At the Interview

Verbal and Physical Presentation at the Interview

The interview provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your communication skills and personality. It is crucial that your responses be articulate, relevant and concise. Avoid the tendency in interviews to sidetrack, ramble nervously or repeat yourself. At the same time, try to answer each question fully and with some thought.

Try to work in new information about yourself or your experience that has not yet been revealed or discussed. Remember to speak clearly but with expressiveness. If you do not understand a question or if you want more direction from the interviewer, simply ask for clarification.

Be interesting! Draw from your accomplishments and experiences to speak enthusiastically, illustrating your points with real-life examples. Interviewers tend to remember candidates who enliven their responses with specific references to their personal experiences. In a public interest context, where people work largely because of their belief in the  vision of the organization, it is especially effective for you to speak from the heart. Be careful, though, that you do not speak too long in response to any one question.

Try to avoid being negative about past experiences, especially work experiences, even if they were less than ideal. Think of a way to convey these experiences into lessons learned that will apply to the new position you seek. For example, if you are asked about a prior work experience where you were abandoned in a library to do research, you can say, "In my last job, I was fortunate to develop valuable research skills. I also learned that I prefer an environment where I can work directly with clients and see the beneficiaries of my research."

Always be prepared to provide specific information about recent work experiences. For example, if you state on your resume that you "organized a conference," be prepared to be concrete about what exactly your role was. Similarly, if your resume includes a paper or article that you wrote or if you bring in a writing sample, be ready to answer questions about the project.

Your body language conveys personality, enthusiasm and self-confidence as much as what you say. Most interviewers expect applicants to be somewhat jittery, so try not to worry if you feel nervous. Relax and focus on being yourself. Greet the employer with a firm handshake. Maintain good eye contact with the interviewer, as well as good posture. Use gestures and facial expressions as you normally would in an interesting conversation with a friend, thus avoiding any nervous verbal and physical mannerisms that may distract the interviewer. Be animated, yet professional.

Dressing Appropriately

While formal business attire is not necessary for some public interest offices, you should not show up for an interview dressed too casually. Err on the side of caution and dress as you would for any other attorney position. A suit or jacket is appropriate as it sends a positive message about your professionalism and enthusiasm.

Last modified: December 13, 2011

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