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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

August 11, 2016

The 3 biggest interview mistakes.

Julie Q. Brush

Today’s lawyers are fairly savvy when it comes to interviewing. And many of the “How to Prepare for an Interview” articles are quite rudimentary for this group.

So when a group of lawyers interviews for the same position, guess what? They are all pretty decent at interviewing. But in today’s market, the competition is stiffer than ever. You’ve got to outwit, outsmart and outplay the other candidates when interviewing for a position. You can’t just be good…you have to be great. And you’ve got to overcome assumptions, unspoken objections and a “prove to me why I should hire you” mentality. All formed before you even walk in the door. I bet you’ve never thought of it that way, right? Right. Not being aware of what it takes to shine in today’s job market is what leads to the biggest interviewing mistakes.

Below are the three biggest interviewing mistakes lawyers make – based on feedback from hundreds of my corporate and law firm clients.

1. Not Selling Themselves…Enough

The single biggest interview mistake that lawyers make is underselling themselves. “Sell”, you say? Uh oh. When lawyers hear the word “sell” they run for the hills – perhaps a vision of a pushy, abrasive used car salesman. Ok, let’s put it another way: What value do you bring to this role and this organization…beyond the platitudes? Being able to provide a thoughtful, relevant and impactful answer takes a lot of preparation and practice. So do the legwork upfront so you are prepared and organized in your thoughts. And don’t be shy. Be confident and detailed in describing your value and strengths. Holding back will only hurt your chances of moving forward in the process. Employers want to hire a winner not a wallflower.

2. Not Enthusiastic…Enough

It may not seem like a big deal, but being genuinely enthusiastic about a job for which you are interviewing is critical for employers. Candidates make the mistake of playing it a little too cool – or just assuming that the employer thinks they are already enthusiastically interested because they are there interviewing. Some candidates actually are extremely interested, but don’t show it. So it is important to remember to express your interest. When interviewing, let the employer know you are interested with words and actions. Be engaged, smile, sit up straight, make good eye contact, listen, ask good questions and most importantly, be able to articulate what it is about this position that excites you.

3. Not Prepared…Enough

Reviewing a company’s Annual Report, website or conducting general research is fine, but it simply isn’t enough anymore. And this is the extent of research most candidates conduct (some even do less). Employers are expecting a more proactive and thoughtful approach: What are some of the issues you see their industry facing? How does that impact the company from a legal perspective? How would you approach this role? You need to go beyond the basics to make the right impression.

In the interview process, there are things you can control and things you cannot control (just like everything in life). The most common mistakes above are all within your control to get right and blow away your competition. So spend the time and effort preparing intelligently and you’ll place yourself in great position to differentiate yourself in the biggest way.

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