The Lawyers Career Blog

Are You Ready For The In-House Interview?

May 23, 2018

Landing that in-house job of your dreams starts with the interview process.  Do not make the mistake of assuming that your charming personality and ability to ‘think on your feet’ will carry you through the various, long rounds of in-depth interviews that many of our client companies conduct.  Charisma is great, but it won’t get you through that fifth hour of being asked probing questions.  Ask yourself if you are ready for the following:

  1. Are you ready for behavioral interview questions? This is no longer just coming from HR.  We have seen an increased trend in companies asking behavioral questions, and frequently, attorneys (even General Counsels) are doling out these types of questions, not just the internal Talent Acquisition team. 
    1. What are your strengths? Can you answer this question genuinely and confidently without bragging?  Can you provide specific examples?
    2. What are you biggest weaknesses? It is no longer acceptable to say the overused answer of “I just work too hard”!!  Interviewers want to know that you have conducted some introspection and know yourself and your actual weaknesses.  This does not have to be some catastrophic fatal flaw, but it does have to be authentic and specific.
    3. Can you give me an example of a time when…..? This question can take many variations so be ready!  Before the interview, get specific examples in your mind of when you have dealt with a thorny client/issue, rectified a bad situation, etc. 
  1. Can you handle the compensation question? With the Equal Pay Act in place in New Jersey and various other states, companies governed by that Act should no longer be asking the “what are you currently earning” question.  This makes the compensation conversation a bit easier to navigate, but also a bit more cloak-and-dagger.  Companies will pose the question as “what are you looking to earn”, instead of drilling down on your current compensation.  This is harder to answer because there is no accurate answer!  It is difficult to be forced to nail down a number early in the interview process.  I spend a lot of time talking through this type of questioning with my candidates and being straightforward is the key.  Stressing and ruminating about this type of questioning only makes you appear coy, nervous or unclear.  Anticipate and be ready for it.  Keep your composure and avoid the ‘deer in headlights’ look on your face.
  1. Do you have good questions to ask? You need to have a plethora of questions at the ready because you may be meeting with six people, all of whom may ask you “so, do you have any questions for me?”  The last thing you want is awkward silence as you rack your brain trying to create an intelligent question.  Remember this could be the fourth hour you have been at the company and fatigue, stiffness and information overload may be setting in!  Prepare ahead of time and have smart, substantive questions to which you actually want to know the answers.  So often we ask questions in our daily life and in interviews and we don’t listen to the answers – our brains have already moved on to our anticipated response or next question.  Stop and think about asking a meaty question and wait for the answer.  Once you have truly digested the answer, you can then follow up with a smart response that shows you are really listening! 
  1. Are you able to handle the fatigue factor? Unlike traditional law firm interviews, companies tend to have lengthier, in-person meetings.  It is very common to spend at least four hours at the first round interview, only to be asked to come back for longer, additional rounds of interviews.  You will meet lawyers and members of the business team, which is great because it gives you a real sense of the company.  The downside is the fatigue factor that many lawyers do not account for – they tell me that they have prepped for trial or worked on a deal many late nights so handling a lengthy interview will be a piece of cake!  It is, however, a very different experience to be the interviewee answering probing questions for hours than it is to be the lawyer handling a case/deal.  It is not easy to be introspective, vulnerable, yet confident, and that is the mix of ingredients you need in an interview.  Be smart about when you schedule your interviews and give yourself ample time immediately prior to the interview to slow down, breathe and focus.  Starting out strong is easy – maintaining your energy, interest and focus is the hard part.
  1. Can you illustrate sustained and genuine interest in this position? Many lawyers breeze over this aspect of an interview.  They tell me that they are interested in the role because it “looks good” and that they “are ready for the next challenge in my career”.  Those answers are not wrong, but they are not sufficient.  Several of our company clients have decided not to move forward with a qualified candidate because he/she was unable (or unwilling) to show demonstrated interest in this specific role.  Be ready for that line of questioning, even if delivered in an indirect way.  They may ask you outright why you are interested in this role, this company, at this time or they may get at it in an indirect manner.  Either way, you have to give specific answers as to why the role interests you, why the company is intriguing, and why this is the right time for you to make this move.  Do not confuse industry with company – having a general interest in “this industry” is not the same as explaining your specific interest in this company.  Do yourself a favor and think through your interest level before going to the interview.

 

Melissa A. Peters, Esq. is Managing Director at Princeton Legal Search Group.  She focuses exclusively on the permanent placement of lawyers in law firm and in-house settings.  She can be reached at 732.744.3400 and mpeters@princetonlegal.com.


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