A post from student blogger Josh
If you’re anything like most decent Americans, you probably have three things you absolutely cannot stand; these would be your taxes, the New England Patriots, and first dates. Unfortunately, a first face to face interview greatly resembles a first date. You have to talk to someone you’ve never met, make entertaining conversation, answer a series of “get to know you” questions, and not screw up doing so on a level that a second date is also out of the question. However, most people seem to forget the most important bit here, which is to accurately represent yourself. Remember, if the relationship ends up blossoming into something long term, you want to make sure that both parties are being honest. There is still a certain level of necessary censorship that occurs here (for instance, it’s probably a terrible idea to mention that time you ate all the Eggo waffles on an intercontinental flight), but overall you’re looking to present a version of you that is reflective of how you would act in the workplace (so if you’re interviewing to be a pilot for cargo planes delivering Eggo waffles, you might be able to sneak something in there provided you’re not talking directly to HR).
Most of us are not actually able to keep up a façade of flawless professionalism forever. We have facial expressions and moments of inappropriate laughter that will often give away our more human sides. If you’re like me, it’s absolute torture to go for two hours of talking to people without making a single joke. So tell the jokes, get the laughs, and be yourself. Remember, the person sitting across from you is human too, and she/he likely isn’t looking forward to a potentially awkward encounter either. A good interview feels like a conversation rather than a game show; it’s not really something that you can win, and it shouldn’t just be you answering questions. The experience is just as much about discovering if the firm is a good fit for you as it is about your qualifications. Once people have read your resume and have an idea of your background, what they really want to know is “do I want to see this guy at the water cooler? Am I going to want to punch this person in the face every time I walk by their desk? Are they going to generally improve my work environment?” So just smile, relax, and don’t be that guy.
Want more tips? Let’s start with the basics. Do your homework. Actually look at the firm’s website. If you get a schedule of people who you’ll be talking to, read their bios. Know a bit about the city where the firm is located. Have a consistent, truthful, interesting, and somewhat concise story ready of how you came across the idea of being a patent agent or attorney. Prepare for the interview exactly as you would a day at work (if you don’t drink coffee, it’s not a good time to start). Dress like the person you want to be, and above all, have a realistic understanding of your abilities and your value to the firm. This last point is often emphasized for salary negotiations, but in many cases this won’t be a component of a first serious interview. We young people tend to suffer from a belief that our degrees and time in school mean that we actually know things, and that we’re going to be good at our jobs the moment we begin them. While you can and should be confident, do not let this border on arrogance. Emphasize that you are teachable, intelligent, ready to work, and an excellent investment in the future of the firm (if you’re not any of those things, you probably won’t see much success in this field). So please, don’t stress too much about interviews. I understand the nerves, I’ve had plenty lately. But if you’re reading this, I have full faith in your abilities, so just be yourself and kick some ass.