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Most interviews end with the age-old, “So, do you have any questions for me?” If you're tempted to say, “Nope, I think you've covered everything, thanks for your time," stop right there. Don't do it. This is asking not to get hired! It's tantamount to saying, “Well, nothing you said in this interview really interested me in the slightest, so I think I'll just move onto the next firm, see ya.” Bottom line: you should always, always have questions to ask.
But, what kinds of questions should you ask? When interviewing a candidate to work at a law firm, whether through OCI or after graduation, it's important that the potential new hire comes across as professional, but also that they are excited about the prospect of that particular job. So, how do you show this kind of enthusiasm and interest? How do you indicate to your interviewer that are amped up about this job and that if they have the choice between two candidates, they should give it to you? Well, you ask well-thought-out, well-researched questions, you listen carefully to their answers, and you ask follow-up questions if needed. Make your questions personalized, positive, and ask for advice.
If for nothing else, the interviewer's candid responses to your questions can be a tie-breaker later when you're deciding which offer to accept. For this reason, it's important to ask questions in a way that will get you the maximum “real” information. What I mean by that is, if you ask, “Are you happy working at this firm?” The interviewer really doesn't have much of a choice but to say “yes” (they don't want it getting back to their boss that they are unhappy!) and then they will usually tell you a little bit about why the work is interesting, the people are nice, and the opportunities are worthwhile. In other words, you will probably get a pretty standardized, general answer.
However, if you ask instead, “What was your most gratifying accomplishment during your first year at the firm?” The answer you get will be more personalized, and it will give you a concrete example of what this person values, what the firm values in them, and what these so-called “opportunities” really look like in real life. Special bonus - a personalized answer will also give you a foothold for your thank you note you will be sending later.
10 Interview Questions You Can Ask the Interviewer
Below are some of the most typical questions that candidates usually ask after interviews, followed by how you can spice them up to get yourself more useful responses:
1. Original Thought: What do you think are the most important traits in an associate?
Ask Instead: What trait did you possess as a new associate that you think really worked well for you at this firm? Why? What qualities make a superstar at this firm?
2. Original Thought: How is job performance evaluated?
Ask Instead: How often do associates have the chance to review their work with their supervisors. Is there anything you would recommend for a new hire to make sure they're getting regular feedback from their assigning attorney?
3. Original Thought: What do you like best about working with this firm? Why did you choose it?
Ask Instead: Can you think of one moment toward the start of your career with the firm that made you think, “Okay, I've really done a good job.” What was the project you were working on? Why did you like it? What was it that you did well?
4. Original Thought: Are you in close contact with clients? How long did you work at the firm before you were?
Ask Instead: Have you ever met with clients in person, or do you mostly talk to them on the phone or via email? Are new associates encouraged to interact with clients, or if not, how long does it take before they can start getting client contact?
5. Original Thought: Did you always practice in your current specialty? If not, why did you change?
Ask Instead: What do you like about your current practice area? Is there anything about working in this area that you wish was different?
6. Original Thought: What has surprised you about this job?
Ask Instead: When you first started with the firm, what is something you remember that caused you to re-evaluate your ideas or work style or mentality. Was there anything you used to do or think that you don't anymore? What changed?
7. Original Thought: If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
Ask Instead: Every job has pros and cons. Is there anything in your daily work routine that you wish didn't happen? Anything you would change if you could?
8. Original Thought: What do you wish you would have asked when you interviewed?
Ask Instead: What do you think was the best question you asked when you interviewed with the firm? Or, alternatively, was there anything you didn't ask that you wish you had?
9. Original Thought: Where do you see the firm in five years?
Ask Instead: What are your work goals for the next year? What is something you haven't had the opportunity to do yet that you really want to try before this year is up?
10. Original Thought: Will I be notified of a decision either way?
Ask Instead: When can I expect to hear about a decision?