How to answer difficult interview questions

By Hillary Mantis

Between OCI and setting up internships, you are bound to be doing some interviewing this fall. But what if you are really uncomfortable with some of the questions that may be asked?

Here are some strategies for how to handle those dreaded interview questions:

What is your class rank?

Unless you are at the top of your class, you might not be too thrilled about this question. But there are ways to successfully handle it. First, answer the question, making good eye contact and sitting up straight. Most employers can relate more easily to the percentile rather than the numerical rank, which might require them to figure out the percentile in their heads.

If your overall class rank is not great, try to find something positive about it to mention. Classes that you did well in that relate to the position you are interviewing for are good. An overall upward trend in your GPA is great. A paper you wrote that relates to their practice area is definitely worth mentioning. After you have pointed out the positives, gently try to steer the employer away from the topic of your grades and back to more neutral ground.

What is one of your weaknesses?

I really used to hate answering this question. Hopefully you won’t be asked it — but if you are, you can try to find a weakness that you have overcome. For example, you used to be afraid of public speaking, but now that you have given several speeches, you have learned to like it. Another option is to go with a weakness that does not relate to the position.

Why is there a gap on your resume?

Let’s say you took a year off between college and law school and you didn’t work, for whatever reason. Now there’s a big gaping hole on your resume. If you are asked about it, don’t dwell on the bad job market, or whatever else caused the gap. Find something positive that you did during the time (volunteer work, travel, taking classes, helping your family). Describe it, and then try to ask a question, or find a way to move to a different subject.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

You might have no idea at this point. But that’s probably not the wisest answer. If you are interviewing for a position that has the potential to be long term after graduation, the employer is likely to want you to stay for a few years. Find elements of the position that you genuinely like, such as the practice area, or the practice setting and talk about them. The employer will most likely appreciate your enthusiasm (and the fact that you have a long-term vision for your career).

Like any other interview question that you would rather avoid, practice what you will say ahead of time, answer it directly, try to give it a positive spin, and move on!

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Hillary Mantis consults with law students, pre-law students, and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and is a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University. For more information, you can reach Hillary at altcareer@aol.com

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