Among other things, a callback interview is an opportunity for you to make a personal connection with your interviewers, such that they think they would like to have you as a colleague (or subordinate). Here is what you should do as soon as you are led into an interviewer’s office (so, obviously this tip is for callback interviews only). Even before the interviewer shakes your hand. You should quickly scan the office with your eyeballs and take a mental inventory of what you see. Of course, be discreet about it . . . . . no one likes shifty eyed law students. Nobody.
You might see a framed photo of the interviewer’s family at a vacation in a place you recognize as St. John, US Virgin Islands. Or you might see a framed artwork or photography by a famous painter or photographer that you recognize. Or you might see a sticker for PETA, ACLU, New England Patriots, Republican National Committee, Sea World, University of Michigan, whatever. Maybe there is a copy of The Dreams of My Father on the bookshelf.
In every interview, there is an opportunity to engage in a small talk at the very beginning as you walk in, shake hands, sit and settle down. It often is about mundane stuff like the weather, interviewing experience, law school, and so on. If that is all you talked about, you have wasted a golden opportunity.
As you are probably aware, any halfway decent used car salesperson tries to establish rapport with his/her victim, uh, I mean, customer before launching into his or her painful sales pitch. Why? Because if the customer feels like s/he has a sincere connection with the salesperson and therefore trusts (or at least has a warm and fuzzy feeling about) the salesperson to some degree, making the sale would be that much easier. That’s a basic sales tactic. See, learn something from a sleazy used car salesperson.
Same concept here – you are not selling a product or service in an interview, but you surely are selling yourself. Right?
How can you establish instant rapport better than talking about something the interviewer obviously loves? Maybe you guys have something in common. For example, if you see the interviewer’s Golden Retriever in a photo and you had one as a pet growing up, that is an awesome topic. Or if you see a Patriots hat and other paraphernalia on the interviewer’s cabinet, and you are a big Patriots fan, you owe it to yourself to gush about the team. And, if all else fails, everyone likes to hear how beautiful their kids look (but probably not how beautiful or handsome their significant other is . . . . .).
Remember, you have to prime the interviewer – you need him/her to have an inexplicable feeling of “gee, I like this kid, and I don’t know why” about you at the outset of the interview. If they like you, anything you say would sound great to them. Okay, almost.
TL;DR, Immediately find something in the office that obviously makes the interviewer feel good, and talk about that first. It’s a little awkward or unnatural to segue into a seemingly frivolous and casual (and a bit personal) topic such as this if you miss the golden opportunity when you first sit down (but still fine to do it later if you do it right). This psychological tactic works wonders in sales and negotiations, and it will work in interviews if you deploy it correctly.