Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
Recently, my friend Eric sent me a message. It said, “You want to hear the top stupid lawyer trick of 2011 that I just pulled?” I have to admit, I was pretty curious. Eric explained that he’d had an interview with a firm he really, really wanted to work for. He said the interview went well and that he followed up with a call to thank the partner. Only, there were two partners at the firm with the same name and he was directed to the wrong one. Eric was so embarrassed and really bummed out. He thought that he would never get the job because of the mix up. Guess what? He got the job.
The first thing I told Eric was to make sure to thank the correct partner. The fact that he made a little mix up was not enough to give up on the job, and it didn’t change the fact that he’d had a great interview. If his intention was to thank the partner who interviewed him, he should do just that. So, he did contact the correct partner to thank him and, in the end got the job.
There is a certain love match that goes on during the interview process. Much like dating, you know when something isn’t right or when someone isn’t the “one.” Clearly, Eric knew this firm was “the one” and they felt the same about him. One goof up wasn’t going to stop that momentum.
So, what happens when you goof up? How can you recover from a writing sample that has errors or a cover letter that has typos? How do you deal with a not-so-great answer during an interview?
First of all, remember that we all make little mistakes, even potential employers. Try to catch the goof ups before they happen, if you can. I once had a boss that said, “Your cover letter and resume should have zero mistakes in them.” In an ideal world, our work product is error free. But, we live in the real world and sometimes we make mistakes. Have someone take a look at your stuff before you send it out. A fresh eye is more likely to catch a typo than your own.
If you realize that you’ve sent out a resume or cover letter with an error in it. Follow up with an e-mail that says something like, “Please find an updated copy of my materials” and leave it at that. You don’t need to draw attention to the mistakes you made, but if you can correct them and give the potential employer an error free copy, even better.
What if you make a mistake during an interview? It happens to the best of us. If this happens to you, you can try to redirect an answer to another question back to the one you felt you didn’t nail. Or, if you leave an interview and feel that you didn’t elaborate enough on an answer, or didn’t convey your experience adequately, you can include some brief thoughts in a thank you note. Try not to dwell on these mistakes because often times we are harder on ourselves than our interviewer is on us.
Remind yourself that, as a human, you are bound to make a mistake or two. More often than not, things work out in the end. My friend Eric is a great example of that.