Category Archives: Interviewing

Competency Based Questions in Interviews

Competency based interview questions are based on the firm’s proven success traits or competencies.  They are questions designed to uncover what a person has done in the past to better predict how they will behave in the future.  For example, a firm that values teamwork may ask for specific examples of when a candidate has worked in a team setting, the role he or she played on the team, and the ultimate result.  Note that competency based questions are not hypotheticals.  Interviewers use the same exact questions for every candidate, as well as a uniform scorecard which replaces the subjective hiring process.  Finally, the panelists work together to give the candidate an overall score.  Candidates identified through this process are more likely to succeed with the firm.

More Law Firms Utilizing Structured Panel Interviews

As law firms continue to struggle with how to assess now just a candidate’s written credentials, but their ability to exercise professional judgment, more firms are utilizing a structured panel interview rather than the traditional one-on-one interview format.  With this format, a panel of interviewers use a customized, firm-specific scorecard to measure the candidate’s skills against the performance standards of the firm.  The panel is also designed to eliminate subjective judgment on the part of individual interviewers by using a reliable, evidence based process.  Moreover, interviewers stay on task because of the discipline imposed by having others in the room.  These interviews typically last an hour or longer.   They also include competency based questions, which will be explored in later posts.  If you will be interviewing with a law firm, speak with a Career Services counselor to help you determine the interview format for which you should prepare.

Opportunity to Interview with The Law Office of Ronald Sholes

The Law Office of Ronald Sholes, P.A., a personal injury law firm in Jacksonville,  is accepting resumes and cover letters from 2L’s and 3L’s for a part-time law clerk position this semester at the rate of $12.00 per hour.  Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 5, 2012 via Symplicity under the OCI tab.  Make certain your current year status is up to date as a 2L or 3L or you will not be able to view the OCI posting.

What Are Law Firms Looking For?

Several factors influence a law firm’s hiring decisions.  In the next few posts, I will highlight the key considerations.  One of the most important factors is whether you fit the firm’s culture.  Each law firm has its own office environment.  Some are more formal, some are more casual.  Some encourage associates to work late hours and to bill as much as possible, while others may encourage a more balanced work life.  The culture may be a reflection in part of the clientele or of the geographic location of the firm.  For example, a firm in Atlanta, Georgia is more likely to have a diverse culture than a firm in Waycross, Georgia.  And remember – even superb grades or excellent writing skills cannot overcome the perception that you will not fit with a firm’s culture.  

Research the target firm to get a good grasp of its value system and then examine whether you are a good fit for it.  If you aren’t, then consider whether you should pursue working with that firm since you may be setting yourself up for failure or unhappiness.  If you think you would be a great fit for the firm’s culture, incorporate subtle references to your shared values in your cover letter or interview.

Elevator Speeches Tip #3: Keep it Short

It’s called an “elevator” speech because it is supposed to be short enough that you could easily finish it in a short elevator ride.  You will be delivering your pitch in a compressed time frame, so include only the most interesting and relevant information.  If it is more than a minute, it is too long.  People are busy, and you will have only a few seconds of their attention.  Keep it short!

Writing an Effective Thank You Note

One of the purposes of a thank you note is to distinguish yourself from other candidates.  Thank the firm for the opportunity to interview, then remind them why you are the best fit for the position.  Focus on the factors that the interviewing attorney(s) seemed to care most about.  If they spent a large portion of the interview discussing your connections to the local community, note that you are looking forward to moving back home and to developing meaningful relationships with the local legal community.  If the interviewing attorneys focused on your practical knowledge, remind them what legal experiences you have and how well they have prepared you for the position.

Elevator Speeches Tip #2: Be Honest

For an effective elevator speech, you must always be honest.  Don’t be tempted to exaggerate your experiences or your academic qualifications.  Lawyers are often skilled at detecting half-truths and identifying phonies.  If you are perceived as hiding something or are caught in a misrepresentation, you will then have an integrity issue for which there is no remedy.  So avoid trying to make yourself smarter, richer, or more experienced.  Use humility and just be yourself, which is when you are most effective.

Elevator Speeches Tip # 1: Why Me

An elevator speech is a sound bite that outlines your professional story.  Before you attend a networking function, conduct an informational meeting, or have an interview, you should be able to provide a short elevator speech.  To help you prepare one, follow the guidelines I will outline in the upcoming weeks. 

Tip #1:  Focus on why you want the job and write down every reason.  Delete anything that could apply to practically any candidate and focus on personal, unique motivators.  If there is something that makes you a good fit for the firm’s culture, be sure to mention it.  For example, if the firm likes to hire associates who will stick around and become partner, mention that you are returning home to that locale and that you are excited about establishing your career near your family.

The Art of the Thank You Note

The purpose of a thank you note is to express your gratitude for the opportunity to interview and to reinforce why you are the right person for the position.  Follow up on any substantive areas you discussed and, when possible, include a reference to a comment from your conversation.  For example, if your interviewer mentioned he was working on a huge trial, you might casually wish him success in the upcoming trial.

Understanding the On Campus Interview Process

You’ve all heard of On-Campus Interviews (commonly referred to as OCI’s), but do you know what they are and how to apply for them?  In an attempt to demystify the OCI process, we have posted a memo on Symplicity’s Document Library entitled “How to Apply for OCIs.”  Here, you will find answers to your most frequently asked OCI questions, including:

  • Which employers come for OCI and when?
  • If I want to participate in OCI, what should I be doing right now?
  • How will I know if I secured an interview?
  • What if I need to cancel an interview?
  • Who do I contact if I have trouble using Symplicity to apply for OCIs?

Access “How to Apply for OCIs” by logging into Symplicity, click on the Documents tab, and then click on the Document Library tab.