Special Interview Issues

Questions to Avoid During an Initial Interview

While parental leave, part-time policies, benefits, vacation time, the possibility of splitting summers, and salary may be of significant concern, you may want to defer raising these issues until a later interview or after you have been offered a job. By asking these questions during an initial interview, you run the risk of distracting the employer from focusing on your qualifications.

Ethical or Hypothetical Questions

Increasingly employers are asking ethical questions or hypothetical questions. Often the hypothetical questions are questions geared to evaluate the applicant's ethical barometer. The employers most likely to ask these questions are public defenders, prosecutors and legal services/legal aid. If confronted with one of these questions, bear in mind that the interviewers are often more interested in how you think through the problem you are presented rather than in obtaining the "right" answer.

Hostile Interviews

Occasionally, employers at criminal defense and prosecution offices conduct hostile interviews with potential employees. These employers are not targeting you personally; rather, the interviewers are interested in seeing how you respond to pressure that is comparable to that of adversarial courtroom trials. They are assessing how well you perform on your feet.

The key to handling a hostile interview lies not in the specifics of how you answer the questions thrown at you, but rather in your overall composure. Maintain a calm demeanor and respond non-defensively. Simply keep in mind the purpose behind this interviewing strategy.

Interviews With More Than One Interviewer

When meeting with multiple interviewers at once, you may feel overwhelmed by the ratio of interviewers to interviewees.

You may be uncertain as to whom you should direct your responses when asked multiple questions from the interviewers. You should attempt to recognize who among the interviewers has seniority and gear most of the interview contact to him or her. But it is critical to make sure that you do not disregard the other interviewers. Engage the remaining interviewers in your responses to give them the opportunity to ask further questions. When responding to direct questions, make initial eye contact with the person who asked the question, but as you expand on your answer, remember to make eye contact with everyone present.

Closing the Interview

Interviews may last from twenty minutes to an hour or more. Although the interviewer usually determines the length of the meeting, you should be sensitive to indications that your time is ending. In the event that you have not yet asked the questions that you felt were pertinent or made certain points about your qualifications that you felt important to convey, you should do so when the interview begins to draw to a close. Take the opportunity to restate your interest in the position and why you would make a special contribution to the organization or office. You may wish to ask when the organization plans to make a final decision on hiring for the position. Tell your interviewer how much you have enjoyed talking with him or her, how much you appreciated the time he or she has set aside for the interview and how excited you are about the position.

Telephone or Video Interviews

Since many public interest employers cannot afford to interview on campus, you may find yourself conducting an interview with an employer over the telephone. This can be particularly challenging, since you are unable to meet with your interviewer face-to-face.

Phone interviews can eliminate some of the stress of in-person meetings. However, there are certain disadvantages and added challenges to conducting a phone interview. First, you will not have the chance to see the organization's office space, nor will you be able to get a sense of its atmosphere. Therefore, it is essential that you ask specific questions about how the staff interacts and how the office is organized. Since body language (e.g., gestures, smiles, handshakes) will not be a factor in the phone interview, it is essential that your answers to questions be clear, concise and enthusiastic.

You should prepare for the telephone interview in the same manner that you would for a face-to- face interview. Do not rely on written answers or outlines to questions; you will find them distracting and the noise of rustling paper will distract the employer as well. A brief checklist of points can be helpful.  Make sure when you schedule a phone interview that you establish who will initiate the call, in addition to the time and the date of the interview.

Employers may also request video interviews over Skype or a videoconferencing service. If participating in a video interview, be sure to dress professionally and arrange to hold the interview in neat, clutter-free area. Test your equipment beforehand to make sure it is working. The Office of Career Services has posted information on conducting a videoconference interview at HLS.

Last modified: October 16, 2013

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