February 7, 2010
For many public-interest minded law students, whether they are hunting for summer or postgraduate work, winter and early spring constitute interview season. Harvard Law School’s Office of Public Interest Advising maintains a very helpful interviewing resource webpage, which includes lists of questions to expect from interviewers. And PSLawNet offers a concise, bullet-pointed interview tips guide. Some key points:
- Take advantage of mock interview opportunities. Explore with your career services office the possibility of setting up mock interviews so that you can work out the kinks and develop a comfort level with the formality of interviews. Ideally, the (mock) interviewer will be an attorney with some experience in the area of work that you are trying to break into. Even if you feel you are a strong interviewer, there is absolutely no downside to practicing. For instance, you may be asked a question in the mock interview that challenges you. By thinking through it and developing an answer in a no-consequences environment, you can hit it out of the park during a real interview.
- Be able to explain your motivation. Public interest employers look for students who have a genuine interest in their organizations’ missions. If you have past work experience in an area related to the job you are seeking, that demonstrates a personal commitment. By all means, you should highlight this experience during the interview. Even if you do not – and many law students do not have a lot of public interest experience under their belt when they begin school – you must prepare to explain what motivated you to apply for the specific job.
- Don’t just prepare to answer questions; prepare to ask them. A good interview is a conversation, and you risk seeming disinterested if a potential employer offers you an opportunity to ask questions and you take a pass. You should prepare a short list of questions based upon your pre-interview research about the organization, and perhaps even a question for the interviewer personally, such as, “How did your career path lead you to your current position?”