Time and time again we hear from people who thought an interview went well and they didn’t get the job. What happened? Here is some feedback that we’ve heard from our clients. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Your confidence came across as cockiness. This is the criticism we hear most often. An interview is a great time to sell yourself. In fact, you HAVE to sell your skills in an interview. When that sales pitch rises to the level of cockiness, you’re not getting the job. Making fun of a firm/company’s programs, speaking negatively about obvious problems or experience gaps, attempting to scare the hiring entity into hiring you (“if you don’t hire me to help you, I know that you’re going to run afoul of X statute”) are all horrible tactics in an interview. Talk about your skills and how they are applicable, but forgetting that the firm/company got by without you up to this point is a huge mistake.
You claimed responsibility for work you didn’t do. You’re a first year associate and YOU won that big antitrust case for your firm? I didn’t think so. Acknowledge your contributions and don’t add puffery to the point of being inaccurate. The converse is also true. If you did work on a file that resulted in a favorable outcome, don’t give all the credit to your co-workers. Acknowledge the part you did to bring about the favorable result.
You stressed your outside interests over your interest in being a lawyer. It happens to me once a month. I meet with someone and they tell me that they don’t really want a new job, but they need to support their golf habit. Telling a recruiter that you’ve lost your passion for practicing is bad. Telling a potential employer that you love golf more than anything else is the end of the interview. They don’t hire you to play golf. Show passion for what you are being hired to do or leave the profession and try your hand as a golf pro.
Your resume has errors or you aren’t familiar with what you put on your resume. If your resume got you to an interview, remember that what an employer knows about you comes from that resume. What’s on there has to be true AND you have to be able to support what’s in the document. If your resume has acronyms that you can’t remember what they stand for, that’s bad. If you claim to be a subject matter expert because of your exposure to an area of law and you really just worked on one brief, kiss the job goodbye. Put another way: ALWAYS be truthful on your resume (and review your resume before every interview). No exceptions.
You couldn’t articulate how you could solve the employer’s problems. If you have an interview, then the employer has a problem. They have a need for some skillset and you are just the attorney for the job (so you think). If you can’t articulate how you can help the employer, your interview is all but over. If you’ve got a lot of breadth of experience, but not a lot of depth in a particular area, then you need to clearly, concisely and confidently show the employer how YOUR experience fits with what they need and how you can help the employer. They aren’t interviewing you to solve your problems.
You were forgettable. They couldn’t forget that they met with you, could they? Yes. After meeting with a sea of candidates, even the exceptional ones can be forgotten. Do yourself a favor and give them a reminder. A thank you note sent after the interview gives them that reminder. Given how few people send thank you notes these days, you are doing yourself a huge service by sending it!