Preparing for On-Campus Interviews
To see the employers who are interviewing your class year, just click on the OCI tab. On the right hand of the screen you will see a list of dates, and on the left hand side of the screen you will see the names of the firms participating in OCI. Scroll down the page to see the employers signed up to interview your class year. You can research the OCI employers any number of ways - at a minimum, make sure that you explore their websites directly, review the firm's NALP form, and run Google or other general searches on the employers' names. Make sure that you include the employers who are not coming on-campus to interview but have requested to receive materials from students who meet their hiring criteria (Resume Collect).
The Office of Career Services offers mock interviews in which a counselor will act as a legal employer and ask you interview questions which you will respond to as if in an actual interview. You will discuss answers, demeanor, etc. with the counselor after role-playing the interview. Mock interviews can be incredibly useful, both in helping you identify and address your individual interviewing weaknesses and in developing good answers to tough interview questions. Mock interviews will also help introduce you to the feel of a legal interview if all of your previous interviewing experience is in non-legal fields. No matter how comfortable you are with interviewing currently, we recommend that every student participating in OCI have a mock interview to polish their interviewing skills. Practice and preparation can't hurt, and it can make an incredible difference in how you present yourself to employers.
Good interview preparation involves much more than polishing up your resume, pressing your best suit, and getting a pep talk from your roommate. Preparing a resume and preparing to talk about your resume are two entirely different things. As you put together your resume, you craft concise descriptions of your education, employment, and other activities. Preparing to talk about your resume, on the other hand, means: 1) being thoroughly prepared to go into detail about every entry on your resume; and 2) thinking of concise and easy-to-tell stories about every entry on your resume that will emphasize your skills and experience for the position you are seeking.
And preparing for interviews means much more than preparing to talk about your resume. You will also need to be prepared to talk about topics that are not covered by your resume - your plans for the future, professional goals, etc. One of the most sensitive areas of interview preparation is thinking of ways to address any weaknesses in your resume or candidacy. And you will also need to research every employer you interview with and come up with a host of appropriate questions to ask during the interview.
Call or email the office to set up an appointment for a mock interview - 312.915.7160 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to meeting with you!
DISCUSSING YOUR RESUME IN INTERVIEWS
You should be fully prepared to discuss any entry on your resume in detail. If you have listed "drafted discovery requests" as a task that you undertook as a law clerk, you may be asked, "What kind of cases did you draft discovery for?" You will want to be prepared to answer intelligently - "I worked mostly on medical malpractice cases, so the interrogatories and document requests I drafted were largely about hospitals' practices and procedures." The last thing you want is to have to respond to this question with an "Ummmm" while you rack your brain for the details of cases for which you drafted discovery. Similarly, be prepared to summarize the key legal issues involved in any pleadings, briefs, or judicial options you mention having drafted. Being prepared to go into detail also means that you should go back and read any papers or publications you list on your resume, including your undergraduate thesis. If your interviewer is knowledgeable in the areas in which you have written or published, you want to be sure you can hold your own on a topic you may not have thought about for years.
In structured interview programs such as OCI, the initial phase consists of introductory or screening interviews. These interviews are usually short - only 20 or 30 minutes. Employers conduct 16-20 interviews in one day, and then select a small number of candidates who will be invited back to the firm for more lengthy interviews. Screening interviews are usually conducted by one or two attorneys from each employer.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that a screening interview is just a formality because you meet the employer's hiring criteria. Employers interview only candidates who meet their hiring criteria during this initial phase of interviewing and must choose among them. Beyond their hiring criteria, employers are looking for candidates who impress them as professional, intelligent, enthusiastic, capable, hard-working, easy to get along with, and interested in the employer.
Careful preparation for these types of interviews is essential because each candidate has such a short time in which to make a positive impression and distinguish himself or herself from other candidates. Before any screening interview, you should research the employer and identify areas of your background that make you a good fit for the position they are looking to fill. Make sure that you highlight these experiences in the screening interview.
You will need more questions prepared than you can possibly imagine to be able to keep interviews running smoothly when all the interviewer wants to do is answer your questions. Make sure that you are prepared to "run" an entire 30 minute interview if the interviewer just keeps saying to you, "What else can I tell you about the firm?"
Try to ask questions that will start a conversation, rather than those that have a quick, factual answer. Different questions are appropriate for attorneys at different levels - if you meet with the managing partner, asking questions about the firm's mission, plans for expansion, etc. are appropriate. When you meet with younger associates, asking about what they are currently working on, what their typical caseload is, what types of opportunities they've had for court time, client time, etc. are appropriate.
You may also want to think about questions that will turn the interviewer's attention to your resume. For example, you may have noticed that the firm just won a big securities case. If you saw a number of securities issues when you clerked for a judge this summer, you can say
"I noticed the decision on your website. I'm really interested in securities law issues because of the exposure I gained this summer while working for Judge . How large is the securities practice here?" Not only will you get an answer about the firm's securities practice, but hopefully the interviewer will follow up with a question about your experience with the Judge.
The second phase of a structured interview program is the call-back interview. Students who are viewed as strong candidates are invited to continue the interview process. You will most likely either be contacted by the attorney who conducted the screening interview (who will likely refer you to someone else for scheduling), or be directly contacted by the employer's recruiting coordinator. If you are interested in a particular area of practice, ask the person coordinating the interviews to schedule you to meet members who specialize in that area.
When choosing a date for your callback, try to schedule it as early in the hiring season as possible. Offers are generally extended on a rolling basis, so the earlier in the process you schedule your callback, the more open positions there are likely to be when you interview. You will also want to schedule only one callback interview per day. Each callback will require a lot of time, energy, and alertness.
A callback interview is usually a lengthy session which may last from several hours to a full day, and usually takes place at the employer's office. Candidates frequently meet with several individuals in both formal and informal settings. It is not uncommon to be given a tour of the offices, meet with several partners and/or associates, and be taken to lunch. When you schedule your interview, ask how much time you should block off. You may inquire whether you will receive a schedule for the interview ahead of time. Some employers will send you a schedule of who you will be meeting with - an invaluable resource for researching your interviewers ahead of time!
Even if you felt well prepared for the screening interview, you will want to continue preparing before the callback interview. More in-depth research on the employer is a good idea. You will want to have a broad range of questions about the employer to ask during your callback, and research will help you ask informed questions. Not only will the answers to these questions help you determine if the employer is right for you, asking informed questions will demonstrate your genuine interest in the employer.
When will you hear about callbacks from the employers you've interviewed with? This varies widely from employer to employer. Some firms empower their on-campus interviewers to make callback decisions and can move very quickly; other employers can move very slowly. In general, expect to hear from employers anywhere from the day after your OCI interview to 2-3 weeks later. Most employers only contact the students they want to call back - so all you can really do is wait.
Keeping your energy up can be hard when you meet with 4-6 people for interviews and then have lunch with additional people from the firm! Make sure that you are well rested, well fed, and well prepared going into every callback so that you can stay enthusiastic and sociable for the duration.
Don't be afraid to ask more than one person the same question - as long as they aren't basic fact questions that you've already had answered by someone else. You can ask everyone on the schedule what their favorite thing about practicing at the firm is. In fact, getting both a partner and an associate perspective on, for example, a mentoring program can be valuable. You may ask a partner about what formal and informal structures the firm has in place to foster mentoring, and then ask an associate how the mentoring program has enhanced their time at the firm and development as an attorney.
For a comprehensive look at the interviewing process please review the following:
- How to Find a Job & Interviewing Advice
(Includes interview tips, questions to ask, and questions you may be asked)
- Preparing for the Most Common Types of Law Firm Interviewers
- After the Interview