4 Little-Known Facts About the Interview Process—and How to Use Them to Your Benefit

February 17, 2016

3. They Will Subconsciously Judge You Before You Open Your Mouth

My old boss—a big-time believer in the power of first impressions—used to say, “You speak paragraphs about yourself before you ever even open your mouth.” And boy, is this ever true in the interview process. You will, without question, be judged the second you walk into the interview, based largely on your appearance and energy level.

Be annoyed about that all you want, but it’s true (and don’t tell me you’re not doing the same thing right back at the person across the table). So, if you’re going to play this game in the first place, understand how important that first 20 seconds is, and play to win.


What’s Your Best Strategy for This?

Simply put, go in strong. Study this organization, team, and the interviewer ahead of time and try to figure out what they’re like. What do they wear? What is the energy of the team? Do they seem casual or super corporate? Do you see any hints within the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile that help you understand what he’s like and how he spends his free time? To whatever extent you can give off the “She’s one of us, and she’s awesome” vibe right when you stroll through the door, do so. (And for crying out loud, iron your shirt.)


4. They May Not Extend the Offer to the “Most Qualified” Person

You’re going to get hired for your next job based on three things, not just the obvious one: 

“Can she do this job?”

That one, by the way, has got to be a “yes!” That’s a baseline. If you’re a “no” to that first question, you’re done with the interview process. However, the candidate who snags the offer is typically the one who is also a yes to these two questions:

“Do we like her” and, just as I said above, “Do we think she’s going to fit in around here?”

And, if it’s a tight race? I’ll argue that the person who is a louder “yes” to those last two questions stands a stronger chance of scoring an offer than the one who maybe inched her out on the hard skills. 


How Do You Make Sure You Come Across as a Trifecta of “Yeses?”

Certainly walk in prepared to showcase the skills and experiences you feel most closely align with the needs of this job. But you should also swiftly gauge the personality and communication style of your interviewer and, to the best of your ability “speak her language.” I typically encourage clients to strive for P-I-E in the interview, which means go in and affirm that you’re passionate, interested, and engaged throughout the interview.


The interviewing and hiring process can be annoying, challenging, and draining. There’s no arguing that—and, for the time being, probably no fixing it. So, if you are truly motivated to change jobs, pull out the stops to understand how the system works, and then respond accordingly.

(We can loop back and bitch about it over drinks, right after you knock their socks off.)

Chicago City Hall
  • “Searching for a job in the Chicago legal market from outside the city can be a daunting task. Having a recruiter like Chris Percival, with her extensive knowledge, experience and familiarity with Chicago firms, is a must. Chris prepared me for each interview by providing written materials ranging from NALP forms to newspaper clippings to mid-level associate surveys. Most valuable, however, was Chris’ insight into the varying firm cultures and work environments. Her first hand knowledge was evident throughout the process ... In the end, with Chris’ guidance, I had confidence that the firm I chose was right for me.”

    WARREN Y. NAKATANI, ESQ., Associate (now Partner)