I’ve networked with a lot of family lawyers, therapists, and certified divorce financial planners. One of the ladies I became acquainted with is a family attorney and former county judge in Texas.
Ann was so excited to have a coach as a resource to refer to her clients, she invited me to attend the County Bench Bar Conference. I was thrilled to attend as her guest, even though I had no idea what I was getting into.
Living in a city the size of Austin, I’m more accustomed to the formalities of lawyers and judges that I’ve met through Rotary and other professional functions. But, it’s still Texas, and under all their expensive suits are still good ‘ole boys and gals. Even though the county judges and lawyers are less formal and tend to have more of a drawl and quick wit, they still have to observe courtroom decorum and show each other respect , even if they are sitting there in jeans with a pinch of tobacco between their cheek & gum.
The County Bench Bar Conference was a great networking opportunity to meet more family lawyers and judges, but the thought also crossed my mind,
“What can I possibly learn as a coach that I can apply to my business?”
As if he read my mind, one of the newly elected county judges went to the stage to deliver his presentation while subsequently answering my question! He shared his observations as a new judge and posed some excellent insights that translate especially well to those going on job interviews.
The title of the judge’s presentation, replete with power point slides and good talking points, was, “Handle Your Business.” He said his teenage son had given him this sage advice recently, and he thought it equally good advice for the lawyers in the audience. Teenagers, lawyers, what’s the difference?
I was struck by how closely his advice resembled the same guidance and advice I coached clients on when preparing for interviews. The judge was coaching the lawyers to be mindful of what they can control during their court appearance. When you’re in an interview, don’t you sometimes feel like you’re on trial and the HR Director or hiring manager is the judge & jury? Here’s the wisdom he shared:
Understand that which you can control
- Your behavior – this includes what you say, how you say it, how you act, and what you look like. This is the image you project and how you are initially perceived by the interviewers.
- Your reactions – when asked a difficult or touchy question, do you flush, stutter, slump your shoulders, or do you become defensive, raise your voice, deflect? Maintaining a sense of calm and collectedness during the storm is very telling. Remember, never let ‘em see you sweat.
- Demeanor – apparently your behavior is so important, the Judge refers to it twice. Do you appear prepared and ready, or are you disheveled and disorganized?
- Presentation – on one hand you don’t want to sound rehearsed, but on the other hand you don’t want to be caught off guard with unexpected questions either. One of the CEO’s I worked for years ago once said he spends twice as much time preparing for presentations than he estimates it will actually take him to deliver, and I do the same. You need to practiced your answers out loud for at least twice as long as you expect to be in the interview.
Next the judge included his “ABC’s of Presentation,” but being a lawyer, he couldn’t stop himself and went on to include D and E also. His ABC’s [and D and E…] are exactly how I coach clients to prepare for interviews:
Anticipate – Practice answers to every possible question you can think of.
Brevity – Be sure you answer questions by telling a story, but don’t ramble! Time yourself, answers need to be 2-3 minutes max.
Candor – Be honest, but you don’t have to reveal every little detail.
Don’t panic – If you don’t know the answer to a question, ask if you can get back to the interviewer with the answer.
Embody professionalism – If you’ve observed all the others suggestions above, you will have successfully embodied professionalism!
Just as a lawyer must argue their case in front of the judge, so too must you argue or present your case as the best person for the job to the HR Director and/or hiring manager. In this “case,” ask yourself, is your argument strong enough and have you presented enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are the best fit for the position?
Remember this last bit of advice from the county judge: There are no weak lawyers, only weak arguments.