1. Be Observant—Not Distracted or Absent
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer you is to be memorable, in a good way. The best way to do this is to build bridges with your interviewer. If the interview is in person, likely the interviewer will want you to come to her or his office. It helps to notice details: Perhaps the judge or person interviewing you has a picture of kids on his or her desk who are the same age as yours, or perhaps there is a book on a shelf that you have been meaning to read. Why not make mention of these things? It might spark conversation outside of the interview and help build relations. In addition, consider asking the interviewer questions about his or her thoughts on the position or workplace, such as, “What do you like most about working here?” or “What brought you into this field?” This shows an interest in both the interviewer and the position. Of course, we all know not to use our phone during an interview. It should go without saying not to let your other activities or your observations take you out of focus from the interview. Be engaged and show your interest in being there.
2. Set the Climate—Do Not Come in with Too Much Energy
Have you ever entered into an interview with the sense that the interviewer already does not like you? Perhaps he or she comes off as cold or distant. If you are in this situation with a judge or another interviewer, it may help to break the ice with some humor. Tread lightly and be true to yourself, but if you can do so without annoying your interviewer, make a light-hearted joke or two. That just might change the trajectory of the interview. You also do not want to put off your interviewer by having too much energy. Try to match the energy in your judge or interviewer, but be just slightly more upbeat. In addition, if you are interviewing by phone, always be sure to have a preset location tested ahead of time so you will not be interrupted or distracted. If it is by videoconference, make sure that the WiFi is stable and secure. It helps to find a place with a nice, quiet backdrop, like a bookshelf. Ask your law school administrators or career services office for assistance; they may already have a room or setup prepared for these types of interviews. Take responsibility for ensuring that everything is in order—it is up to you to make the interview environment as optimal as possible.
3. Do Some Preliminary Research on the Interviewer, but Do Not Stalk Your Interviewer
When preparing to interview with a judge or any other interviewer, it is a good practice to find information about that judge or interviewer ahead of time. For instance, you can learn where the judge worked prior to becoming a judge, and sometimes you may find information about his or her family. This can pay off if you learn something that can be shared and discussed naturally. Do not, however, bring up anything overly personal or something that you cannot discuss with a genuine interest. For example, if you learn that the judge has a dog, do not mention the dog just for the sake of revealing that you know he or she has a dog. It may really bother your judge if you know too much about him or her. It is best to bring up something you can relate to professionally, such as shared connections or similar prior work experience.
4. Know What You Want to Say about Yourself, but Do Not Over-Plan It
It is always a good idea to have a list of items you want to emphasize at an interview. Perhaps you are interviewing with a judge who handles a lot of intellectual property cases and you have a strong interest in that area of law. It would behoove you to tell your interviewer this. Try to walk in with at least five things you want the interviewer to know about you that would show you are a great fit, regardless of whether it is on your résumé or not. It is nice to talk about your accomplishments, but also be sure to talk about your interests and your goals. However, avoid being overly eager to talk about yourself so much that you hijack the conversation. The best interviews flow naturally. Also, make sure to use proper judgement when deciding whether to mention something; perhaps, for instance, the interviewer has no interest in your love for fantasy football.
The tips in this article will put you on solid ground for planning your upcoming interviews so you land the position you want. Remember, whether you are interviewing with a judge for the Judicial Intern Opportunity Program (JIOP) or with an attorney for a job, be confident. If you made it to the interview stage, you already caught their eye. Good luck!