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Getting, and Acing, Your Second Interview

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 08, 2015 10:59 AM

You've submitted your resume and cover letter, and you've got an interview. Do that well and everything will be great -- right?

Not so fast, Jack. For many law jobs, your first interview is just a stepping stone to a second interview where you'll be evaluated by a hiring committee. That first interview? It was just to make sure you were a real person. Getting a second interview means you're a serious candidate for the position. So here's how to get, and ace, that interview.

Understanding the First Interview

Remember that each part of the job application process isn't, by itself, designed to clinch the job. The cover letter gets you an interview. An interview gets you another interview. And another interview gets you an offer.

Your first interview may be with someone from the human resources department, or with someone who would be directly in charge of your work. This is a gate-keeping interview, designed to weed out people who may have exaggerated on their resumes or otherwise don't know what they're talking about.

The second interview panel will probably consist of a hiring committee. Because investing in a new lawyer is so expensive, firms want to make sure they've got someone who's not only academically qualified, but who will get along with everyone in the office. Hiring committees allow different people from different parts of the business to bring different perspectives to who the right pick should be.

If you want to be a finalist for the position, do your research. Make sure you know about the firm, its philosophy, and its major practice areas. Come prepared with several stories that demonstrate your people skills, in case you're on the receiving end of some behavioral interviewing.

On to the Second Interview

At the second interview, everyone's pretty clear that you possess the minimum qualifications for the job; otherwise, you wouldn't be there. Now, it's time to show them how you'd be a great employee and contribute to the firm.

At this point, concrete examples of your raw qualifications aren't really what they're looking for. As The Ladders points out, "You don't want to prove your fit in the screening interview and tout your capability in the hiring interview. ... After all, if you make it past the first interview, relax a bit! They have already determined that you can do the job."

Instead, the hiring committee wants to know how you'd deal with others -- subordinates, peers, and supervisors. This is where the "tell me about a time where you disagreed with someone"-type questions come into play. In other words, do we want you hanging around our office all day? Your job is to convince the hiring committee that, not only are you really good at what you do, but you're pleasant while doing it.

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