Cover Letter Associate General Counsel

Interview Questions

Q. After losing my job some time ago, I now have several interviews lined up. It has been awhile since I interviewed for a job, though. Can you offer any must-do advice?

A. Your ability to schedule interviews is in line with the positive employment market for legal professionals reflected in our most recent Robert Half Legal Hiring Index: A net 22 percent of lawyers interviewed said they plan to add staff in the second quarter of 2012. Still, employers are cautious when making hiring decisions, and the in-person interview remains critical to landing a job. Despite the amount of interview advice that's out there, many candidates still stumble over basic aspects of the meeting. Here's a refresher:

Be ready for the inevitable. Hiring managers frequently begin interviews with straightforward, yet important, queries, such as:

  • "Tell me a little about yourself."
  • "Why are you interested in this position/our firm?"
  • "Why are you looking to leave your current job (or why did you leave your last one)?"
  • "What is your most significant professional achievement?"

Even though candidates know they're likely to hear these types of questions, many aren't ready with a strong answer. Think through these types of questions in advance and practice them, almost like you're cramming for a test. Don't count on pulling a great response out of thin air.

Look sharp. You should be at your sartorial best for an interview, and it never hurts to dress a little more professionally than you think is necessary. Don't overlook minor details, such as making sure your shoes are in good condition, jewelry is appropriate and your nails are well groomed.

Don't be a downer. Even if you're frustrated by a run of bad professional luck, don't give hiring managers an earful about your misfortunes. Keep the focus on why you're a strong candidate and what you can do for a prospective employer. If it's necessary to explain a period of unemployment, turn the situation around by highlighting how the experience has helped you refine what you're looking for in your next opportunity.

Get inside information. Try to go beyond just learning the minimum about a prospective employer from its website and other public information. Reach out to your network to uncover more substantive information. This will help you speak more directly to the opportunity you're interviewing for.

Have your own questions. The interviewer doesn't have to be the only one to ask questions. Interjecting smart, thought-provoking questions will demonstrate your preparation and help you stand out. In addition to the firm's goals and direction, see if you can find out about the history of the position you're interviewing for and what it will take to be successful in the job. This signals that you're envisioning yourself in the role and eager to understand what it will take to excel.

If the interview goes well and you're genuinely interested in the position, end the meeting by expressing your strong interest in the job and reiterating why you think you're a good fit for the position. Ask if the hiring manager has any concerns about your qualifications or suitability for the job. This allows you to address any possible misgivings on the spot.

Q. Soon, I'm going on my first job interview in 10 years. What are some common questions I'm likely to get these days? I'd like to at least be able to handle the predictable questions.

A. You can't always predict what employers will ask — in fact, some managers choose to use off-the-wall questions just to see how candidates handle them — but there are some basics that you are likely to hear. Here are some common questions and strategies for answering them effectively:

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Employers frequently use this question as an icebreaker. While the question seems personal, it's usually not. Most employers want a brief summary of your professional strengths, achievements and career goals. Keep your response concise. The interviewer's objective is simply to learn a little more about you and your work experience.

What interests you about this job, and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?

The top mistake job seekers make during interviews is having little or no knowledge of a company, according to a recent survey of executives by our firm. Employers ask this question to find out just how interested you really are in the position and how well you have prepared for the interview. So, be sure you have researched the organization thoroughly before you arrive at the meeting.

Tie your skills to the specific job requirements. For example: "For the past seven years, I have specialized in intellectual property, so I was attracted to your opening because of the opportunity to serve your firm's top-tier clients in the high-tech field. I really enjoy the complexity of developing strategies at this level and helping clients with their business needs. I also have a solid track record of revenue generation."

What are your weaknesses?

The best response is to be honest but brief. You don't want to detail shortcomings that could affect your ability to succeed in the position. Try to focus on minor issues that aren't in the job description, for instance, the fact that you aren't the best public speaker when addressing a large audience. If possible, discuss ways you're working on overcoming your weaknesses, such as taking classes or working with a mentor.

Interview Appearance

Q. I haven't been in the job market in some time and am wondering what to wear to an upcoming interview. My current office has relaxed its dress guidelines in recent years. Does this relaxed attire apply to the job interview, too?

A. Dress codes may be more relaxed today, but professional attire remains crucial to landing a job in a legal setting. How you present yourself is a reflection of your judgment, so it's important to make the effort to look your best. As a general rule, always dress up a little more than you may think may be necessary and be conservative with clothing and grooming.

Both men and women can usually benefit from new wardrobe pieces that reflect current styles without being too trendy. Don't be reluctant to ask others — a trusted friend, your spouse or a knowledgeable salesperson — for advice about what to wear to make the most favorable impression. Women, in particular, should also consider whether their hair style or make-up might need updating. Maybe a "make-under" — that is, a less flashy look — is in order. Avoid clingy or revealing wardrobe items, worn-looking shoes and excessive jewelry or fragrance. Keep in mind that you rarely hear of someone losing out on a job for looking too professional or conservative.

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Interview Etiquette

Q. I'm going soon for a job interview in the legal department of a new company. I feel comfortable with the basics of interviewing for a new position, but I'm not sure I've mastered the art of making the best possible impression. Can you help?

A. Even accomplished candidates have been known to make gaffes during the interview stage. According to a survey commissioned by Robert Half International (RHI), 32 percent of executives polled said the interview is where professionals make the most mistakes. To avoid becoming an interview casualty, take note of these important but sometimes overlooked rules:

Turn off the technology. In today's hyper-connected world, many people think they should always be reachable. But an interview is one time when you shouldn't be available to the outside world. Some hiring managers and recruiters have reported experiences with candidates who glance at incoming e-mails during an interview or ask to be excused to take a phone call. Needless to say, these candidates don't get very far. The hiring manager expects — and deserves — your full attention.

Don't be too candid. Although interviewers are looking for candor and a glimpse into your personality, be careful not to go overboard, especially in offering personal details. Anxiety or its opposite — feeling extremely comfortable with the interviewer — can lead you to become too chatty, especially about issues outside the scope of the interview. Maybe your desire to find a job in a new city stems from your recent divorce, but it's unwise to share this information. Not only do you risk making the interviewer feel uncomfortable, but divulging such personal information could raise doubts about your judgment and ability to concentrate on work if hired.

Don't be too full of yourself. Although your qualifications may be exceptional, take care to strike the right balance between presenting your accomplishments in a positive light and coming across as overconfident. In another RHI survey, 50 percent of executives polled said that being arrogant was the worst mistake a candidate can make when interviewing.

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12/2004 to Current
Assistant General CounselR.R. Donnelley & Sons Company - Chicago, Illinois
  • Provide comprehensive legal consultation, advice and counsel to sales, operations and executive management on legal and business matters including contract risk allocation, privacy laws and contract structure;.
  • Review and negotiate business-to-business agreements, including product and service agreements, transportation agreements, technology and licensing agreements, confidentiality and data security agreements and statements of work;.
  • Manage and update the suite of RR Donnelley contract templates;.
  • Manage contract disputes and settlements;.
  • Maintain contract playbooks;.
  • Oversee customer RFP process; and.
  • Conduct legal training for corporate sales.
07/2003 to 12/2004
Staff AttorneyMoore Wallace North America, Inc - Bannockburn, Illinois
  • Reviewed, drafted and negotiated customer contracts; and.
  • Developed contract management system.
07/2001 to 07/2003
Associate AttorneyDutton, Braun, Staack & Hellman, P.L.C - Waterloo, Iowa
  • Practiced in the areas of corporate law and general litigation;.
  • Reviewed and negotiated contracts and lease documents;.
  • Prepared legal memoranda and trial and appellate court briefs; and.
  • Authored business law articles for local periodicals.
May 2001
Juris Doctorate DegreeCreighton University School of Law - Omaha, NebraskaLicensed to practice law in Illinois
May 1998
Bachelor of Arts: Political ScienceBradley University - Peoria, IllinoisPolitical Science
Professional Affiliations
Illinois State Bar - active status *Iowa State Bar - inactive status *Member of Association for Corporate Counsel (ACC)
Active in church mission work, including domestic and international mission trips, and local food pantries.
business law, consultation, contract management, contracts, executive management, law, legal, litigation, RFP, sales, settlements, transportation, articles
  • COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES *Active in church mission work, including domestic and international mission trips, and local food pantries.

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