[Ed. Note: A refreshed version of our 9.2.08 post, this list kicks off our focus on the OCI/interview/job hunting process for law students. We’re working on several exclusive pieces that will be sporadically posted over the next weeks as a flint of guidance for bitter law students living in this insane legal era.
Update: Check out our OCI Confessions series where hiring partners give law students the all the dirt on interviewing.]
Nine Interview Don’ts:
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 that 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 by your ability to learn than by 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. And please! Wear something manufactured in the past three years.
Men: Stay away from black, bow ties, summer suits and “statement” ties.
Women: Keep cleavage and hip-hugging to a minimum, regardless of how often 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 is already 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.
9. Talk about economy, but don’t dwell on it
Everyone knows the economy sucks and jobs are scarce. It’s okay to raise the topic during an interview, but don’t get stuck on it. You don’t want your entire interview mired in negativity. “How has the economy affected your practice area?” is a good question. “How many lawyers have been laid off?” is a bad question. And whatever you do, do not ask about salary freezes or decreases. Wait until you get an offer to discuss compensation.