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Tools for Landing the Job
Questions to Ask Employers
An important portion of most legal interviews will be devoted to allowing you, as the interviewee, to ask questions of the interviewer, and in most cases, the quality of the questions asked by you will play a significant role in the success of the interview.
Many firms and organizations require interviewers to complete evaluation forms detailing specific feedback about the "interviewee." The questions you ask are often directly evaluated by the interviewer on this form and as such, can impact your overall performance dramatically.
The lesson? Be prepared with questions that are thoughtful and reflect your research about the firm or organization.
To formulate your questions in advance of an interview, begin by completely researching the employer on-line using Martindale-Hubbell, Google, and other searches. Find out if other Moritz students have clerked at the firm and ask them about their experiences.
You also need to ask yourself what you want from a prospective employer, what is most important to you. Do you seek early assignment of responsibility or a slower training pace? Do you thrive in a fast paced office or feel more comfortable in a relaxed office setting? Your criteria will provide broad question topics.
You also need to think about what contributions you can make to a firm and, as appropriate, preface your questions with that information. For example, "I have a long history of community involvement and relationship building I'd like to eventually use to develop business for the firm. Can you tell me what formal or informal training associates with this interest receive?"
Next, think about what questions will give you the answers you need. If you are interested in early assignment of responsibility, you might ask, "What type of responsibility are junior associates given in major cases?"
The number and specificity of the questions you ask an employer are evidence of your researching ability and interest in the employer.
Make your questions specific. For example, you might ask, "I understand your firm has a writing workshop for summer associates. Can you tell me more about the program?" If you ask generic questions like, "Tell me about your summer program," the interviewer may conclude you have done little to research the employer and assume you have superficial analytical skills or minimal interest in the firm or organization.
Thoroughly think through questions; your thoughtfulness will make you stand out from other candidates merely asking general questions. The following examples may guide the development of your specific questions:
- I'm particularly interested in feedback to continually improve performance. Can you tell me how your firm/organization provides feedback in their evaluations?
- How would you characterize your firm's/organization's culture?
- I am interested in joining a growing firm. In which departments do you anticipate the greatest growth during the next five years?
- What common denominators do you see among the most successful lawyers of your firm/organization?
- In evaluating summer associates at your firm, what is the critical difference between those who receive permanent offers and those who don't?
- I see that your firm/organization uses a rotation program to train new associates. Ultimately, how is a permanent departmental assignment made?
- I was impressed with the list of your firm's clients. Does a single client or industry dominate the firm's work or revenues?
- I am interested in business development. How much responsibility do associates have for developing business and what, if any, training does your firm have in place to develop associate skills in this area?
- I noticed that 10 attorneys at your firm are former judicial clerks. How does the firm handle summer associates who accept clerkships?
- As an attorney with your firm for 10 years, what are the most dramatic changes you have seen during your tenure?
The questions you ask during an interview, as well as your overall perceived preparedness will have a huge impact on your success. Remember: Everyone is a little nervous about interviewing. It gets easier with practice. It is not the end of the world if you do not get the first job for which you interview, but it will be a GREAT feeling when you get that first offer! If you prepare well, you will become a better interviewee very quickly.