I share a list of do’s and don’ts for job interviews. I hope they help and land you your dream job! These do’s and don’ts are tips that you can use for succeeding at you next job interview.
For a year and a half, I’ve been a partner at a law firm, and as a result of that, have found myself more and more often sitting in interviews of law students and lawyers. I’ve reflected on these interviews and what has persuaded me to want to hire someone or be completely turned off by the interviewee and not want to hire them. I hope these tips prepare you for your next interview.
1. Dress Professionally & Comfortably.
First impressions do matter and they ARE a thing. When you go to a job interview or have a job interview via Skype or by video conference, dress for what would be considered professional for that job.
Although North American society seems to be moving towards a more “relaxed” dress code (i.e. no one wears jeans anymore but instead people wear jogging or stretchy pants), that’s not how you should dress to a job interview. You should dress your best and dress up rather than down. Because, let’s be honest, you are more likely to be faulted for not looking professional enough than looking too professional. This doesn’t mean buying expensive clothing. It means dressing for the job you want to get and, as the interviewer, I’m judging you and noticing how you put yourself together to meet us. I want to see that you put in effort into your appearance. It’s like a first date.
For women in law, you should be wearing a full suit (whether pants or skirt set) or a dress with a blazer over top. If you’re going to wear a dress, make sure the length of the dress is at least just above your knees and you should wear nylons. Nylons are super uncomfortable, yes, but they make the outfit look more professional and it’s an hour of your day, so suck it up.
For men in law, you should wear a full suit with a tie and be wearing clean dress shoes. Unless you have a beard or mustache, you should be clean shaven.
I make the above suggestions because until you know the company’s culture on what’s acceptable as the dress code, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s something that’s so easy to get right for a job interview before you’ve even opened your mouth to speak.
This means NO:
- flip flops,
- jeans or jeans with holes, no matter how cool they look,
- no leggings or jogging pants,
- halter tops or shirts with no sleeves without a blazer or jacket over top,
- skirts that are mid-thigh length,
- major cleavage or butt cracks – you’re not going to a night club or trying to get a date.
What I mean by dressing comfortably:
I need to clarify what I mean by dress comfortably.
This is an inner feeling of comfortableness that you need to feel inside when you go for an interview. I do this when I teach, attend client meetings or am giving presentations in front of large audiences for example. I wear my favourite suit that makes me feel and look good inside and out. I don’t wear any piece of clothing that makes me self-conscious or that I have to worry about e.g. sweat stains through my shirt/suit.
Interviews are stressful and we get nervous and anxious, so knowing that’s the case, don’t wear an outfit that will show all this happening. From your shoes, to your nylons/socks, to your belt, to your jewelry, make sure you feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing inside and out. Take your outfit for a test-run if you need to and see how you feel when you’re wearing it.
Our other posts you might like:
2. Research the Company & Your Interviewers Before the Job Interview.
My next tip for succeeding at your next job interview is to research the company and your interviewers before the job interview.
The people at the company or the firm want to know that you took some time out of your day to learn a little bit about them – the company and the interviewers, especially smaller companies.
When an interviewee does this, they get bonus points for going out of their way to learn about who works at the company and also identifying if they have any things in common with the people who work at the company e.g. home town, education, hobbies.
There’s so much information available online nowadays, that you can learn a lot in under 10 minutes of research. Doing this also shows the company you’re interviewing with that they aren’t just another number on your list of places you got an interview (even if that is true). This is all about stroking the ego of the interviewers and the company, but in a non-slimy way.
3. Make eye contact with your interviewers.
During the interview, make eye contact with your interviewers. It shows that you’re listening and engaged in the conversation.
Remember that, when there is more than one person interviewing you, you need to make eye contact with all the interviewers and not just one of them. This keeps the other interviewers, who may not have asked the question, engaged and wanting to have a conversation with you.
I recently had an experience where we were interviewing a young lawyer. He was asked a question by one of the male senior lawyers. When answering the question, not once did he make eye contact with me (female junior lawyer – you can read my story here if you want to learn more about me). When that happened, I noticed myself disengaging from the conversation and as if I wasn’t in the room. It’s not the way you want one of your interviewers to feel.
4. Think About What You Might be Asked & Be Prepared to Answer.
In addition to the standard job interview questions, think about what questions you might be asked that are specific to the job you’re applying for.
You can expect to be asked about:
- your education and why you chose that career path, favourite courses, etc.,
- your hobbies outside of the office,
- work experience,
- why you want to work at the company/firm,
- how you found out about the company/firm, and
- in academic law firms, what’s the last court case you read or your favourite case (and be ready to talk about what your thoughts are).
You might not expect to be asked about what you can offer to me, to the company. Why is it that I should choose you over someone else? Interviewees seem stumped when I ask this question to them, but it shouldn’t be such a surprise — it’s all about me (the company). We’re the ones hiring you. Give me the reason(s) to hire you.
You also might not expect to be asked about what jobs AREN’T on your resume. We often ask this question because we care about the paper routes, the landscaping jobs, the fast food jobs that you had. We are intrigued by stories of previous jobs where you had to work hard or gained skills in client management for generally low wages.
This tip will help you succeed at your next job interview and stand out from others who are interviewed.
5. Have Questions Prepared to Ask at the Interview.
In my opinion, an interview is meant to benefit both the company (in deciding whether to hire you or not) and the interviewee (in deciding if this is the place they want to work). With this then, the interviewee should be asking questions to help them learn more so he or she can make an informed decision about whether this is the place they want to work – whether the job ad or the information online, is, in fact, true.
The interviewee should be asking questions about the company or people if there are things that you want to know that haven’t been covered in the interview. More than that, though, ask questions that go to your values to see if the values of the company align with your values.
Even though I think that a person can’t actually know about the culture of a company until they start working there and are immersed in the environment, there are things that go to the core of people’s values that can tell them this is not the right fit for them. I don’t like it when there’s information I could have told the person and they wouldn’t have accepted the job. I’m frank and if I’m asked a question in an interview like, do you work a lot or have work life balance, I will tell the truth. I don’t see the point in tricking someone or leading them on.
Not asking any questions isn’t a good sign for the interviewer.
6. Show a Genuine Interest in What the Company Does.
When you’re at a job interview, you should actually want to work at that company. So, try to show a genuine interest in what the company does and understanding how you would be benefiting the company. My only caution is that you don’t go overboard with that in the interview.
Don’t try too hard or be too keen.
No one likes that either because it can come off as disingenuous. It’s a turn off (remember how I said this was a first date in #1?!).
7. Be Up to Date on Current Events and Sports.
Before the actual interview questions start, the meeting often starts with icebreakers e.g. did you find parking okay? Sometimes it can start with current events, especially around elections, weather events e.g. flooding or wildfires or recent government decisions.
Be up to date on current events in your city, in your country and in the world. At the least, you need to know the basics of what’s happening so you can have a brief discussion about it. This shows that you pay attention to what’s going on around you (and aren’t just watching Netflix) and that you have an ability to show critical thinking and hold a conversation.
In terms of sports, you may want to know:
- if it’s hockey playoffs, who’s in the playoffs and what team is leading the series
- if it’s the Olympics, where they are being held and which country has the most medals
- if it’s the NFL playoffs, what teams are in the playoffs and where the Superbowl is taking place
- if it’s the NBA playoffs, what teams are in the playoffs – like in Canada, how the Toronto Raptors are currently going to the NBA finals!
8. Know What Book You Last Read or are Reading.
You should be able to share off-hand the title of the last book you read or are reading.
If this is your first time to our website, you don’t know our story: 2 lawyers in Canada pursuing financial independence. Click here to check out our personal finance posts.
Knowing that now and that financial independence to me is saving enough money so that I can say NO to things that I don’t want to do, you probably shouldn’t mention any FIRE (financial independence retire early) books at the job interview, especially if they are looking for you to be there long-term and be their succession plan. That could get kind of awkward.
9. Be Honest and Be Yourself, but Exercise Discretion.
You should be honest and truthful in your interview because, if you get the job, it’s possible that one day you may be called upon to do the thing you said you could do in the interview.
You should also be yourself, but on this one I put an asterisk and say that you should exercise discretion in being yourself and how much of yourself you really are in the interview. We’re all getting to know each other, so if you know or have been told you have a LOUD personality or can be a little much to take at first, you should take a more conservative approach to how you showcase yourself in the interview.
10. Connect with Other Employees at the Company.
Before your interview, or after your interview if you still want to work at the place, connect with another employee at the company and go for coffee with them or have a phone conversation.
This shows that you’re genuinely interested in the company and are trying to talk to and meet other people in the company and gather information so that you can make the most informed decision. It shows that you’re taking this decision seriously and going out of your way.
11. Send Personalized Thank You Notes or Emails.
After the interview, and preferably the same day as the interview, send by email or by thank you card a personalized note to the interviewers.
In the note, you should thank the interviewers for taking the time to meet with you, including something that reasonated with you or that you heard that makes you still interested in working at the company. This shows that you were listening during the interview and are able to listen and hold a conversation and have manners.
Here’s a great post by Mrs. Type A on How to Write a Post-Interview Thank You Note to help you write those thank you notes.
Related Posts You Might Like:
I don’t think it’s necessary to share these don’ts because they are so obvious and self-explanatory, but for the sake of completeness, I’m sharing a list of things you shouldn’t do in an interview.
1. Don't be Late.
It’s better to be early than late. First impressions are a thing.
I was late for my first interview at the firm that I’m still at now (7 years later, including articling), so it’s not fatal, but it means you have to try that much harder to overcome the first impression of being late. And, sometimes that includes showing up sweaty and stressed.
2. Don't Chew Gum.
3. Don't Say the Words "Work, Life Balance".
There is nothing more irritating than the words “work, life balance”. This is especially true in careers where there is no overtime or banked time, it’s just time.
I suggest keeping those 3 words to yourself, and instead, encourage you to ask other questions that would give you answers to whether “work, life balance” is a value of the company’s.
You can ask a question like are there after-work drinks on Fridays? These are the sorts of questions you’re better off asking the junior employees at the company (see #10 above).
- Dress Professionally and Comfortably.
- Research the Company and Your Interviewers Before the Job Interview.
- Make eye contact with your interviewers.
- Think About What You Might be Asked and Be Prepared to Answer.
- Have Questions Prepared to Ask at the Interview.
- Show a Genuine Interest in What the Company Does.
- Be Up to Date on Current Events and Sports.
- Know What Book You Last Read or are Reading.
- Be Honest and Be Yourself, but Exercise Discretion.
- Connect with Other Employees at the Company.
- Send Personalized Thank You Notes or Emails.
- Don’t be Late.
- Don’t Chew Gum.
- Don’t Say the Words “Work, Life Balance”.