Tips for Acing Your Interview

About the Author:

Erika Glenn is a Summer 2009 JIOP alum and clerked for Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas. She is currently an attorney at Arias, Ozzello & Gignac, LLP in Houston. 

Cindy Tsai is a 2006 JIOP alum and clerked for Judge Dennis J. Burke in Chicago, Illinois. She is currently with Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.


Published: January 16, 2014

So you have an interview coming up . . . how exciting! The best way to shine at an interview is to be prepared. There’s nothing worse than walking into an interview and feeling flustered by the interviewer’s questions.

Interviews are a great way to develop your interpersonal communication skills, and learn a bit about yourself in the process. They are also a great way to help polish your professional skills.  Below, is a list of tips to help you as you prepare for your interview.

There are three key parts to every interview:

• Preparation before the interview

• Answering questions during theinterview

• Following up after the interview

Preparation Before the Interview

Anticipate Questions

In the days leading up to the interview, it is helpful to begin thinking about your answers to the following questions. These questions are often asked during interviews (or a variation of them) and it is wise to be prepared for them.

• What attributes/ qualities do I possess that make me a great candidate for this position?

• What are my strengths when working under pressure?

• What are my weaknesses? (Tip: once you identify your weakness try to spin it into a positive.)

• What are my goals for this position?

• How will obtaining this position impact my future career goals?

• In what ways will my skill set, background, or experience be an asset to this position/company?

• What are my career goals?

• What are my goals upon completing law school?

• Am I involved in leadership positions at my law school? If not, why not?  If yes, why did I select those positions?

Dress to Impress

It is also important to dress for the position you are interviewing for. Be sure to have a nicely pressed suit and appropriate shoes. Make sure that the suit fits you properly. The suit should be formfitting but not too tight. Invest in a proper suit. Not all black pants are created equal. The pants you wear out to a bar or club are not suitable for an interview. In fact, as a general rule, do not wear anything you would wear to a bar or club to an interview.

Answering Questions During the Interview

• Watch your posture and be sure to sit up straight (communicate confidence!)

• Be sure to make constant eye contact

• Breathe! Everyone is nervous . . . even the interviewer. Try to be yourself and let     your personality shine in order to help your interviewer learn if you’ll be a good fit for the position and team

Never leave the interview without asking the interviewer a couple of questions. The interview is also your opportunity to learn if the position will be a good fit for you. Below are examples of questions to ask your interviewer:

1. What qualities does the ideal candidate have?

2. What made you pursue a career in your practice area?

3. What opportunities for professional development are available?

4. Does your company value mentoring? Or are mentoring opportunities available?

5. What kind of cases is your docket comprised of?

6. Bring an extra copy of your résumé and writing sample just in case the interviewer forgets to bring a copy

7. Bring any updated copies of your writing sample or application materials just in case the interviewer does not have those

8. One of the best things that can happen at an interview is hitting it off with the interviewer. It makes the interview feel more conversational and alleviates the nervousness. That said, remember it is still an interview and it is important to respect the relationship between interviewer and interviewee.

9. On occasion, there may be more than one interviewer present at the interview.  Be sure to take down names of everyone at the interview. They should each receive a thank-you note.

Following-Up after the Interview

• Send a thank-you card to the interviewer and thank them for the interview

• Write the thank-you card by hand for an extra personal touch—but only if your handwriting is neat! Otherwise, type the thank-you note.

While this is not a comprehensive list of all the things to do to help you prepare for your interview, this is a great start that will definitely lead you in the right direction.

JIOP Interviewing Dos & Don’ts
If you're reading this and you're an intern candidate, congratulations! We are excited that you've submitted an application and we wish you the best on your interview. Keep in mind that there are two interviews: an initial screening interview with a practicing attorney (not necessarily a JIOP alumn) as well as a judicial interview if you pass the screening. Below you will find a few tips specific to your JIOP interviews. These tips are based on the experiences of JIOP alumni who wish to make your interview experience a successful and pleasant one:

Dos: Screening Interview

• Once you learn who your interviewer will be, look them up on the Internet to learn about where they work and a few things about their background. Once you've done your research, think of a couple of questions that you can ask during your interview.

• If your interviewer is a JIOP alumn, ask him or her how the  program impacted their law student experience.

• Ask your interviewer how the JIOP program impacted their legal career, and how it prepared them for their current practice area.

• Ask your interviewer about what kind of experiences they participated in while in law school, and ask for advice on which experiences they think you should seek during your internship.

• Ask for advice on how to leverage your internship experience into a potential full-time job after law school.

• Ask them for advice about how to navigate the learning curve that will inevitably follow and how to deal with challenges that you may encounter during your internship.

• Ask them why they chose the practice area that they are in and what is unique about this type of law.


Judicial Interview

• Ask your interviewer about what kind of opportunities were available for interns to observe other judges located in the same courthouse as their judge.

• Ask your interviewer for information on the amount of writing or researching they did as an intern to help get an idea of what you can expect.

• Ask your interviewer for advice on working with the judge's law clerks or their experience in working with the judge's law clerks.  This is helpful because your interviewer can give you insight into a judicial work environment.

• Ask your interviewer for advice on how to improve your writing if you have any concerns.

 General

• Review your writing sample and personal statement to remember what you wrote just in case the interviewer discusses one or both during your interview.

• Be prepared to explain why you are a strong candidate for JIOP. Think about what unique qualities you possess that would make you a great intern.

• Be prepared to discuss your career goals upon completing law school.

• Be prepared to discuss how JIOP will impact you and your future goals.

• Arrive to your interviews 10-15 minutes early.

• Contact your interviewer ahead of time if you think you may be late.

• Map out your interview location the day before to make sure you know where you are going.

• Spend a few dollars and purchase a nice professional folder to carry your résumé and writing sample. You can also carry your interview materials in a portfolio if you have one.


Don’ts

• Do not arrive late.

• Do not feel embarrassed or intimidated about your grades. If you've made it to the interview, it's because the JIOP staff thought you were a good candidate. Maintain your confidence.

• Do not be overly confident. You want to come across as someone who desires to learn, grow, and develop as an intern.

• Do not end the interview without asking your interviewer a few questions. The interviewer wants your interview to be a success just as much as you so, make the interview engaging and enjoyable by asking meaningful questions.

• Do not forget to thank your interviewer for their time by sending them a thank-you note.

• Do not forget the “Dos” listed above.



Copyright © 2013, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).

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