As the old saying goes, nobody gets it right the first time — a newbie is bound to make mistakes. So if you’re a 1L set to interview this month for a summer job on Bay Street, perfection is not the goal. The goal should be to do your best. And that will be essential if you want to land a position. Only a handful of firms hire during the highly competitive 1L recruit — Aird & Berlis is one of them. We asked Ari Blicker, the firm’s director of student and associate programs, what it takes to stand out.
1. Know yourself
“The biggest thing you can do to prepare is to reflect on yourself,” says Blicker. Most law firms want to learn about your life experiences and discover who you are as a person. This gives them an insight into your strengths and mindset, so make sure you can chat about yourself.
To kick off the reflection process, says Blicker, think about how others might describe you (professionally and personally). Then identify your interests. And finally, review the challenges and successes in your professional life and what you learned from them.
2. Learn everything you can about the firm
“Go beyond a firm’s website when you research them,” says Blicker. “You want to learn their strengths, what areas of law they’re known for and what their culture is like.” How do you find all that out? Ask a current student at the firm out for coffee.
3. Be yourself
“Prepare, but don’t rehearse,” warns Blicker, as scripted interviews generally fall flat. “You don’t want to re-fashion yourself in the image you think the firm is looking for. You should be yourself.” You don’t want your answers to sound canned. Candidates that come across as authentic always fare best.
4. Try to relax
Law firms understand that students are under immense pressure. But Blicker says students should approach the interview as a learning experience, to help them worry less about the outcome. “As a mental exercise,” he says, “imagine you’re at a dinner party hosted by a friend, and you end up meeting a couple of lawyers working in an area you’re interested in.” Come to the interview in this frame of mind to take pressure off yourself.
5. Open your ears
An interview is a conversation, not a soliloquy. So listen to your interviewers and respond to what they say. “Don’t be so worried about delivering your sound bites that you miss out on the conversation,” says Blicker. “At the end of the day, it’s a two-way conversation, just like it would be at a dinner party.”
6. Speak thoughtfully
That goes both for answering questions and asking them. “You should pose questions that are meaningful to you,” counsels Blicker, “not ones that are strictly designed to impress.” Ask questions that will give you useful information. Perhaps you want to show you’re thinking about a long-term future with the firm. Blicker offers this questions as an example: “I would like to become a partner one day. Can you tell me a bit about the path to partnership at your firm?”
More about Firm Interviews & Summer Jobs: