Top Six Answers from Area Hiring Attorneys to the Question, “What makes for a great, or a terrible interview?”

1.  Bad: Not knowing your résumé!  (or making sure it is accurate).

  • “Terrible interviewees are unable to discuss information on their resume.”
  • I know is may seem hard to talk things up without crossing the line of inaccuracy, but you do more harm than good by being inaccurate.”

2.  Good: Doing your homework on the employer.

  • “A good interview happens when the candidate asks insightful questions.   A terrible interview happens when the candidate fails to research our firm before meeting with us.”
  • “They should have some knowledge of the firm.  I let them know who they will be interviewing with so that they can look up people at the firm on the internet.”

3.  Bad: Not trying to converse naturally (but professionally) with the interviewer.

  • “If you are really nervous and uptight, that makes for a painful interview for all.  One tip to help squelch the nerves is to remember that you are interviewing the employer as well as having them interview you.  You want to find out if this is a place you’d like to be.  In the long run it does no good for either side to make a bad pairing.”
  • “I think the one thing that all terrible interviews have is prolonged silence.  I don’t think interviews are oral examinations where an interviewer poses a question, receives a short response, and then the room plunges into silence while the interviewer tries to come up with the next question.  Rather, the questions should stimulate a conversation and the best interviews are the interviews where a free-flowing conversation takes place.”
  • “A person who is enthusiastic (without being too eager) makes for a great interview.  This person can converse easily about whatever topic we happen to get on.  Even if you don’t know much about a topic that the people who are taking you to lunch are talking about, you can still ask questions about it or interject positive comments.  I think I must have been a huge dud when I interviewed for jobs, because I assumed people were just supposed to ask me questions and I was not supposed to talk too much.  There is no way I would have hired me if I had been interviewing myself!”
  • “In terrible interviews the interviewee is only able answer the standard interview questions and do so in a way that is rote and without elaboration, even to questions that beg for an expanded answer.”
  • “I really think that students need to be themselves in interview, meaning that they should ask what they really want to know and respond truthfully so that we can both get as much information about the other as possible.  I get asked the same questions every time.  If I had to do it all over again, the three questions I would ask in interview are:

1.  “If you had to work for a competitor, which firm would you want to work for and why?”

2.  “How do associates get their work in this firm?”

3.  “How does the average 5th year attorney spend their day?”

 4.  Good: Being a human being.

  • From one trial attorney: “I am looking at the person’s personality to see if he/she exhibits characteristics of a good litigator.  This includes eye contact.  This includes an ability to communicate clearly, without a lot of ‘um’s.’  If the person acts too serious and stuffy, I do not think they will be a good litigator.  You need to relate to all types of people as a litigator.  I also want to see some evidence of a sense of humor.  I often ask what their favorite movie is.  If the answer is something like Anchorman or Dumb and Dumber, I know they have a sense of humor.  This is important because they are less likely to get excessively stressed by their job.  It is hard to enjoy any job unless you can have a sense of humor about it.”
  • “I can tell if someone has the academic qualifications from reviewing their résumé.  I interview them to find out how they come across in person and if they appear to be someone who would be a good fit at the firm.  In a great interview the interviewee will show that they have a sense of humor, can express themselves verbally, respond appropriately to even offbeat questions and generally appear to be someone that I would like to work with.  In a terrible interview, the interviewee is too nervous, intense, insecure or whatever to interact appropriately.  I leave the interview feeling that this person has no personality or has kept what personality they have concealed.”

5.  Bad: Dressing inappropriately.

  • I interviewed a guy at [a large Salt Lake law firm] who showed up in a suit with no tie.  Even if the firm has a business casual dress policy, showing up for an interview in less than your best shows a lack of either judgment or respect (unless you are instructed to dress that way).

6.  Good: Being gracious and attentive to receptionists, staff, and associate attorneys wherever you interview!

  • “A big mistake that interviewees make is they utilize the ‘kiss up – piss down’ method.  It is a huge mistake to assume that the younger person in the room lacks the ability to decide your fate.  For example, we once hosted an event and I had a few students (not from the U) snub me so that they could kiss up to a partner. This was a mistake…I sit on the recruiting committee, and I won’t be voting for these people, whose names are etched into the deepest corners of my tiny brain.”