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Ace Your Virtual Interview: A Guide for Recent Law Graduates

Person in a virtual interview

Are you a recent law graduate looking for a job? Then, like many other alumni, you might be worried about the impacts of COVID-19 on the job market. You might also be worried about how that could negatively impact your chances of securing your dream job. After all, some law firms have frozen their hiring efforts due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus. But there’s still hope.

“Due to COVID-19, we let go 20+ team members in the month of March. As things slowly return to normal we are finding new ways of bringing in talent, and shifting our hiring process to a virtual approach.” —Kathy Lobb, COO, Isaacs & Isaacs

Law Firms Are Still Hiring

The good news is not all law firms have had to cut staff or implement hiring freezes. In fact, the pandemic has boosted demand for some legal services, including:

  • Bankruptcy and insolvency
  • Layoff and compensation reduction advice
  • Procedural documentation about minimizing risk of COVID-19
  • Counsel on pivoting supply chains and exporting to new countries

No matter what type of law you intend on specializing in, most law firms seek common traits and qualifications when recruiting new legal talent. Make sure you are able to speak to these points during your interview.

Law Firm Recruiting During the Pandemic

The short answer is: online. Remote hiring goes hand-in-hand with remote work, which has been normalized because of COVID-19. To adapt to the new world of work, there’s been a huge spike in law firms transitioning to remote recruitment options like video interviewing. These days it stands to reason that you might get a law degree online, so why not get hired online?

Employers love virtual interviews because they often provide more insight than a one-dimensional resume ever could. They can eliminate scheduling conflicts by facilitating “anytime” interview recordings. And they can transcend geographical barriers so law firms can find top talent anywhere.

But video interviews also benefit job candidates, allowing you to express your personality and showcase your strengths on video, confidently and authentically. Another bonus is that people tend to feel more comfortable when interviewing at home — especially if they don’t have the extra anxiety from navigating a new space on the way to an interview.

How Do Virtual Interviews Compare to In-person Interviews?

Honestly, most online interviews aren’t that much different than traditional interviews. As usual, you’ll want to spend time researching the law firm and the position for which you’ve applied well in advance of the actual interview. You’ll want to conduct yourself professionally. But aside from the standard interview suggestions, there are a few additional things to take into consideration when adding technology into the interview mix.

What to Expect from an Online Interview

There are two kinds of video interviews:

  1. Live video interviews (similar to Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime)
  2. Pre-recorded interviews (also known as one way interviews)

Most of us have been on a video call with friends and family before, which is good practice, but very informal. Keep in mind these professional live interviews might be recorded and shared with others on the hiring team. Why not prepare with a few mock interview videos in advance?

Pre-recorded interviews are new to some job applicants. During this type of online interview, you’ll record your answers to interview questions solo and a hiring team will review your responses at a later time.

Typically, you can expect to read an interview question (or watch a recorded video of someone asking the question), you’ll have a few seconds to think, and then a recording will begin so you can respond. Depending on how the employer has set up their interviewing preferences, you may have multiple chances to reply. But take a deep breath and try your best to make the first one count.

If possible, it’s helpful to know in advance which type of interview you’ll be participating in, just so you can mentally prepare yourself. Either way, you’ll need some hardware and software so the interviewer(s) will be able to see and hear you.

What Equipment to Use

Naturally, you’ll need video hardware to participate in a virtual interview. Decide if you prefer to use a laptop, mobile phone or tablet and test the built-in camera and microphone. Or, maybe a webcam and headset for your desktop computer will work best. It’s a good idea to have a backup method, like your phone or another computing device, nearby. And decide if you want earbuds, headphones, or computer audio. Choose the best sound quality so you can hear and be heard, but you also want to look professional.

Make sure you install any necessary software before the interview so you’re sure it works as it should. That said, some professional interviewing platforms don’t require a download. You’ll simply receive a link inviting you to an interview; no logins or downloads required. Clarify whether or not you need to download software well in advance.

How to Perform a Tech Check

The last thing you want during an interview is a technical problem. You may very well be the best person for the position, but tech trouble can make it tricky for recruiters to see it this way.

The single best way to ensure things go smoothly during your virtual interview is to run a diagnostic test. This will test your video connectivity, internet speed, and camera/microphone. That way you can be assured your equipment is up to par.

Take Steps to Properly Position Your Camera

Once you’ve confirmed your camera and microphone are operating correctly, it’s time to concern what’s in the frame.

No one looks good when angling the camera from below. The most flattering angle is above your eye-line.

Lighting is also extremely important. You want the light source positioned behind your electronic device (instead of behind you, which will make you look like a silhouette). Ring lights for webcams have become popular for many. Even two lamps on either side of your computer can work wonders in this respect.

What’s behind you matters, too. You, the job applicant, want to be the star of the video. So, try to find a neutral background with not too many distractions. Scan your bookshelves objectively to make sure there’s nothing unprofessional on display.

Lastly, maintaining eye contact during a virtual interview involves looking into your camera, not the face you see on the screen. This might require a little practice in advance. Don’t forget to blink and look away occasionally. Relax and try to be natural.

What to Wear to Your Video Interview

You’ll want to dress professionally (at least from the waist up). But in all seriousness, dress as you would for an in-person interview — dress pants and all. You never know when you might need to unexpectedly stand up and your true self will be revealed.

Try to avoid “busy” patterns on your clothing, which may distract from your responses. After all, you want the interviewer to be entirely focused on you! Pinstripes, houndstooth, and herringbone patterns can be distracting, especially if distorted by the camera, which can happen on the viewer’s side.

You’ll also want to make sure you are well groomed and have an appropriately professional hair style. If you need help in this department, hair care products from NuMe Hair have always served us well. 

How to Get Comfortable & Confident on Camera

Are you a bit camera-shy? Whether it’s in-person or on camera, practice is paramount to getting comfortable and confident during any type of interview.

Think of it like you would a legal case — only this time you’re the client for a change. What case can you make for yourself? What evidence do you have that you’d be a good fit for the position? Make note of any educational or professional achievements that support your case.

Try to minimize repeating the words “like” and “uh-huh” in your interview, even though these are natural when nervous. By recording some video responses on your phone ahead of time, you can watch and objectively criticize how you might improve.

Adjust your posture so you sit up straight. Imagine there’s a string on your head pulling you up to the ceiling, and bring your shoulder blades together behind your back. This immediately helps project confidence.

Again, gaze directly into the lens of the camera as you present. Studies have shown that this can increase focus and memory for those watching.

Minimize Potential Distractions

No matter where you decide to participate in a virtual interview (a public Wi-Fi is less than ideal), tell those around you what you’re doing. An interview is your chance to prove yourself and present yourself in the best light. You don’t want roommates, partners, children or pets barging into the room unexpectedly. Close the door and plan in advance to minimize distractions.

By taking the steps described above and setting aside plenty of time to practice, you’ll do just fine in your next video interview. Good luck!

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