Career Services Blog
Interview Series, Part Two: During the Interview
by Alice Emerson, Director of Career Programming & Public Interest and Jess Peterson, Assistant Director of Career Services
In our first post in this series, we offered ways for you to prepare for your interview in the days leading up to it. In some ways, the anticipation is the most agonizing part, and we hope the suggestions for how to ready yourself felt helpful.
Now, imagine waking up on the day of the interview. You’ve prepped as much as you can, done your research, and the only thing left is to do the thing. Here are some suggestions and reminders for not just getting through the interview, but truly putting your best self forward.
- ALL of your interactions are part of your interview. Be polite to everyone you interact with that entire day– this starts long before you sit down for the interview! You don’t want to cut off or make a rude gesture to someone on the road on your way there, or not hold the elevator for someone in the lobby, only to find out that it was your interviewer or their assistant/coworker. Additionally, if they send you to lunch with some of their newer associates, that is also part of your interview. And be cognizant of local cultural norms– for example, things like a single-use plastic water bottle can get you side-eyed around these parts, so consider how that might come across if you bring one.
- LISTEN! Do not get so caught up in what you want to say that you are not listening to their full, actual questions. If there are specific things you want to get across during your interview, have those in mind and see if there are logical ways to work that information into your responses while taking care to answer the question you were asked. If not, offer what you want to share at the end IF you are given the opportunity and think it is important.
- Never lie and avoid speaking negatively about former employers/co-workers. You never know who someone else is friends with, related to, lives next door to, was mentored by, etc. Also, speaking badly about someone will usually be seen as a reflection of YOUR character, not the person you are speaking about. But this is not to say that you have to agree with everything that is said or gush positively about every person they bring up– be true to yourself while remaining cautious and professional.
- Take the questions as they come and keep a cool head. Interview questions come in a variety of formats - more on that here. Many questions are asked to see how quickly you can adapt and think on your feet, which is why interviewers often use questions that won’t be on the prep lists. Don’t panic if you are blanking on a question– do your best, and be honest. For example, if you are asked a substantive question (i.e. related to the actual practice of law) and have no idea, explain how you would research the issue. Look at Career Connect for examples of questions.
- Be prepared for them to ask you why that is your answer. Take the opportunity to talk through your reasoning, but do your best to not over-explain. This can be hard to do if you’re nervous, but try to be succinct. And if you get a cryptic, “Interesting,” in response, that may also be a test. Keep your cool.
- If you are asked inappropriate questions, try to politely side step. If it is something that is borderline, then assess whether it was intentionally or carelessly inappropriate, and whether you can figure out the question behind the question (see page 96 of the interviewing handbook for more info). If you are asked a question that made you uncomfortable during an interview, please let us know so that we can try to address it or at least prepare others!
Above all, your main task during the interview is to be your awesome self. The employer was impressed by what you had to offer on paper; now is a chance for them to engage with you as a whole, dynamic person. You have made it through the toughest part, and we’ll be back with advice for how to navigate the final moments of the interview and beyond in Part Three.