Conquer Your Interview Fears

By Hillary Mantis 

Fall interviewing season is going strong and so are your anxieties. It’s been a long time since I was in law school, but I still remember the pre-interview jitters. Here’s a game plan to de-stress before and then conquer the interview.

The Night Before the Interview:

Google the directions to the interview if it’s off campus, and make sure you know the route. Try on your outfit, including your shoes, and check it out from every angle. Don’t make the embarrassing mistake I made back in law school of going to an interview in a new suit with the price tags still on! (Thankfully someone pointed it out to me before I got there.)

Place a copy of your resume in your bag or briefcase. Go over your resume from top to bottom, and write down (or enter into your phone) a short bulleted list of your top four selling points. If they are looking for someone who has good writing skills and you got an A in Legal Writing, put it on the list. If you initiated a project at work this summer, write it down. Go over the list and memorize it. Think of an acronym for the first letter of each item in your list to help you remember it. Also prepare a few questions now to ask them at the end of the interview. 

Don’t discuss the upcoming interview with too many people — it might make you more nervous. In fact, there’s no obligation to discuss it with anyone at all before the interview, even your roommate or your parents. Forget about the interview once you have prepared. Watch something fun on TV, and have your interview outfit and the directions ready to go.

The Day of the Interview:

Get to the interview an hour early if you can and find a coffee shop or somewhere near the building to relax and prepare. If you walk into the interview situation feeling rushed it’s going to be hard for you to focus. If you have some time to chill, go over the four selling points again. You will feel more centered. No need to go over your resume again, you already did that last night.

When you greet your interviewer, make sure to smile. A lot of interviewing advice mentions the importance of a firm handshake, but in my experience people are so nervous that they forget to smile. If you smile, maintain eye contact, and have a firm handshake, you’ve got all bases covered.

If there are some awkward silences during the interview, feel free to ask one of the questions you prepared. If you tend to be introverted, remember to smile, be enthusiastic and ask questions. If you tend to be extroverted, remember to pause, not speak too long, and give the interviewer a chance to respond.

When you leave the interview, reaffirm your interest in the position, and ask them what the hiring schedule is anticipated to be — that way if they say they just started the process you won’t freak out if you don’t hear back from them right away.

After the Interview:

Email a thank you letter that afternoon or evening. If you don’t do it then, you might forget to do it at all. If some part of the conversation went particularly well, you can reference it in the email. Express your enthusiasm for the position once again.

At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up about how well it went — after all, you only have so much control during the interview process. It’s more likely than not that if you don’t get the offer, it wasn’t because of anything you did during the interview. It just means it’s time to hang up your suit, and get ready for the next interview!

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Hillary Mantis is a consultant who works with law students, pre-law students and lawyers. She is a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University and the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. For more information, contact Hillary at altcaree