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A Second Chance to Make a First Impression

by Linda Green Pierce

Welcome 2001 and a continued strong market for lawyers!

As the economy has improved and law firm and corporate employers find themselves seeking to fill positions which were not in existence three to four years ago, lawyers are finally finding those career enhancing positions open again.

This market increases the opportunity to interview, but there is still much competition for the most attractive positions. This article is dedicated to the second interview. Second interviews are by design for the employer. The company or firm wants to revisit you to confirm or reject their initial thoughts and impressions gathered at the first interview. From the interviewee standpoint, the second interview is an opportunity to confirm a favorable first interview and increase the chance of going forward to an offer. It's also a chance to differentiate yourself from the rest of the candidates.

You will typically interview with some of the same people from interview number one, as well as see some new faces. It's important to remember when facing the new people that information from the first interview may or may not have been transferred to these new people. You must assume they know nothing about you. With these individuals, start from scratch with the same enthusiasm that got you to this point. The new faces have probably read your resume and academics and know you have been pre-selected and preliminarily qualified to go forward. You do not have to resell in that area. The new faces will be looking for more detail about your work background and whether you have the personality they can work with on a day to day basis.

Enthusiasm in the second interview is a must. This is no time to relax under the assumption you have the job. You must answer the same question brought forth by perhaps three or four people who haven't had time to talk to each other prior to your interview. You must answer with the same level of energy each time, as if they are the first person to ask that question. In turn, you must have questions to ask. Even if you have already asked a question of a prior interviewer and feel you've had that question answered - ask someone else the same question, or ask the same question with a slight spin on it. Never respond that all your questions have been answered. In a private law firm interview, you might ask partners, associates or a member of the staff a general question, such as, "How would you characterize the culture and work style of this firm?" You will get a variety of answers. Listening to each person's view of this question will reveal insight into this work opportunity.

Individuals interviewing you for the second time are looking for confidence, consistency, energy and enthusiasm. To some extent, they are checking out whether, when they interviewed you for the first time, they were making their best assessment of candidates. Perhaps they were having a "bad interviewer's day." The interviewer may want to make sure the first strong impression is accurate. If it has been a great deal of time since the first interview, the interviewers may be refreshing their memory of you versus the many other people seen in the interim.

The second interview is typically where an employer will try to pull your thoughts on salary. This is a critical time, as they are also looking for your business tact and composure. It's important, if possible, not to be the first to put a dollar offer on the table. If you present a figure too low, you may short yourself. If the figure you present is too high, you may be taken out of consideration. An appropriate response might be: "Money is a component in these negotiations, but not the only one I am considering. I have become more encouraged with each meeting. I look forward to entertaining your strongest offer." Salary negotiations may be a moot point at many private law firms where salary is set depending upon the number of years experience you have. However, there are other issues which may need this negotiation, such as a hiring bonus or relocation dollars.

Finally, if the conversation leads to it, such as when the firm or company asks for your level of interest in them specifically and you are interested as well - ask for the job. "I have been encouraged with this meeting and our telephone conversations and would give serious weight to any offer made."

Second interviews are not a "done deal" to receiving an offer. However, taking responsibility for the interaction should lead you to that new-economy dream job. Don't miss the second opportunity to make another positive first impression.