I bet you’ve been told to “just be yourself” during an interview. Don’t.
Not because you’re awful, though maybe you are, and then definitely don’t be yourself if you want the job, but mostly because, what you want to do is be a constructed version of yourself, created ahead of time solely for interview purposes.
Let me explain. I’m not saying that you should try to be someone else or do plastic surgery to your personality. I’m saying that you should go into every interview with a game plan. Before any interview, you ought to have done at the bare minimum three things:
2) Create a marketing strategy
3) Understand the Value of Time and Timing
Perhaps, you’ll only get a 20 minute slot, a lunch interview, or maybe you’ll have the luxury (and endurance test) of a full day into dinner and drinks extravaganza. With each of these, every single moment counts from the time you respond to that first email or call (5 minute response time is a good rule of thumb in this modern day ruled by smartphones) to the very end when you thank the people at the front on your way out (after not having gotten wasted).
One blog I found already had a good list of links to check out for research purposes. Also, if you can get your hands on Vault and know how to use this new thing called Google, that could help.
The Marketing Strategy
This is key and the reason you are no longer “you.” Before an interview, sit down and map out the 5 most important qualities you want to convey about yourself. Then, check out your résumé and find experiences that you have had that would illustrate the qualities. Think about and write down interesting stories that your interviewers won’t forget. Review these and keep them in mind. Remember that often your interviewers see hundreds of candidates for one spot, so yeah, I’d say don’t let that freak you out, but what good will that really do? Freak out! Now, calm down. No matter how many other people that are going in there for the interview, your advantage is that unlike most people who go into interviews, you are going in prepared and ready to play the best “you” ever.
The interesting stories that interviewers won’t forget are key. Ideally, you will have one anecdote that conveys your best qualities that align with the employer’s needs for each and every item on your résumé. You can’t sit there and say “I have good people skills” or “I have been a leader.” Imagine how boring that gets for interviewers! Be specific. Do NOT fear the power of narration. Imagine being in your interviewer’s shoes. In this awkward and forced conversation where you would be assessing someone, what would make you feel at ease? Stories, humor, and color. They want to see the package. Not necessarily “you,” but the brilliant image of yourself that you have chosen to present.
The Value of Time and Timing
Don’t be on time. Be early. If you have the chance, find the location the day before, so that you don’t risk getting lost. Check weather and traffic reports.
Also, keep track of time during the interview. If your interviewer is talking for a bit too long and you’re running out of time to market yourself, politely interject with a comment that agrees with your interviewer and expands on their thought by telling a story that will allow you show them why you’re a good fit for their place of employment. Also, if you are done with an answer to a question, be done. Don’t feel pressure to ramble on to fill in time. Smile if appropriate. Conclude if necessary. Ask another question if it seems like it would keep the flow going. But, ultimately, be comfortable with silence.
Blah Blah Blah – “Oh, I knew that already, and who the hell are you to tell me what to do?”
Maybe none of this is new to you, and truly, I’m just a “nobody” like you – a lowly student desperately clawing my way towards a career. But, I have heard from other students about their interview experiences and strategies, and I have had the opportunity to talk to attorneys about their experiences interviewing. These are tips I hope can help, since it seems like there’s a bit of a disconnect between what students think they ought to do in interviews, and what attorneys really want out of their interviewees. Also, as for the marketing bit – can’t take credit for that. One of my best life mentors who was a marketing guru in his career taught me that trick, and I will always be grateful.
And with that, friends, good luck!