Mindhack me into a smooth interviewer (in four hours).
October 27, 2009 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm an unemployed third-year law student, have my last interview in four hours. Any tricks on appearing intelligent, charismatic, and, most importantly, not desperate? Have had four interviews with different employers so far, have not heard anything back. This is my last shot at employment before I go back to desperately combing job listings. Interview is with a judge in a district I've never lived in, who is of the opposite political persuasion as I am. This will be my first of this type of interview so give me your all-purpose i'm-the-right-person-for-this-job tricks.
posted by anthropomorphic to Work & Money (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for a part-time job for while you're in school, or a full-time job for after you graduate?
posted by amro at 11:13 AM on October 27, 2009

Are you interviewing for a clerkship, or for some kind of assistant position?
posted by decathecting at 11:15 AM on October 27, 2009

1) Smile affably. Act confident.

2) If you haven't gotten a haircut and a shave, do that NOW. No beards. Clean-shaven. I wear a beard, but I've shaven for every job interview I've ever had.

3) When you enter the room, inhale deeply. Exhale slowly as you introduce yourself. The rush of blood to your face makes you look lively.

4) Wear a muted tie. Not in red. Red is a power color that subtly expresses dominance. You want to project confidence, but not arrogance.

5) Brush. your. teeth. Carry a flask full of mouthwash and rinse in the bathroom before the interview.

6) Do not give away your political persuasion, under pain of death.

7) Get your shoes shined.

8) Seem interested, but non-committal. Don't sit on the edge of your seat. Don't reveal you have no offers.

9) Mirror. The Nard Dog is a loser, but he's right about mirroring. Smile when the judge smiles. Laugh when the judge laughs. People do not become judges without a slightly inflated self-opinion. Appeal to that.

10) Don't wear cologne.

11) Do have your shirt and pants creased.

12) Stop reading and go do these things. You're running out of time.
posted by jefficator at 11:17 AM on October 27, 2009 [8 favorites]

i'm looking for a full-time post-graduation position.

i'm interviewing for a clerkship.

i never remember to not put the full paragraph in the title section. damn.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:18 AM on October 27, 2009

i'm a lady, also. no beards here, fortunately.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:18 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wow. I'm totally guilty of androcentrism. Ignore half of what I said.
posted by jefficator at 11:19 AM on October 27, 2009

@jefficator, it's quite alright. i get the gist. i've actually been trying to do the mirroring thing in interviews actually since reading about it in college. last year i was inexplicably interviewing, and i wondered at the time if it had anything to do with that. sadly it's not working this year.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:22 AM on October 27, 2009

if you're interviewing with a judge who sits on the federal bench, then the following point may actually be the wrong advice, paradoxically:

6) Do not give away your political persuasion, under pain of death.

why? if you're clerking for this judge, you're going to have to come up with arguments in favor or against finding for one of the parties before you. many judges like to test these arguments with their clerks before committing them to a written opinion. in those instances, it's not uncommon for a judge to prefer someone whose philosophical outlook is different from hers, in order to fully test out her own theories as rigorously as possible.

N.B.: my advice only obtains in interviews for federal clerkships, or perhaps for state supreme court clerks (but you said you were interviewing with a judge, and not a justice). if you're interviewing with a state district court, my advice will NOT work if your judge (or her court) does not write opinions for publication.

other than that, most of jefficator's advice (when gender-apposite, of course) works nicely.
posted by deejay jaydee at 11:24 AM on October 27, 2009

A few thoughts that might apply:

1. Be enthusiastic (not overly so in a goofy way - just energetic and positive.) Best way to do this is to think about the true reason you are motivated for this position and visualize why having the opportunity to play the role will make you happy; what you'll be excited about that will drive you out of bed in the morning. Why did you choose to study law? Why do you want a career in law? Remind yourself of this just before the interview.

2. Think about what kind of person they are seeking. Then, think about how you fit that and come up with very simple and compelling language and examples that convey this.

3. Don't think of this as your last chance before resuming a life of desperation. If you feel that, you'll show it and will be me more nervous, less comfortable and therefore less appealing. No matter what happens in this interview, you'll get on with it. Think in those terms.

4. Make sure you know the basics of the judge and the district. If you don't, what can you learn from a few quick calls or Google searches?

5. Be prompt in arrival and tidy in appearance.
posted by c, as in "kitchen" at 11:28 AM on October 27, 2009

Wear a skirt suit, not a pants suit, in a dark color (black, navy blue, dark grey).

Also, stop feeling desperate and you won't come off as desperate. I totally understand the race for law jobs, but it is only October.
posted by amro at 11:29 AM on October 27, 2009

Also, have extra copies of your resume, cover letter, and writing sample with you.
posted by amro at 11:31 AM on October 27, 2009

Calm self-confidence. Not so calm as to appear uninterested, though.

That's my random-internet-person 2 cents.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:33 AM on October 27, 2009

The best way I've found of not coming off desperate in an interview is to remember you are interviewing them as well.

Good luck!
posted by Space Kitty at 11:53 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you had time, it would have been useful to read the judge's opinions.

If you can't read his opinions, Google him. Check out whatever he may have written for magazines, law journals, etc. There's a lot of stuff out there for most people these days, read it.
posted by musofire at 11:53 AM on October 27, 2009

Be upbeat and confident from the very first moment. If you don't know the answer to a question, it's ok to admit that you don't know. The Judge will prefer candor and will not like it if you fake it.

Remember this: You got the interview. That means that you already meet the qualifications. Be confident that you already meet the qualifications, and the purpose of the interview is to find out if the real you is consistent with the you on paper. You'll be fine. Be confident.
posted by The World Famous at 11:54 AM on October 27, 2009

Understand that you are there to sell yourself, not to "learn about the opportunity."

Count one second before you answer any question or respond to any statement. Do not give the impression that you are not listening, or just waiting for the chance to talk.

Lots of good advice from jefficator, except the part about politics -- do not volunteer your politics, of course, but accept the flow of the conversation that way if goes that way. It's not an illegitimate topic of discussion for a judicial clerkship, and most judges are happy to have clerks with differing political views which the clerk can express in an engaging and respectful fashion.
posted by MattD at 12:11 PM on October 27, 2009

As you walk in, remind yourself: "I don't need this job and, what's more, I'm not sure I want to work for you anyway." It will help you appear less desperate and put you in a more collegial (and thus more appealing) frame of mind.
posted by DrGail at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2009

First, one aspect particular to this job is the tiny number of people you'll be working with, and how closely you'll be working with them. Plus, by now, he's probably picked your co-workers/fellow clerks. So when you're acting confident, as others have suggested, make sure you also seem affable. It's very important to judges to know that their clerks will get along, with each other and with the judge. Smile a lot, try to seem friendly.

Second, I'd actually agree with jefficator that you shouldn't reveal your political persuasions, or if you can't help it, you should soften them, make yourself seem persuadable.

Good luck! You'll be fine!
posted by palliser at 12:29 PM on October 27, 2009

Comments in previous threads that I've found helpful: 1, 2
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:36 PM on October 27, 2009

here goes nothing.
posted by anthropomorphic at 2:07 PM on October 27, 2009

Good luck!
posted by jefficator at 2:14 PM on October 27, 2009

Although it may be too late. . .

The political stance of the judge should not be a major concern. One of the most conservative academics I know, who was as conservative in undergrad and law school as he has been in academia, did his clerkship for the most liberal of the U.S. Supreme Court justice of the last 40 years.
posted by yclipse at 3:11 PM on October 27, 2009

I am a judicial clerk. You're probably already out the door at this point, but for others in the same situation, judicial clerkship interviews are more about fit than just about any other job interview. You're someone very junior, who will be working with someone very senior, on a day to day, one-to-one level. That doesn't happen very often. Since you have the interview, the judge already knows that you have the academics and other paper qualifications. Most likely, you and your co-clerk are who the judge will interact with much, much more than the judge will interact with anybody else. He/she will want to like you, and that's really what it'll come down to. Think of it more of a conversation than anything else. Also, if you have a side-interview with a current clerk, which is pretty common, try to get on their good side as much as possible. Depending on the judge, the clerks may have a big say in who they'll be working with.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:42 PM on October 27, 2009

craven_morhead is right, and I'd like to add that my judge's secretary (I did a clerkship after law school) also had a huge say in who got hired, so be sure to treat her with respect.
posted by amro at 7:28 AM on October 28, 2009

Hope it went well. Care to update, anthropomorphic? (If not, totally understood.)
posted by palliser at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2009

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