If your interviews generate no offers or if the 20-minute screening interview has never worked for you, it is time to analyze the problem and devise a solution.
Is the 20-minute screening interview the problem?
Some candidates will blame a single interviewer, a team of interviewers, room temperature, time of day, hiring criteria, and the job market. If multiple interviews at various times with a wide variety of employers with different hiring criteria who have sent individual and team interviewers have netted no results, it is time to ask another question.
Were you prepared to interview?
- How did you prepare?
- How have you approached developing interview skills?
- What questions were you prepared to answer out loud?
- Were you prepared to speak for at least one eloquent minute about everything on your resume?
- Did you know that you might be asked behavioral questions, such as “tell me about a time when you faced a problem and had to solve it quickly?”
- Did you re-read your writing sample?
- Did you scour the internet for information about the employer and its business?
Not prepared? What were you thinking?
Did you imagine that you could wing it for this critical component of your job search? If so, your magical thinking must be based on one or more of these scenarios when you:
- Hit a home run at your first time at bat;
- Played Rachmaninoff at your first time on the piano;
- Wrote like your favorite author the first time you sat down to write a novel; or
- Hit the double axel on your first time on skates.
Unless you were a superstar at birth, you know and respect that each of these activities is a skill to be learned. Interviewing, too, is a skill to be respected and to be learned.
Law school career services professionals encourage students and alumni to practice interviewing. They offer training programs and mock interviews. Without the power of “mandatory,” they are often wildly under-subscribed. Sadly, many students use their first professional interview as their first practice interview. They are often the only ones who are surprised when their attempt to wing it falls flat.
The good-old-days before behavioral interviews
It was marginally easier a decade ago, when interview questions for legal jobs were primarily resume-based and predictable. “How did you pick your major?” “How did you pick your undergraduate school?” “What is your favorite class in law school?” Although candidates were unaware of it, winging those questions deceptively simple questions was always a dicey proposition.
Behavioral interviews today
Today, most employers have come to understand that behavioral interview questions are useful tools for candidate evaluations. When an employer has done its own cultural soul-searching, the “Tell me about a time when …” questions can help to predict future performance based on past behavior and performance. While there is never a “right” answer, employers have begun to identify markers for success.
The first marker, of course, is the skill of answering an interview question without being caught by surprise and looking like a deer in headlights.
Solve the interview problem with practice
Practice. Out loud. In addition to your career services professionals, enlist your friends, classmates, family members and anyone else who you can persuade to help you. Give them hard questions to ask. Make them critique your language (Standard English, not Teen-Age Mall Rat), complete thoughts in complete sentences, posture, and eye contact. Do some of these practice interviews in your interview suit, and ask for critique about your posture and level of comfort in the suit. Ask about the image that you project. Do you fidget? Click your pen on the table?
Take advantage of your school’s career services resources for video interviews and interview critique.