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Interview Preparation

Interview Preparation

Know your Application Materials & Online Presence

  • Be fully prepared to discuss all information contained in your application materials. If you have a publication listed on your resume, be prepared to summarize its thesis succinctly. Refresh your memory about your prior work and scholastic experiences.
  • Reflect on the two or three qualities you most want an employer to know about you and bring them up during your interviews. These qualities may include writing, research, problem solving, leadership, oral advocacy, attention to detail, and dedication/enthusiasm, to name a few.
  • Prospective employers may research you online to learn more about you than what you’ve shared through your application materials. Be prepared to discuss aspects of your background and experiences available to the public. Be thoughtful about what you post online and make use of privacy settings as needed.

Know the Employer & Location

  • Do research to determine two or three reasons for your interest in the employer and bring them up during your interviews to convey a genuine interest.
  • Know their primary practice areas and the types of clients they serve.
  • Read the employer’s web site and other online resources.
  • Talk to students who have worked for the employer and consult the Student Summer Employment Evaluations in CMS.
  • Read recent news items discussing the employer so that you know about current issues pertinent to them.
  • If you received interviewer name(s) in advance, learn some basics about them including their education, career path, and practice focus.
  • Be able to articulate your interest in and connection to the location in which you are interviewing. This may be a combination of professional and personal interests.

Prepare to Answer Questions

  • Review CDO’s Sample Interview Questions. Prepare answers to your most difficult questions.
  • As you respond to questions, it is incumbent on you to tie your experiences together in a way that explains your interest in their work.
  • Behavioral Questions: Some employers will ask behavioral interview questions, such as “Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it”. In responding, use the STAR Method:
    • Situation – describe the event or situation that you were in
    • Task – explain the task that you had to complete and what you were trying to accomplish
    • Action – describe the specific actions you took to complete the task
    • Result – close with the results of your efforts and explain how your efforts contributed to the organization

Prepare to Ask Questions

  • Review CDO’s Sample Interview Questions as you develop a list of questions to ask. The best questions reflect your interests and research.
  • Avoid questions with a negative tone and questions that do not reflect your strong interest in the position.
  • HR-type questions, including benefits and the like, are typically best suited to post-offer conversation.

Plan your Interview Attire

  • See CDO’s Discussion of Interview and Work Attire for in-depth information and advice.
  • Your attire should contribute to your professionalism. Although employers may have different dress codes, err on the conservative side.
  • Wear interview attire for both in-person and video interviews.
  • If you receive loans and/or grants to attend YLS, you may request a one-time loan of $500 to purchase a suit. If you receive loans and/or grants to attend YLS, you may request a one-time loan of $500 to purchase a suit using the Financial Aid Budget Revision Form for Suit Purchase Loan. Talk to Financial Aid for details.

Plan your Interview Environment

  • Should an employer offer you a choice between an in-person or virtual interview, choose the option that works best for you. Interviewing in person may provide you with a better sense of the organization but may come with logistical challenges. Private sector employers typically cover the cost of travel for in-person interviews, while public interest employers most often do not. CDO’s Travel Reimbursement for Interviews in the Public Interest (TRI PI) program provides some reimbursement for public interest interview expenses.
  • Confirm all logistics including time, location, length, names of interviewers, and materials to bring (although it is wise to bring a resume, writing sample, list of references and transcript even if not requested).
  • For virtual interviews: test your technology including camera, audio, and any necessary software; confirm sufficient lighting; simplify background or use virtual background (access Office of Public Affairs virtual backgrounds here); eliminate background noise.