Think good deeds are only for good people? Every once in a while, an uncommon opportunity comes along in which even grinchy, ol’ meanies can contribute positively to society. On occasion, jerks are mistaken for people who actually care about others and, if they’re lawyers, they may be asked if they would be willing to do a mock interview for a law student or junior attorney.
If you’re a jerk, I have good news for you. Your natural grouchy demeanor could make you an ideal candidate to give mock law interviews. This is your chance to fully exhibit your abominable self and earn the sincere appreciation of others at the same time. It’s a true win-win situation!
Because when it comes to practice interviews, many interviewers try to pretend that they’re the ones who are actually interviewing someone for a real job at their law firm or company. Silly counselors….
If you’re a nice enough person to agree to do a practice interview, then you’re probably a nice enough person by nature. However, if the only practice interviews that interviewees ever get are with naturally nice people, they’re not going to be prepared for interviews with other people out there who aren’t oh so nice. I mean, what if they end up interviewing with an ATL troll?? The best experience that you can give as a mock interviewer is one in which you act like a jerk.
How to do this? Ask the tough questions that will make your interviewee squirm, and be blunt about it. Do they have a bunch of As and one lone C on their transcript? Ask them what happened with the C. Ask them what they found hard about law school and what their biggest challenge was on the job. Interrogate them about time gaps in their résumé and if the answer sounds flaky, tell them so.
Throw out a few questions that lazy interviewers will ask, like, “What’s your greatest weakness?” and, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Sure, these are useless questions, but that’s not the point. The goal is to give the interviewee a chance to respond to some of the questions they may actually encounter on a real job interview. If you need some guidance, here’s a great list of common interview questions and suggested answers (not law-specific, but a lot of attorneys will ask these too, especially for in-house positions): 50 Most Common Interview Questions.
Also, make your body language intimidating. Don’t smile or look too eager to engage. Maintain an unimpressed tone of voice. Keep in mind that it’s about the overall experience, not just the questions you ask.
After the practice interview is over, be sure that you allot enough time for a good debrief. Unfortunately, you can’t continue to be a jerk during this analysis session, sorry. Law students are tender younglings who possess strange and mysterious things called “feelings” and they may become unstable if you continue treating them like crap the entire time.
Explain to the interviewee the purpose of giving them a tough interview and go over all of the magical feedback you have for them. Besides evaluating the actual answers they provided to your questions, don’t forget to give feedback on soft stuff as well, such their enthusiasm level and body language.
Finally (so that they don’t come back and blame you for something stupid you told them), let them know that, hey, you’re just one person. Your feedback and advice is just based on your own individual experience, so they should get as many practice interviews from others as they can in order to hone their skills. Once you’re done, the interviewee will be likely to end up feeling extremely grateful for the fact that you were so unpleasant to them (how awesome is that?!). And you may even trick yourself into thinking you’ve actually done a good deed.
Susan Moon is an in-house attorney at a travel and hospitality company. Her opinions are her own and not those of her company or anyone she works with. Susan may share both her own and others’ experiences (especially the experiences of those who have expressly indicated to her that they must not under any circumstances be shared on ATL). You can reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SusanMoon.