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What Not to Say

During an interview, a candidate does not always realize that they are in a vulnerable state. They are being invited to talk about themselves and can fall into the trap of sharing too much information—unprompted—that either makes them appear desperate, or decreases their bargaining power.

Here’s a short list of things candidates should not say during the interview or hiring process.

1. Don’t discuss long-term plans that will give the potential employer the impression that you are going to be a short-term employee (if an employee at all).

If you have plans to work for a couple of years and then go to move cross-country or backpack through South America, remember that this has nothing to do with your current job search. You my be tempted to reveal a sense of adventure, but it may create an impression that you are not committed.

On the flip side, separate conveying enthusiasm for the position and a desire for being a part of their team from desperately conveying that yo “really really want the job” by describing it as the perfect role that meets every single need. This can hurt you if an offer is extended.

2. If salary expectations come up, don’t start with your bottom line.

This is negotiations 101…if you reveal your bottom line, you can expect that the offer will match that bottom line down to the very last penny. Instead, do your homework and set a target—share what you deserve to earn. This is particularly true if you have a competing offer from another firm and you want a match or improvement. Tell them what you would need.

3. Don’t start working for free before you get an offer.

Usually, legal interviews start with a screening interview, followed by a callback where you meet other members of the firm. Occasionally interviews with additional partners and stakeholders may be scheduled. This is all fine!

Be mindful of what you are being asked and what you are revealing during this process, however. Your advice is time is valuable. At a certain point, you might have to draw the line and expect the employer to either make you an offer or decline. You also don’t want to give the impression that you are desperate to leave your current job or desperate to get hired.

4. If you do decline, be professional and don’t burn bridges.

A “noisy withdrawal” is unwelcome and doesn’t give you a good reputation. Do not explain that you decline to continue with the hiring process because of “unqualified,” “unethical,” or “incompetent” individuals. Keep your thoughts about the capabilities and personalities of the interviewers to yourself.

5. Don’t communicate that you have no other opportunities.

Everyone’s favorite type of lawyer is a working lawyer. You want to be employable and don’t want to draw any attention to why you don’t have any other opportunities.

If you find yourself stressing about what might go wrong, consider working with a legal recruiter that puts an emphasis on identifying your needs and conducting a customized search to help you avoid some of these issues.

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