The One Thing That Needs to Be on Your Résumé to Ace a Callback Interview (and It’s Probably Not What You Think)

CheeseWhen you sit down across from a law firm interviewer, she immediately starts trying to answer two questions:

  1. Is this a person I’d want to have in the room at 3 AM, when the pressure’s on?
  2. Is this someone I could introduce to a client without fearing for my job?

If you don’t get a “yes” for both of those questions, you’re unlikely to get the job.

But What About How Smart I Am?

Let’s differentiate between a first interview and a callback interview. If you’re at the initial interview stage, your perceived intelligence does matter. However, the screening mechanism here is your grades, not how smart you appear to be in an interview. Once you’ve reached the callback stage, you’ve already passed the “smart” test – otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten a callback. Now your task isn’t to appear smart, it’s to appear personable.

What Are Law Firms Really Looking For?

Basically, law firms are looking for someone they’d like to date, but can still take home to Mother. As an interviewee, you want to present yourself as solid and hard-working, easy to get along with, calm under pressure, and slightly, but not overly, interesting.

How do you do this?

The Most Important Section of Your Résumé

Well, it starts with your résumé. Without question, the most important section of your résumé from the interviewer’s standpoint is the final one — your outside interests. Having conducted tons of interviews with law students, I can tell you there’s nothing better than getting a résumé with a couple of interesting hobbies or travel experiences on it.

Consider the Interviewer’s Perspective

To understand why, you have to understand how the interview process works, from the inside.

To you, this interview is the most important part of your day, probably of your week. To me, the interviewer, it’s an extra thirty minutes of work that I can’t bill to anyone. It’s a hassle, and I’ve generally been guilted into it by one of the firm’s recruiters. Although someone sent me your résumé earlier, I probably haven’t looked at it. If I did look at it, it was for a couple of minutes while eating lunch or making coffee. In any case, my eyes glazed over when I read about your law school note and your undergraduate thesis project. I’m sure they’re great, but frankly I’d rather gash my eyes out than talk about them in any detail. Just as I’m starting to despair, however, I see the last line.

You’re interested in mountaineering, making cheese, and you speak Swahili?

Awesome! My day just got a lot better. I’ve got guaranteed topics of conversation that can easily fill the interview, and I might even learn something.

Definitely include a section of personal interests on your résumé, and be prepared to talk about whatever you list.

(Nothing is more annoying than asking someone who listed “cooking” as an interest what he likes to make, and having him respond that he doesn’t really cook but he’d like to learn. Hello? That was a softball question. You’re the one who put it on your résumé!)

What If My Hobbies are Boring?

If your only hobby is reading, well, you need to acquire some other hobbies. Or you need to get specific. You don’t just like to read, you like to read books about Renaissance History.

Great! I might not care about Renaissance History, but at least it gives us something to talk about.

The point of this section is to start a conversation and spice things up a bit, so we don’t have to spend half an hour discussing which law school classes you like best.

The Bottom Line

Give the interviewer something to work with, and things will go a lot more smoothly!

Master OCI and Get the Job You Want

Read on to get the information you need to get the summer associate position you want:

Return to Summer Jobs 101.

Have specific questions on law firm interviews? Leave them in the comments!

Image by bharska via stock.xchng.


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