators. Follow these guidelines and you will stand out as a polished candidate.
- Research the firm and the interviewer(s) on the firm website, LinkedIn and Google. Learn about the history, the clients and the culture of the firm. This shows interest, and enables you to ask more relevant questions and be prepared when the interviewer asks you what you know about the firm or if you have any questions. Not asking anything is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care all that much about the job.”
- Be prepared to sell yourself. Know why you are the best candidate for the job for which you are applying. Your chief objective in an interview is to convince the hiring manager you are exactly that.
- Be on time. In fact, try to arrive a few minutes early. If you are running late, call the agency or the firm as a courtesy. Nobody likes to be kept waiting, especially hiring managers evaluating whether or not you would make a good employee.
- Complete your application in its entirety. Do not write “see resume” on the application. Doing so can be viewed as a lack of attention to detail or may give off the impression that you look to cut corners. Although it may seem redundant to write out what is already written in the resume, in most cases the application is a required part of the company’s employment file.
- Bring copies of your resume with you. It shows you are prepared.
- Personal hygiene is important. Make sure you are fresh, with clean hair. For obvious reasons, don’t skip deodorant on the day of an interview.
- Do not use heavy perfume, cologne or scented lotions. You might like it, but the interviewer or office staff may be sensitive to fragrances. Never go into the interview smelling of cigarette smoke. Many find this odor offensive.
- Dress professionally and conservatively. Avoid wearing any revealing or see-through clothing. Make sure that your clothes are clean and pressed. Take the time to polish your shoes. Your interview attire should match the dress code of the firm and ultimately be one step above.
- Make sure your breath is fresh – use a mint, but do not go into the lobby or interview chewing gum.
- Turn your cell phone off before you enter the building (not just the interview). Better yet, leave it in your car. Many candidates think they have turned their ringer off only to be surprised by a ringing cell phone during the interview. A vibrating phone can be distracting, too. Just turn it off if you can’t bear to leave it in the car.
- Greet everyone you meet with a firm handshake and a smile, looking them in the eyes. Be friendly and respectful to the receptionist and the security guard, too.
- Never forget you are in an interview from the moment you walk in the door. Do not get too comfortable. Just because you are not sitting across from the interviewer, don’t think you’re not being evaluated. Many employers will often ask the person who greeted you if you were nice to them. Do not cuss, burp, take off your shoes, confess anything to the receptionist, rummage through your purse/bag or do anything else that is not appropriate in a business setting. Don’t give the interviewer a reason not to hire you.
- Attitude is everything; have a great one.
- Do not use the word “willing” in an interview or phone screening. It can sound like you think a task is beneath you. No future employer wants an employee who is just willing to do something. They want an employee who wants to do it. Be that employee.
- Do not trash previous employers. When you talk to hiring managers about a previous employer, they may be evaluating how you will perceive them and their firm in the future. Keep it civil.
- Be careful not to bring up salary too soon and if you are represented by an agency, always defer to the agency to represent your salary expectations. A good rule of thumb is not to bring up pay; let the hiring manager do it. Employers are aware that you want to know about the salary, so they will bring it up when the time is right. Appearing too concerned with money suggests you aren’t passionate about the position or the firm.
- At the end of your interview thank the hiring manager for his/her time and end it with another firm handshake and a smile. Say you are looking forward to hearing from him/her.
- Call the agency after the interview to let them know how it went.
See POST-INTERVIEW TIPS for what to do (or not do!) next. Good luck!