Eight Interview Don’ts


Let’s get right to it.

1.  Don’t write stupid, trivial things under the “Personal” section of your resume

Nobody cares if you’re a Woody Allen fanatic, bake a mean kiwi-lemon pie or “love to travel.” Save this section for real things only.  Stuff like “Speak Cantonese fluently,” “Varsity Golf, Vanderbilt University,” or “Published Various Political Essays in The New Yorker, 2004 – Present.” In other words, if you don’t have anything legitimate and unique to add, say nothing.  Please.

2.  Don’t put your goddamn LSAT score on your resume

No matter what.  Even if you scored a perfect 180.  People will hate you.

3.  Don’t put your high school on your resume

Even if you went to Andover, Choate, Dalton, or Harvard-Westlake.  It’s just a high school.  We know you’re proud and all, but the risk of irreparable alienation far outweighs the potential reward.

4.  Don’t try to impress the interviewer with how smart you are

Believe it or not, you’re just another law student looking for a job, and nobody is going to be wowed with your keen intellect and superficial knowledge of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  The most important thing is to be enthusiastic and eager.  The interviewers assume you’re smart–that’s why you got an interview in the first place.  So do yourself a favor and try to be “normal”—not intellectual.  It’s far more impressive.

5.  Don’t exaggerate your work experience

Truth is, people don’t care what you did prior to law school—unless you’re one of the few people who actually did something relevant and interesting.  For the other 99% of the student body, keep it simple and honest.  People are more interested in your ability to learn than what you’ve already learned.  So don’t attempt to spin some internship at your dad’s friend’s law firm into some sort of high-powered, transactional gig.

6.  Don’t dress like a jackass

Be stylish, but in case of a tie, err on the side of conservatism.  But please, wear something manufactured in the past three years.  Men, stay away from black, bow ties, summer suits and “statement” ties.  Women, keep the cleavage and hip-hugging to a minimum, regardless of how many times a week you do pilates.

7.  Don’t harass interviewers with thank-you emails and letters

People often say “Feel free to call me if you have any questions,” but they don’t really mean it.  So save your calls and emails for when it matters—after the firm actually makes you an offer and you’re trying to decide what firm to pick.  Remember, 90% of the time, the decision to hire you has already been made by the time you send your ass-kissing email anyway. Not once in the history of the world has someone been hired because they sent a thank-you note.  In fact, it might actually cost you points because now the person you sent it to has to respond—which is annoying.

8.  Don’t ask about billable hours, lifestyle or firm culture

You might as well just pull out a clown mask and start dancing around the office.  If you give the interviewer any sort of hint that you’re not interested in working your ass off, you’re dead.  Save all the “give me the skinny” questions for post-offer discussions.  Until then, attitude is king.

Check out other lists, tallies and scores to settle in Bitter by Numbers.

Bitter Staff is a collection of current and former editors, contributors, and various other lawyers who have written for Bitter Lawyer over the years. Posts include interviews, contests, and other general lawyerly and bitter content.

17 Comments

  1. Belinda G

    September 5, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I can add another one.  Don’t pick your nose at the interview.  I had a 2L come in and the ENTIRE time he sat in my office, he had his finger UP his right nostril.  I thought at first it was not, but it was actually up there, and he started mining for boogers while he spoke.  It was all I could do NOT to throw him out of the office, and I REFUSED to shake his hand at the end of the interview, grabbing instead for my purse.  I never met someone so out of touch that he would pick his nose for 20 minutes!  If that dumb guy can tap a key board without his finger getting stuck on the J key, he should now know why he was not hired to work at my firm.

  2. Ann Lee Gibson

    September 6, 2008 at 10:38 am

    OK, here’s the deal:  Most people like talking about themselves, their beliefs, and bright ideas—and that includes lawyers and others who’ll be interviewing you.  Successful interviews aren’t depositions, where you’re supposed to sit there like a knot on a log and only answer questions.  Turn these encounters into two-way conversations by asking your interviewers questions like:  1) What advice do you have for someone like me who’s just starting their legal career?  2) What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you as a young lawyer?  3) What are some common mistakes you see young lawyers making?  You’ll give your interviewers some air time, and they’ll start investing in you.  Then they’ll start to care about you.  (I know, this doesn’t sound very “bitter,” but it works.) Also, drink lots of water.  Breathe deeply and exhale.  All stressful situations go better with a little hydration and oxygen.

  3. Anonymous

    September 6, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Good advice, Ann.  I’m a partner at a “big firm” and engaging the interviewer is always a smart thing.

  4. Sen O'Kane

    September 9, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    As a partner in a New York firm I can tell you that everyone of the 8 suggestions is exactly on the mark.  I hate ‘thank you emails’, funky dress is a killer and if I see your high school or LSAT score – you never make it in the door.
    Great advice – great website!!

  5. damn it

    September 10, 2008 at 6:25 am

    I just had an interview this morning and violated the 8th commandment here.
    No lifestyle questions, really?! Why the hell is my career center telling me to ask this bullshit. WHY!?
    Thanks for the advice. I wish I had read it BEFORE all of my interviews.

  6. 2L needs advice

    September 12, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    People tell me that I come across as just a happy individual. I am concerned if this affects my interviews. I just don’t find them stressful. I am generally always at ease and enjoy talking to people. Is it possible to come across as overly nonchalant? Should I try to be more serious?

  7. Anonymous

    September 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    There’s a time for being happy-go-lucky, and it’s NOT at an interview, unless of course you’re interviewing for a clown position at the circus.  Best for you to be serious, dress serious, and talk professionally.  Once you’re hired, then you can loosen up, A BIT, but make sure not to become known as the party girl because you’ll never get an offer; all you’ll get are some slobbering associates looking for a quickie.  Keep your guard (and panties) up at all times.  Don’t forget this.

  8. Career services offices give bad advice

    September 13, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I had the same problem.  They tell you it is the best question to ask, regarding firm culture.  I realized that after 12 interviews and no call-backs it was a problem.  My next three interviews where I did not do that, I got call-backs.  Coincidence?

    Question: what are the best questions to ask anyway?  I try to avoid the situation now, but clearly I have been getting advice from the wrong people and it screwed me over.

  9. Anon 2L

    September 15, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Thanks for the tips!!!  What questions should you ask?  What are smart, but not annoying questions?

  10. Anonymous

    September 15, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    You can safely ask what places deliver food after midnight.  In that way, they will think you are a dork willing to work all hours for the price of a stale burrito.

  11. hrngprtnrsac

    September 18, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Ditto times 10!  I just got back from on-campus interviews.  Bad clothes – strike one.  “What kind of support does your firm have for new associates?” – strike two.  Sounds like you are going to be super high maintenance.  Weird hobbies? Strike three.  Try to act normal and hardworking, is that too much to ask.  Also, if I ask you where you want to work and pose one hypothetical that sounds like this job and another totally different job, act like you are interested in the one you are interviewing for.

  12. Ralph Stockton

    September 23, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I’m a 2L. Just finishing up my OCI interviews. Reading all these posts about what to ask and what not to ask confirms my suspicions about lawyers being the most uppity, narotic, narcissitic, swile-sucking swine on the stain of society – which is exactly why I want to be one. Every interview I resist the urge to light off a stink bomb and tell the interviewer I don’t mind working late hours but I am suffering from a severe case of bad-craziness – which is the only thing seperating me from the visciousness of the other law students waiting outside the door with sweaty little palms, murder in their eyes and greed on their breath.
    Mahalo.

  13. Anonymous

    September 24, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Career Services is a joke.  We received a list of commonly asked questions that we should have answers prepared for, and after 35 interviews, I was asked a question off the list only once.
    The most common question I got was “What brought you to New York City?” Uh…NYU doesn’t have satelite campuses?  Seriously, over half of my interviewers asked this or a very similar question.  “So why did you decide to go to a top law school with a scholarship?”
    The best advice that’s never given is that you should be prepared for your interviewers to suck at interviewing.  Unless you’re with someone on the firm’s recruiting committee, expect to take the reigns if you want it to go well.  Your interviewer doesn’t give a shit.

  14. Anonymous

    September 26, 2008 at 4:38 am

    I had 30 interviews at OCI this year and I only got one weird question:
    “If you were going to be trapped on a desert island and could only take three books, which books would you bring?”
    My brain started screaming and trying to escape from my skull.  Didn’t get a callback.

  15. NCLawyer

    October 17, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    We would never hired someone who didn’t send a thank you note. That includes paralegals. (Nor is there any reason for us to think that a thank you note needs a response. ) The advice not to send a thank you note is dead wrong.
    You do have to be careful not to sound like an idiot, though. Keep it to three sentences, max.  We know you want a job.  We also want to know that someone taught you manners and how to communicate pleasantly with people who are not your friends, so that we know whether we can trust you with clients. Or not.
    Here’s another tip: NEVER say “please do not hesitate to call” in your cover letter. If we’re interested, we won’t.

  16. NCLawyer

    October 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Caveat: Thank you notes should not be sent by email, unless the person interviewing you sent you an email to schedule your interview.  Better always to send a handwritten note. On non-Hello Kitty stationery.

  17. Blake Dickson

    September 19, 2012 at 8:49 am

    As a lawyer for 20 years and someone who has hired and fired many people., I disagree with a good bit of this article.

    1. Don’t write stupid, trivial things under the “Personal” section of your resume.

    One of the important parts of any interview is having a good conversation with the interviewer. If you are going to come and work at my firm, I want to know what kind of person you are. Like a good Voir Dire, I can learn a lot about you by talking to you. It does not really matter what we are tallking about. I would like to know about your interests as it will stimulate conversation during the interview.

    2. Don’t put your goddamn LSAT score on your resume.
    I have never seen this on a resume but it would not offend me.

    3. Don’t put your high school on your resume.
    I agree with this. College and Law School is sufficient. But DO include your cumulative GPA. At my office if your GPA is not included I assume it is low and you will not get a call.

    4. Don’t try to impress the interviewer with how smart you are. I agree.
    5. Don’t exaggerate your work experience. I agree.
    6. Don’t dress like a jackass. I agree.

    7. Don’t harass interviewers with thank-you emails and letters.
    I strongly disagree. I always appreciate a prompt, hand written Thank You note. There is no obligation to respond. If two candidates are evenly matched, the one with the good manners to send a Thank You note could very well win the job.

    People often say “Feel free to call me if you have any questions,” but they don’t really mean it. I disagree. I would happy to answer follow up questions.

    Remember, 90% of the time, the decision to hire you has already been made by the time you send your ass-kissing email anyway. THIS IS NOT TRUE IN MY OFFICE.

    Not once in the history of the world has someone been hired because they sent a thank-you note. THIS IS NOT TRUE AND IS BAD ADVICE.

    In fact, it might actually cost you points because now the person you sent it to has to respond—which is annoying. THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO RESPOND TO A THANK YOU NOTE. THIS IS BAD ADVICE.

    8. Don’t ask about billable hours, lifestyle or firm culture.
    I completely disagree. Good questions make a good interview. I am always impressed with candidates who have thoughtful questions.

    If you give the interviewer any sort of hint that you’re not interested in working your ass off, you’re dead. THIS IS VERY TRUE – BUT IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU CANNOT ASK QUESTIONS. WHY WOULD ANY INTELLIGENT PERSON ACCEPT A JOB WITHOUT KNOWING ALL OF THE REQUIREMENTS.

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