Advice for job seekers — part three

This is the last post in the series providing advice for big firm job seekers. This post provides additional guidance for interviewing and effective follow up.

Interview tips:

  • Money and level/associate year/title -- Do not get tripped up on this one. Generally, there is not much to be gained by disclosing your preference regarding salary and associate year (or other level/title, etc.).  You may be negotiating against yourself by coming in too low or you may provide the potential employer a strike against you by coming in too high. These terms can be worked out later. In the meantime, if pressed, try saying something along the lines of "I am more interested in working at a firm where I can begin making a meaningful contribution and I have no doubt that if I am the right fit the compensation and other details will work themselves out."  Do not say this if you do not believe it but LegalJob suggests that this statement is generally true.
  • Do not focus on what you think someone wants to hear.  Employers can generally pick up on that so try to be genuine where possible.
  • You should have an agenda (things you want to communicate even if not asked).
    • For example, if you are applying for a tax associate position, your accounting background and specific experience on various projects is relevant, even if not asked.
  • Be concise.  Employers have short attention spans.  They want to do a lot of the talking too.  As a general rule, take no longer than 30 seconds or so to get to the point.   If you find that you are still talking, it is probably too long.   Look for body language but it is probably time to stop.  Lean towards keeping answers crisp and to the point.
  • Ask meaningful questions and talk no more than about 20 percent of time.
    • Not an exact science but generally folks like to talk about themselves.  If the interviewer spends a decent amount of time talking about himself or herself and you keep your answers short and to the point, the odds are in your favor that he or she will come away thinking good thoughts about you.
  • Prepare and deliver a strong closing argument.
    • Do not be afraid to ask for the job (if appropriate, take temperature of interviewers).  One approach is to say "I am excited about what I heard and I think I can contribute right away because ____; what would be the logical next steps here?"
  • Show a lot of enthusiasm (but be professional).
    • Do not overdo it.  Pulling up your chair to be closer to the interviewer might be a bit much.  Monotone answers (even ones that are concise and substantive) are not enough.
  • Walk in calm -- take some a couple minutes in the bathroom if you need to cool down mentally and/or physically.  Wash your face, relax.
  • Arrive early but not too early.  Earlier than 15 minutes is probably too anxious.

Follow up:

  • Write short but sweet (include details you discussed) thank you letter immediately (while information is fresh) and send to everyone you met (including HR folks).
  • Typed or handwritten -- no typos and no e-mails.
  • After a week or so, consider calling one of the junior folks you interviewed with or someone from hr to take temperature and determine whether it would be permissible to supplement your file (make sure you have something -- new grades, writing sample, recommendation letter, etc.).

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