Making Impressions Without a Single Word

Putting together a bulletproof resume and preparing yourself to answer tough interview questions are essential components to doing well at OCI, but that’s only part of the package interviewers are looking for.

Over the years we have interviewed countless students at the top law schools around the country, and every year we’ve rejected otherwise qualified candidates because they don’t present themselves properly. Some have slouched like piles of jello in their chairs.  Others refused to make any eye contact.  Some have even come in hung over!  Needless to say, those students did not get called back.

You need to appear interested, engaged and confident.  Here are seven ways to make sure you present yourself that way:

· Make Eye Contact.  When you shake hands, or are talking to someone, look at their eyes. (If looking directly at their eyes makes you uncomfortable, then look at their eyebrows.)  Looking away makes you seem disinterested at best or dishonest at worst.

· Have a Good Firm Handshake.  Don’t be a hand crusher!  But an impotent handshake comes off as a lack of confidence.

· Smile!  This will help you seem engaged and interested.  It will also make you seem more approachable.

· Sit Up in Your chair and Lean Forward a Little.  Don’t slouch or shrink back.  Sitting forward projects confidence.

· Avoid Fidgeting.  Generally, keep your hands in your lap and both feet squarely on the ground.  Hand gestures are fine, but you shouldn’t be directing an airplane to its gate.  Fidgeting will make you appear nervous or like you are hiding something.

· Look Thoughtful.  After you’ve been asked a question, count to 2 or 3 in your head before responding.  It will seem as if you’re not just regurgitating a canned answer (even if you are) but are trying to tailor your response to the interviewer.

· Be Courteous and Professional.  We cannot emphasize this enough.  The way you speak to a senior partner in a law firm is completely different from how you speak to your friends.  Carry yourself with a higher level of dignity and formality (but not stuffiness) than in your day-to-day life.

So what do you look like during an interview? Now’s the time for some cell phone video (or if your memory’s full, do it the old fashioned way with a mirror). Record yourself walking into a room and answering a few interview questions. Practice until you’re comfortable. This will give you some muscle memory of what it feels like to smile, sit up, pause, etc. so that you’ll know what to do during your interview.

Not sure if your non-verbal communication skills are top notch?  Ascend Legal can give you guidance and also provide mock interviews.  For more information, visit