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By: Bob Davidson

Welcome back to your work week, paralegals! Bob Davidson stopped by today to share some interviewing tips with us. Check ’em out. Let us know if you have any to add to the list. As always, we’re open to your feedback and love hearing your personal stories, so share away.

Recently, Jamie posted a link to an article on LinkedIn, entitled “Ten Things Not To Do In An Interview.” It was a very good article, but the situation might be better viewed proactively. Accordingly, maybe it would be wise to discuss ten things TO do in an interview:

Disclaimer: All anecdotes that appear below are derived from my personal experiences. All non-anecdotes are my opinion. In either case, your mileage may vary.

1. Arrive early – something like ten to fifteen minutes before your interview is scheduled. If you happen to arrive even sooner, look for a place outside the office to sit and and relax for a few minutes before you walk in, but appear in the office well before your scheduled interview time.

You are expected to be on time for an interview – just like you are expected to be on time for work. Also consider that the interviewer may want to start your interview sooner; you are showing consideration for the interviewer by being early. An (inconsiderate) interviewer may not start your interview on time, but you will have fulfilled the expectation to be punctual.

2. Be sure to address each interviewer by his/her correct name.

In his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote that “names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So use the name and get it right. It’s common courtesy. You can ask a person to repeat his/her name if you don’t remember it.

3. I would say to address each interviewer by his/her last name (i.e., “Mr./Ms. Collins”), even if he/she says to, e.g, “Call me ‘Jamie.'”

I’m somewhat old school and believe in exhibiting respect – to everyone, but especially to attorneys. In my opinion they warrant respect because they are professionals and by virtue of being attorneys at law. You also exhibit your professionalism by addressing interviewer(s) as Mr./Ms.

The long and short of it is, you have just met the person and, after all, a job interview is a BUSINESS meeting.

4. Remain standing until the interviewer(s) sit down and/or you are invited to sit down.

This is a matter of common courtesy and respect.

5. Listen to the interviewer’s questions. Answer the question. Answer only what is asked. Give short but complete answers (think 20-40 second sound bytes). Do not volunteer information.

Just like the advice you give your clients before attending independent medical exams and depos. The interviewer wants to elicit particular responses from his/her questions. If you don’t answer what is asked the interviewer(s) in my opinion may gather that you don’t listen and you may annoy him/her. You may lose the interviewer’s attention if you ramble. Moreover, you may volunteer information you’d rather not share and give the interviewer(s) notions about questions to ask that you would rather not answer.

Giving short but complete answers does not mean to be abrupt. Just come to the point.

6. Make eye contact with the interviewer(s). If there are multiple interviewers, make eye contact with each one for a moment as you answer their questions.

You don’t want to come off as evasive by averting eye contact. On the other hand, do not stare down the interviewer(s) with your steely blues until he/she flinches.

7. Do not interrupt. Let the interviewer(s) finish talking before you respond.

A job interview is not the kind of conversation in which one tries to interject points before the other person finishes. Besides, didn’t your parents teach you not to interrupt?

8. Be careful of questions you ask the interviewer(s). Lay off the hardball questions, even if they are perfectly reasonable, lest you torpedo your chances. Ask about the next step in the process.

I was interviewing for a pilot job with a regional airline. This was the period during which regional airlines were converting from prop-driven equipment to regional jets. I had been following this development in professional pilot magazines.

When it was my turn to ask questions, I asked the interviewer if the airline would be converting to jets. He seemed highly annoyed with my question. He harrumphed out a “no.” My rejection letter arrived a few days later. I will go to my grave convinced in large part that asking that very reasonable question torpedoed my chances. I found out later that the interviewer was the VP of prop-driven aircraft and opposed jet-powered equipment. Funny thing….the airline re-equipped with jet-powered equipment and became a leading operator of it!

For years thereafter, I was fearful of asking questions at interviews until I was persuaded otherwise. Be careful what you ask, lest you suffer the same experience I did!

9. Thank the interviewer(s) for the interview, even if you find you are not interested in the job. If you are interested, you could ask the interviewer(s) if you may follow up with him/her/them.

I tend to believe that following up beyond thank-you letters is risky, but if the interviewer okays follow up or even instruct you to follow up, they have opened the door. Walk through that door. They may be testing you to see if you will follow up to determine your interest in the job.

10. Probably draft and mail individualized thank-you letters to each interviewer. I say “probably” because, depending on the interview and how you were treated while on the property, the interviewer may not deserve a thank-you letter.

Thank-you mail is somewhat controversial. Some people believe that thank-you letters do nothing to enhance one’s candidacy. I am convinced the thank-you letters I sent immediately after interviewing for my first legal job led directly to my second interview and eventual hire. The office manager told me that my timely thank-you letters impressed her and the two associates with whom I interviewed.

Years later, I interviewed with a big health insurer. The HR person greeted me and took me to the two interviewers. One interviewer said very little; the other seemed bored. He sighed a few times when I answered questions.

Realistically I was not especially qualified for the job, but I did not like how I was treated. I still sent thank-you letters to all three people. Later, I wished I had not sent the letters to the two interviewers. The very nice HR person absolutely deserved one.

So while it is strongly suggested that thank-you letters be sent, doing so isn’t necessarily compulsory.

Conclusion.  Even though I haven’t listed it in my Top Ten, consider that job interviews are a two-way street. You are interviewing the employer just as much as it is interviewing you. Also consider that job interviews provide glimpses into an employer’s culture that employer may not prefer to reveal. So hold employer to the same high standards it is holding you. E.g., was the interviewer on time for your interview. Were you given the attention you deserved and shown respect. Did the staff and office seem chaotic (though, maybe, you may thrive in such environments). Last but not least, were you given a proper interview or were you asked unduly invasive, burdensome or so-called “illegal” questions. All points to consider when deciding if you want to work for that employer.

Good luck with your interview!

Bob Davidson has been employed in the aviation, broadcasting and legal industries. As a broadcaster he was recognized with Outstanding Journalism and other awards. In aviation Bob was recognized for outstanding volunteerism. In the legal industry Bob was employed as a paralegal in estate planning, probate and elder law, and in plaintiffs’ personal injury and claimants’ Workers’ Compensation law.

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Enough about interviewing – it’s time to get back into the swing of things! Work hard. Caffeinate sufficiently. Show ’em what you’ve got.

We’ll see you later this week!