Early Interview Week is almost here! Besides first-semester exams at 1L year and the bar exam post-graduation, EIW is usually one of the biggest and most anxiety-provoking experiences for many students out there. Fear not and read on, for I have some advice that will help you maintain your sanity during the interview season.
- Don’t try to stuff tons of information into your head right before the interview. The best advice I received was from someone who said that she only needed to know three things before she walked in: 1) whether the firm did transactional, litigation, or both; 2) whether her interviewer was a partner, associate, or lateral; and 3) what work experiences she definitely wanted to highlight during the 20 minutes. The three things on your list might change, but the point is that by the time you’re sitting outside the room, it is probably too late to cram things into your head. Worse, you might mix up facts and end up saying something that is completely irrelevant to the firm. So keep it simple and prioritize what matters.
- Cut out all verbal fillers (“um,” “like,” “you know”) from your speech several days in advance of interviews. When people are nervous, they tend to revert back to some of their worst verbal habits. Because I am a huge offender in this area, I found it helped to give my brain a few days to adjust to speaking without “like” popping up. Trying to change or pause this ingrained habit about 30 seconds into an interview didn’t work for me in the past, so I needed to give myself some more time to transition.
- Visit the hospitality suites. Even if you don’t think it will help with your interview, stopping by can’t hurt. It will give you a chance to gauge what people at the firm are like. True, it could be a limited sample and completely unrepresentative, but at least you’ll get a bit more information than if you don’t visit at all. Just walk in, introduce yourself, and maybe have one or two concrete questions to ask so you can get something more out of your visit than free water bottles or umbrellas or drawstring bags. Yes, those are nice, but you’re probably not going to get a chance to talk to so many attorneys at one time again except when you’re in your summer associate position, so take the opportunity when you can.
- Always try to get your interview points across, even if the interview just seems conversational. Try to think about the interviewers’ point of view: if they are going to recommend you to come to the firm, they likely need to have concrete reasons why you will be able to add value to the business. Read the situation carefully, and even if the interview is conversational, still include in your responses how you will be a good fit for the firm and what skills you have to help you create good work product. For those who want to see a connection to the “real world,” think of this as practice for when you do client pitches or network in the future–what are you going to share about yourself in order to get the other party to want to see or ask more of you?
- Be comfortable in your own skin. Literally. If you plan to wear heels, bring some flip-flops or flats for the times when you’re on the stairs or just standing around. Guys, I know dress shoes can be uncomfortable as well, so carry a pair of flip-flops around if you have room, or at least find shoes that don’t pinch your feet.
- Have something to wipe off your brow if you sweat heavily–you want to look as polished as possible when you walk into the interview. Wear an undershirt, because that will help keep the sweat from soaking into your dress shirt.
- If you have a smartphone, use the camera function to check if you have food in your teeth.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I know it is tempting to drink all the lovely coffee or sodas that the firms have in their hospitality suites, but it is important to have water as well. Seriously. You’re going to get hot and sweaty at some point, whether it is from commuting to the interview site (unless you take a taxi), running to and from back-to-back interviews on floors separated by double digits, or simply waiting outside the interview suite. The last thing you want is to get a massive headache or feel faint because you didn’t drink enough water. Drinking water will also help you stay cool in your suit, too.
- Don’t count on printing anything like resumes or cover letters at the last minute in the school’s computer lab. You’ll most likely be too frazzled to catch typos, and waiting for a laptop is just stressful if an interview is looming in the next half hour. Save yourself the stress and have everything ready to go.
- Head up to your interview with plenty of time to spare. Long lines and the fact that elevators are making multiple stops mean longer travel times. If you don’t like hanging around the interview room for a long time, go to a floor one flight above where you are. That way you can easily go downstairs one flight when it is time to rock and roll.
- Self-care is extremely important in this busy time. I made a list of ways to decompress well in advance of EIW so I wouldn’t have to do any thinking when I got home after several hours of interviewing. Some things on my list included a relaxing soundtrack of my favorite songs, stored ingredients for a homemade dinner, and my favorite herbal tea varieties.
- Do not go anywhere near online forums! People will be posting about callbacks or interviews or just straight-up panicking. Focus on yourself; that’s what you can control. If you need support, call a trusted friend (law school or not), or make an appointment with Student Affairs.
Whatever happens, make sure you stay confident and focused on the task at hand. Remember, nobody ever said it was easy, only that it will be worth it. Best of luck to everyone interviewing in August!