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So, tell me about yourself

We seldom run into attorneys who have spent their entire legal career in one place anymore. Lateraling is common—even expected. On top of that, attorneys are always pushed to network to be hired by potential clients. For lawyers, it’s always & “interview season.” Even when they’ve  made it and now receive invitations to speak on panels. A lawyer will always be asked: tell me about yourself.

Great legal recruiters can help with tips to improve your narrative for your target job. As a legal professional who’s bread and butter comes from crafting words, it is important to have a great answer prepared—especially when you are being evaluated by a potential employer.

An interviewer—if properly prepared—has read your resume and cover letter. Perhaps they’ve done a little more and even checked out your LinkedIn profile or contacted a reference. When most interviewers have an impression of you already and ask, “tell me about yourself,” they are trying to see how it is that you perceive yourself. They know what their impression is—now they want you to reflect and share your sense of self.

Do you first mention…

Your academic credentials? Most interviewers describe candidates who lead with their education as candidates who feel that their education is impressive. Can you back this up?

Past experiences or former glory? Granted, it gets the conversation started, but this tends to leave interviewers with the impression that a candidate has nothing going on currently.

Instead, I suggest that you tailor a description that clearly conveys the attributes that have made you successful in your life (not just your career, not just your academics).

First, reflect on your experiences: if you are coming out of schooling, think about what you have added to organizations or your school community. If you’ve been working for a while, what skills, talents, or attitudes have helped you succeed? If you have been raising a family, consider what talents you have been using and what perspective you gained that would be of value to an employer.

Second, select three adjectives or skills that best describe you. Think about the qualities that employers are looking for. You want these to be unique, and not something that’s a “given.” This means it should be different from what’s on paper, and what’s generally expected. (“Organized” might not cut it—that’s part of the job and we can see that from your resume. Speaking another language or persuading a classroom full of teenagers that math is great on the other hand, conveys greater value).

Third, think of a real instance in which you have applied those skills. What story can you share that proves to the speakers that you have the skills or traits you claim to have? Clearly communicate the keys to your success and the benefit that you contributed.

Here’s an example: chances are that after reflecting, one of the reasons why you are successful is that you are intelligent. I’m not suggesting that you tell the interviewer “well, I am intelligent.” What you need to do is demonstrate that you are intelligent throughout the interview by how you answer questions, by what you ask, and by having a clear message about yourself. This should expand on what you couldn’t include in your resume.

You can share that you worked in a variety of settings—as an individual, and as a part of a team. You can share how you had an idea to do things differently that made things easier for your employer or customers. Then you can link that to why you can add value to your target employer, because you are so (your three adjectives or skills). Then top it off by demonstrating you have researched your role and tell them why those skills or traits make you the best candidate for it.

Now—it is important that you let the interviewer ask the question and you answer the question concisely. You don’t want to break the floodgates and give a monologue of anecdotes. Remember you have your entire interview to share your story and convey each trait as the opportunity arises organically in the conversation.

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