Crush Your Patent Practitioner Interview

When it comes to landing the perfect job, there are a few rules that hold true for any industry. Naturally, the more specialized your focus, the more work you’ll need to put into your interview prep. If you’re aiming for a position as a patent agent or patent attorney, your prospective company will expect you to meet certain expectations from the moment you walk through the door. Like anything else in life, if you don’t nail it, there’s somebody else waiting in the wings.

To help you prepare for your upcoming patent agent or patent attorney interviews, take a look at these tips:

THE BASICS

In some respects, all interview preparation requires the same legwork before interview day arrives. Law firms, technology transfer offices (TTOs), and universities are no different than other employers in that, they still expect you to bring your best self to the table.

Rely on Your Research Skills

While this may sound like a point so obvious it doesn’t need to be stated, the unfortunate fact is that many candidates arrive at interviews without performing their due diligence. Because your future patent job will rely extensively on research, it won’t bode well for you if you’re unable to answer some of the simplest questions your interviewer is likely to ask you.

It’s common for people to fall into a trap, thinking they’ve spent so much time in school and doing their own research that they’ll nail the interview based on their skills and background.

It’s equally as common for people to fail interviews because they aren’t able to answer the simplest of questions. Sure, your interview is about selling yourself, but your interviewer wants to know what you can do for them.

You need to be able to adjust your answers to suit their specific needs. If you haven’t done your research, your replies will sound canned, and you’ll look like you’re going for any job someone will hire you for.

In order to avoid that, follow these tips:

  • Learn about the partners or leaders in the organization.
  • Understand the company’s current successes and struggles. How would you contribute to getting a problematic project back on track?
  • Read reviews on Glassdoor, explore Martindale-Hubbell, and search for news releases and industry publications that will tell you more about the company’s culture and values. How do their goals align with your own?
  • Subscribe to industry publications. If you can easily talk about industry trends, problems competitors are facing, and current events, you’ll give yourself a leg up on the competition.

Network

Networking doesn’t happen over night, so it’s best to begin this part of your journey as soon as possible. If you’ve recently left a job in good standing, reach out to your former supervisors for letters of recommendation. If you’re just beginning your patent career, or if you don’t have stellar references from past employers, look toward LinkedIn.

  • Connect with those employees with whom you had a positive working relationship at prior employers.
  • Look for shared connections with people you know, and ask for introductions.
  • Reach out to people who hold the same or similar position at the company with which you’ll be interviewing. If they accept, start a conversation. Ask for insights about company culture or tips for completing a successful interview with the person or people with whom you’ll be speaking.
  • Join patent law groups where you can learn from other industry professionals and foster meaningful relationships. Groups specifically geared toward patent attorneys and patent agents are great places to connect with people and information that could bolster your career.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF INTERVIEWS

We no longer live in a world where you can expect to sit across the desk from the hiring manager, tell him or her about yourself, and get an offer letter in a few days. While that certainly does happen on occasion, interviewers have gotten far more creative in recent years.

Loyola University’s School of Law did a great job outlining some of the pros and cons of various legal interviewers’ styles. If you’re not prepared for any and all of them, you may find yourself in a situation wrought with embarrassing silence.

Here’s a look at some types of interviews you may encounter:

Structured Interviews

You might consider this the traditional interview style. In this situation, you may encounter an ice-breaker question about your drive or the weather — a question unrelated to the interview that’s just enough to settle you into your seat. He or she will likely tell you a little bit about the company and the specific position for which you’ve applied. Then he or she will hand the reigns over to you, and it will become your job to intertwine your experience with anything he or she just said.

It is imperative to listen closely and develop responses in your head as your interviewer is speaking. The more you’re able to customize your responses, the better impression you’ll leave on that person. When the interview is finished, expect to be asked if you have questions.

You should always have questions! Rehearse a series of questions long in advance of your interview, and even if your interviewer answers them as you go, ask him or her to expound upon them when the appropriate time comes.

Stress Interviews

As a patent professional, you may find yourself facing a stress interview. These interviews are designed to measure your demeanor during certain situations. This allows the interviewer to gauge how you handle stress and how you interact with others when things aren’t exactly going as planned. He or she may become distracted, appear indifferent to you, or engage in conversation that’s contrary to something he or she has already said.

Stress interviews are also known to include strange questions that are seemingly irrelevant to the position at play. If your interviewer goes this route, there’s really no way to prepare for the specific questions, as nothing is off the table, but if you can confidently explain your logic and articulately verbalize your take on the situation, you’ll make an impact on your interviewer. Typically, there are no correct answers to these questions.

It is imperative to stay focused and calm. Remember, this type of interview isn’t an accident, and the company is waiting to see how you react.

Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviews are among the most commonly administered interviews these days. The goal is to help the interviewer learn more about your past behavior so he or she can determine how your actions might impact his or her own firm in the future. To adequately answer these questions, you must be prepared to honestly discuss your past experiences. Call upon the S.T.A.R. method of interviewing, which employs the following aspects:

  • Situation – Describe the event or situation using specific details; do not generalize.
  • Task – Tell the interviewer about the goal you were trying to accomplish.
  • Action – This is when personal pronouns are important. What did you do to accomplish your goals? What role did you play to help your company succeed? In a behavioral interview, the word “I” is more important than the word “we.”
  • Result – Describe the outcome of the project, and take credit for your work where credit is due. Be sure to explain what you learned from the experience, as that will show your prospective employer you’re looking for ways to grow and better yourself as an employee.

In the end, every successful interview begins with great research. The more you know about the company for which you’re interviewing, the more confident you’ll be when you’re selling yourself to potential employers. While it’s true that a solid job search is often a job in and of itself, you’ll reap great rewards if you put in the work. An exciting career in patent law awaits you on the other side of your interview journey!

About the Author

Kristin B. is a professional content writer who focuses on human resource-related content. After a tedious job-search journey a few years ago, she employs her lessons learned to make the job quest easier for others.