The Two “Whys” of Job Hunting for Lawyers

You have landed an interview for your dream law job.  Maybe you sent in a resume and cover letter and you were fortunate to be selected from a pile of applicants for the first round. Perhaps a recruiter introduced you to the law firm or company.  Or more likely, you leveraged your network* to help your resume rise to the top of the pile and get you in the door.  Perhaps you aren’t sure yet if this is your dream job; but now it is game time.

Over the years, I’ve prepared hundreds of candidates for interviews and while my advice about interviewing still stands (updated here for a virtual world), I’ve come to appreciate that there are two key questions that you need to be able to answer convincingly in an interview:  Why should the firm or company hire you? and Why do you want the job?

On the surface, why should the firm hire you may seem obvious. They selected you for an interview because you have the skills and experience that they need.  You need to be able to address questions that get to the core of your competence to perform the job.  If you are asked about experience that you lack, you need to be able to explain how other things you have done can make up for anything that is missing from your resume.

But even more important is your ability to explain why you are the best candidate (i.e. beyond your competence).

One way to do this is to demonstrate that you are the candidate that really wants to job.  Companies like to hire individuals that are interested in them (i.e. not candidates who are merely trying to leave a bad situation or candidates who are interested in them but are really just looking for a better paycheck).

Beyond showing enthusiasm to continue with the process and explaining that you meet the requirements in the job description, what are some of the other whys?  Do you have a lot of experience with their industry or the industries/clients that they serve?  Do you have a demonstrated ability to lead teams (if that is what is needed), or to work very independently and do a great job technically (if the role is more as an individual contributor).

Have you demonstrated an ability to adapt and find new ways to increase efficiency?  Do you share the firm’s commitment to excellence?  The firm’s commitment to pro bono or social justice? Does the firm share your values about work life balance?  Do you share some of the same outside interests as the interviewers (do your research and look for areas of common connection)?  People like to hire people they want to see every day.

Focusing on “Why you” should be the starting point.  But being able to articulate why you are interested should also come out in your conversations.  Are you looking for a bigger national platform with an opportunity to work on more complex matters? A smaller platform with lower bill rates where you can more easily build your own practice?  A firm that has more of a certain type of work or client?  Do you want to go in-house to be more involved in making strategic business decisions?  To have a more ongoing role with a company rather than parachuting in to just do deals and then leave?  To broaden the mix of work you do?  To help build something?

Come to interviews prepared to explain why a company should hire you. Go beyond what is written on your resume. And come to interviews prepared to explain why you are so interested.  It has to be more than just increasing your salary and while it could be for a promotion, make it about the company itself.  You can say that you’ve spoken to three friends who have worked there and who all said great things.

If you take the time to think through the answers to these two questions prior to your interviews, you will significantly increase your chances of making it to the next round. Even if you are not sure yet if you want the job, isn’t it better if you have chance to make the choice yourself?  If you’d like to discuss further, I’m happy to talk.  As always, just email me!  Good luck!

*There are many resources on my website to help you network effectively which you can find by clicking here.