Law school interviewing season is now in full swing with a range of interview formats and programs. There are remote interviews (often conducted over Zoom, but other platforms are frequently used as well) and in-person interviews. Some applicants will interview with alumni; other law schools only offer interviews with admissions staff. Some interviewing programs are open to all applicants, others are by invitation only. For this post, I’m going to focus on remote interviews with a law school admissions officer. Here are ten tips.
(1) Accept the interview. At my previous law school, when someone declined the opportunity to interview, I assumed one of two possibilities: (1) the applicant isn’t interested in attending that law school, or (2) there was a reason that the applicant didn’t want to interview (i.e., the applicant was concerned about his or her interviewing skills). Neither of those is a good thing. Depending on the situation, declining an interview could result in an otherwise solid candidate being waitlisted. If your concern is the latter, this is the perfect time to challenge yourself and develop your interviewing skills. Interpersonal skills, maturity, and professionalism will be extremely important when you interview for jobs, starting as soon as your first year in law school. If you feel these are weaknesses, start working on them now.
(2) Stay calm if you have tech problems. How applicants handle tech issues during the interview is an interesting test of their maturity and poise under pressure. My colleagues and I have seen some serious meltdowns. No one is going to hold it against you if you have unforeseen tech problems. Work with your interviewer to find a solution. Sometimes you can do it without the video, or you can do a phone interview. If you send a thank you email after the interview (more on this below), feel free to throw in a quick “Thank you for being so accommodating and conducting my interview over the phone instead…” or something along those lines. Bottom line: just don’t get flustered.
(3) Don’t worry about repeating the information in your application. Speak freely and don’t worry about whether your interviewer has read your application. Treat the interview as a stand-alone interaction. I know it can be awkward when you don’t know how much information someone already has about your file. Sometimes I had already read the file. Other times, I was working from a colleague’s detailed notes and the resume. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Answer the questions the way that you normally would and don’t worry about what the interviewer may already know.
(4) Be conversational. Most law school interviews are short. For some, the interviewer may only be looking to confirm that you have a basic level of social competence and maturity. Longer interviews may allow a bit more room for depth in your conversation. While I absolutely encourage you to prepare, don’t over-prepare and don’t follow a script. Follow your interviewer’s lead and let them guide the conversation. Answer the questions asked. Don’t become overcommitted to the idea of getting across certain points or try to cram a predetermined list of selling points into 15 minutes. I think applicants often lose sight of the fact that this is just a conversation. You will have a more successful interview if you view it that way. Put thought into it, but don’t try too hard. It’s just a conversation.
(5) Be prepared to discuss any weaknesses in your application. We often used the interview to better assess any weaknesses suggested in the application, or to address any concerns. Think about your application objectively and be prepared to address any potential issues (e.g., poor grades, lack of work experience or undergraduate activities, frequent job turnover, character and fitness issues).
(6) Be mindful of hand movements and gestures. I was surprised to find how much Zoom can exaggerate hand gestures, body movements, laughter, and strong voice inflection. Certainly be yourself. But, if you are typically an animated person, try to be cognizant of this.
(7) Consider your Zoom setup and background. This seems obvious, but experience tells me that I must mention it. Try not to interview in your dorm room or bedroom. No beer posters. No family members or roommates. I have conducted an entire Skype interview with an applicant’s mother cooking dinner behind him. And, as much as many law school admissions officers would love to meet your dog, it can distract from the content of what you're saying – so no pets. Other basic tips for a good Zoom set up: make sure you're well-lit enough that the admissions officer can see you clearly, and try stacking your laptop on a pile of books or something similar so that the camera isn't looking up your nose.
(8) Don’t worry about looking directly into the camera. Just look at the person on the screen, and close out of any other programs so you aren’t distracted.
(9) Dress appropriately. Wear what you would normally wear to an interview or business meeting. No less than business casual. No tank tops, t-shirts, or sweatshirts.
(10) Be appreciative. It is an immense investment of resources and time for a law school to run an interviewing program, and it is valuable to both the law school and the applicants. If you are grateful for the opportunity to interview, tell your interviewer during the interview. It’s nice to know that our efforts are appreciated. If you have your interviewer’s email, feel free to send a brief thank you email. It should be no more than 3-4 sentences and should only be a quick thank you for the opportunity to interview/I enjoyed our conversation/etc. Don’t restate your qualifications or try to sell yourself at this point (a very common mistake) – just be professional and polite.
Happy interviewing, and good luck!
This article was written by Jayme McKellop, former Director of Admission for Chicago Law School and current SCG consultant.