The more you prepare for each interview, the greater the likelihood that you will be offered a job. Being prepared will enable you to:
- Exude self-confidence
- Provide responsive answers
- Ask intelligent questions
- Engage in meaningful discussion
Having a sense of the organization and an agenda for learning more about it will enable you to relax and comfortably interact with the interviewer. Not only will you gain a clearer understanding of the interviewer’s specific concerns, but you will be in a better position to address them.
A mock interview may prove extremely helpful in preparing you for the real thing. Set aside time for an OPIA advisor or friend to ask you some of the questions we’ve posted, in addition to any other questions that your prospective employer might ask. Going through this process ahead of time will take the edge off the actual interview. Make a list of things that you would like the interviewer to know about you by the end of the interview and practice working them in. The mock interview helps identify any areas in which you require further preparation. Make an appointment with an OPIA advisor for a mock interview.
Materials to Bring
Be sure to bring copies of your resume, a list of references, an official copy of your law school transcript and a writing sample.
Self-assessment involves becoming aware of and being able to articulate the following information about yourself:
- Relevant experiences
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Short- and long-term career goals and plans to achieve them
- Work style and work environment preferences
- Geographic considerations
Jot down your thoughts for each of these topics. Do so without initially judging your answers. Do not worry if it seems that your response for any or all of these areas is not definitive. Self-assessment is an ongoing process that changes with time and experience. Eventually, the answers to these questions will become clearer to you and you will feel more comfortable discussing these areas with an employer.
Your resume serves as an important tool in the self-assessment process. You should review it prior to the interview and be prepared to explain any part of it.OPIA advisors can meet with you to discuss your self-assessment and recommend resources to assist you. Questions for self-assessment are also available online.
Finally, leave any misgivings that you may have, whether about this particular position or your own qualifications, at the door. Spend some time visualizing yourself working at the position for which you are applying. The interview is an opportunity to convey to the employer that you share in the organization’s mission and want to join the staff in pursuit of the organization’s goals. Your interview should convey why you are the ideal candidate for the position. After the interview, you can reflect on any new information you gained and whether the position suits your interests and needs.
Researching the Employer
Learn all you can about the individual organization or office with which you will be interviewing so that you have comprehensive knowledge of its mission, areas of specialization, major accomplishments, current concerns and your potential role within the office. Review any press releases or recent news about the organization. Try to find out as much as possible about your interviewer. Carefully review the organization’s website. You should also consider conducting a Lexis or Westlaw search to learn about the office’s cases. In addition to the resources available through OPIA, fellow classmates, alumni/ae, professors, or clinical faculty members who have prior experience or personal contact with the particular office or organization are good places to start your research.
When preparing for an interview, try to put yourself in the employer’s place. What kind of candidate would you like to hire? What kind of answers would compel you to hire a candidate? Above all else, view the interview as an opportunity to advocate for yourself. You want to convince the employer that you are the ideal candidate for the position by conveying your enthusiasm about the position and demonstrating your knowledge about the organization, its mission, and its work.
Compare how your skills, accomplishments, values and interests match the information you have gathered about the position and the organization. Think through and write down four or five essential points to communicate during the interview that illustrate convincingly why you are committed to the office’s mission and why you will be an asset to the office. Do not, however, consult any written notes during the actual interview.
Developing Your Narrative
After reflecting upon your strengths and thoroughly researching both the position and organization, you should develop your narrative. Think of this exercise as an opportunity to demonstrate how your skills and experiences relate to the specific position and organization. Select two to three professional strengths and think about how they connect to the organization. Support each attribute with a relevant example to illustrate your point. Following this exercise, consider the needs of the employer. What kind of person would excel in this position? What skills or experiences are necessary for one to succeed?
Once you’ve completed this process, begin drafting your narrative. Drawing upon your self-assessment exercise and research, connect the skills necessary for the position and your strengths in a few succinct sentences. Your pitch should capture why you would be the ideal candidate for the position based upon your skills and experiences. Your narrative may vary for different jobs, depending on the different requirements for each position. Keep this narrative in mind throughout the interview and try to emphasize the theme in your answers. Developing a clear sense of your abilities and the needs of the employer will provide you with a frame for each question an interviewer may pose.
When drafting your narrative, let the steps below guide your process:
- Study the organization, its mission, and its work
- Review your resume and cover letter
- Reflect upon your skills, experiences, and personal attributes
- Link your strengths to the requirements and qualifications listed in the job posting