A law student’s guide to successful interviewing | Serena Eshaghurshan
Thursday, January 14, 2021 @ 8:29 AM | By Serena Eshaghurshan
Tip 1: Prepare and build up confidence
One of the biggest struggles I faced when I was interviewing for jobs was dealing with anxiety. During my interviews, I would be so nervous that I would not know what to say next or where to take the conversation, which resulted in awkward pauses. The key to overcoming anxiety is to adequately prepare for the interview.
Most interviews focus on three things: hypotheticals, behaviour questions and then a brief question and answer session. A great way to prepare is to schedule a mock interview with your faculty’s career office. Write down the questions you were asked, and then think critically about your answers. For example, a common question is “tell me about a time where you faced conflict in the workplace?” An inadequate answer would be “I never face conflict” or “I am always a team player.” These answers ring as disingenuous, so reflect on your own experiences and how you handled such situations. Make sure you provide enough details, and finish with what lesson the experience afforded you.
Once you feel confident with your answer, ask a friend or family member if you can practise with them. By conducting the mock interview over and over, you will feel much more confident about how to approach the real interview. The objective is not to memorize your answers verbatim, but to become confident with your approach. Remember, even if an interview goes poorly, it will still be a great opportunity to practise and refine your skills.
Tip 2: Extensive research
It is imperative to research your prospective employer. One of the first questions asked during an interview is “tell us what you know about our firm” or “why do you want to work for us?” It is inadequate to answer with “well, I know you practise criminal law, and I am very interested.” You want to ensure you provide as much detail as possible to make a good impression. At a minimum, you should know the firm’s practice areas, its recent cases, its values and any other key details. An easy way to find this information is to consult the firm’s website, or by reaching out to its articling student.
It is also good practice to have an idea of the current state of the law, as this will look highly impressive to your interviewer. For example, if you are interviewing at a criminal law firm, a high-level question would be: “Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will adversely affect the Crown regarding Jordan?” This type of question is great because it demonstrates that (1) you understand the law, (2) you understand how current events impact the law, and (3) you can critically analyze how these two scenarios work together.
Using the example of a criminal firm, a good practice is to canvass its website for its recent cases, and then develop a question regarding the case. Many law firms also have blogs, which can be great conversation starters. Try to come up with 5-10 questions you can ask at the end of the interview, as this is an opportunity to build rapport.
Tip 3: Be yourself
While it is critical to remain professional, it is also important to be yourself during the interview. Get a feel for the firm’s culture, and the lawyers you may be potentially working with. In law school, we are often told about “firm fit.” However, what is equally important is how the firm fits with you. If possible, reach out to current or previous articling students and ask them about their experience. Determine the work hours, expectations, mentorship opportunities, etc. While you may be anxious to secure employment, think critically about whether you will be happy working for the firm. Remember, the novelty and excitement of getting a job wears off very fast when you realize you don’t like the job.
Lastly, it is an unfortunate truth that no matter how much you prepare, or how personable you are, you may not secure a job you really wanted. At the end of the day, a bit of luck is involved in the process. It is human nature to be hurt by rejection but try to not take it personally. There will be many more interviews to come. Your dream job may be just around the corner, so be patient and open-minded; sometimes amazing opportunity comes out of nowhere. Good luck!
Serena Eshaghurshan is 2021 JD candidate at the University of Calgary. Prior to law school, she received a bachelor of arts in psychology at the University of Calgary.
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