Is This the Job You Want?

by Wendy L. Werner / Excerpted from LAWPRO Magazine, Student Issue #1, 2012

On the face of it, interviewing should not be all that difficult – particularly for lawyers. As members of a profession who primarily make their living either writing or speaking, the idea that having a conversation about your interests and abilities in your own profession sounds both logical and easy.

But throw the words “job interview” into the mix and a whole new paradigm emerges. With seemingly so much at stake, job interviews take on a new meaning for people who ordinarily would not shy away from talking about the field they have chosen and the background that they bring.

At the same time, it also seems that candidates often appear at interviews unprepared for a conversation in which they have

voluntarily decided to participate. Here are some thoughts about making the most of a difficult process, and in the end making good decisions about where you want to work. . . .

The SAO formula

There is an easy formula to employ when talking about what you have done – SAO – or Situation, Action, Outcome. You want to describe succinctly the situation in which you found yourself, remembering that the listener may not know anything about the topic you are describing; include the actions that you took, and what happened as a result of your action. . . .

Questions to ask and when 

There are two sides to the interview process, and it is an important distinction to keep in focus. If during the interview you believe that the hiring entity has all of the power in the process, you may subtly signal a lack of confidence in your own value. However, you must understand that the early stages of the interview process are all about what you are bringing to the table. It is not until the other side begins to signal an interest in your candidacy that you can begin to ask questions about the ways in which this employer might be a good place for you to apply your skills. Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions – which of course you do. But there are some questions that should be asked no sooner than when a job offer has been tendered. It is then and only then that you have leverage in the interview process. . . .

Benefits & working conditions

When an offer has been made, refrain from discussing salary until you have received full disclosure of the benefits package. Without that information you will not be able to know what you want to negotiate in the employment package. If at all possible, have the salary conversation in person. If a number is delivered to you over the phone, set up a meeting to talk about the offer in person. Understand that you must be clear about the salary you are willing to accept. Remember as well that this is a negotiation on behalf of your first client – yourself. As an attorney, negotiation is likely to be part of your job requirements, so you should demonstrate that ability now. . . .

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