To Land a Job Offer, Mirror the Behaviors of Successful Professionals

From Mary Crane (, who conducts our 1L Etiquette Dinners.

In recent surveys hiring managers have cited “cultural fit” as among the most important factors they use to decide which job candidates to hire.

If you wish to land a job offer before summer’s end, then you must use the next several weeks to create an impression that you “fit.” Established professionals should be able to imagine a future in which they look forward to coming into the office, rolling up their proverbial sleeves, and tackling big projects while working next to and with you.

Whenever you act in a manner that is consistent with a prospective employer’s overall goals and core values, you demonstrate “cultural fit.” You can further accomplish this objective simply by mirroring the behaviors of key professionals in the following ways:

Craft email responses that mirror the sender’s tone and interests
Earlier this year, two Stanford University Business School professors reported on research in which they examined email exchanges among more than 500 full-time employees of a tech company. They focused on 64 categories of language style including expressions of positive emotion, use of concrete imagery, and curses. After going through more than ten million internal messages, the researchers reached this conclusion: new hires who survive and thrive in an organization use language like that of their coworkers.

Throughout the remainder of this summer, before you dash off a response to an internal email, review the original message paying close attention to tone and word choice. Then craft your response accordingly.

Specific factors to consider include:

  • When an email incorporates bullet points, write a reply that is short and succinct. Think bottom-line orientation and respond with the one or two most important facts that must be conveyed. Consider embedding your responses into the original message using a different color font.
  • Look for action verbs. If the sender of an email uses lots of them, delete passive language from your response.
  • When an email begins with a friendly, personal statement like, “I hope you had some time to catch your breath over the weekend,” respond in kind. Craft an email that is cordial and professional. You might start by typing, “Thanks for asking about my weekend. I spent a big chunk of Saturday working on a brief, and that put me ahead of the curve. As of this morning, I’m giving 100 percent of my attention to your assignment.”
  • When an email originates from someone who you know to be data- and detail-oriented, immediately attach relevant supporting documents to your email response. For example, you might write, “I’ve attached the section of the memo that you asked me to draft. In addition, I’ve attached the three cases that I cite in the last paragraph.” The extra information will resonate with the recipient who wants more rather than less.

Dress for the job you want
Among most of my clients, business-casual attire has long been acceptable for summer hires. As the temperature starts to climb, don’t assume that these policies invite you to dress solely with personal comfort in mind. Instead, carefully observe the most successful 4th and 5th year associates with whom you are working and mirror their dress.

Even if you can count on one hand the number of times that you’ve seen a mid-level associate wear a suit to work this summer, plan for contingencies by stashing a just-in-case suit (something like an interview outfit) in your office. Should a partner unexpectedly invite you to a courtroom appearance or to a client event, in minutes, you can change from business-casual attire to more appropriate business-conservative attire. Additionally, this backup outfit can become a lifesaver should you experience a lunchtime dining catastrophe.

As you continue to prepare to make the transition from school to work, start thinking about creating a “look” that consistently works for you. The following article offers some helpful suggestions: “How to Perfect the Art of a Work Uniform”  (New York Times, June 5, 2017). Women summer hires may also appreciate “A Primer on Power Dressing from ‘House of Cards’” (New York Times, June 8, 2017).

Mirror your host or hostess throughout business meals
If you’re like most summer associates, you will dine out more during the next few weeks than you will throughout the remainder of the year. Of course you should know some basic rules of dining etiquette. You won’t go wrong, however, if you simply mirror the actions of the person who invited you to lunch or dinner.

At business meals, keep the following mirroring concepts in mind:

  • When you head to lunch or dinner on a steamy July day, before you remove your blazer, jacket, sweater, or any other cover-up, observe your host or hostess. If that person continues to wear a suit coat, jacket, or other cover-up throughout a meal, then you should mirror their behavior. Likewise, if your host or hostess says, “It must be 101 in the shade today. Let’s ditch these jackets,” then you have permission to relax your appearance.
  • Mirror the number of courses that your host or hostess orders. If he or she orders an appetizer and an entrée, then you should do the same … even if you’re not feeling particularly hungry. (In this case, consider ordering two appetizers and ask waitstaff to bring one as your entrée.) Similarly, even when you feel half starved, if your host or hostess orders only an entrée, you should do the same. (You can always grab a snack later in the afternoon.)
  • With regards to table conversation, mirror the interests of your host or hostess. If the partner with whom you are dining appears to be solely focused on the status of current projects and tasks at hand, be prepared to discuss those matters. When a host or hostess expresses an interest in exploring your personal and professional goals, be prepared to talk about your ambitions as well as the areas of the law that fascinate you most.