Surviving On Campus Interviews: Tips to Ace Your Callback Interview

Law Firm Interviews

It’s almost OCI time, so today we are excited to welcome back Peter from Law Firm Interviews with a follow up to his first article, Dealing with Adverse Facts During Interviews in the Surviving On Campus Interview Series. Today he is sharing tips to ace your callback interview. 

Welcome back, Peter!

I was at a cocktail party at the firm last night, and chatted with a few people, one partner, a couple of mid-levels, and a senior associate, about the folks they’ve been interviewing over the past few days. What they said reminded me to write this article.
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Law Firm Hiring Partners Talk About What They’re Looking For

Are you interviewing for summer associate jobs? If so, I strongly suggest you watch this Bloomberg Law video series. (And I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Trust me, I’m the low man on the totem pole here — the rest of the guests are seriously impressive BigLaw hiring partners and such.)

All total, they run about half an hour, but I pretty much guarantee you’ll learn something useful!

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7 Ways to Stay Sane During OCI

Note cardsAugust is here, which can only mean one thing — the annual craziness of on-campus interviewing is about to begin!

For the uninitiated, OCI is how most law firm summer associate positions are handed out. Students interview en masse before classes start, often in a hotel or set of on-campus conference rooms. In one day, you might do 10 or more screening interviews, with an eye towards getting to the all-important callback stage (which requires another day of interviews, on site in the office you’re interested in).

Every school is different, of course, but — in my experience — OCI was alternately boring, stressful, frantic, and exhausting. Not to say there weren’t some good parts, but the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming!

Therefore, I offer you seven tips for maintaining your sanity during the OCI craziness:

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What’s Your Elevator Pitch?

ElevatorWith classes starting soon and interviewing looming for summer associate positions and clerkships, I figured this would be a good time to bring up a sensitive topic: the elevator pitch.

Somehow, law students (and lawyers) have gotten the idea that it’s unseemly to have a straightforward answer to a simple question: What kind of work are you interested in doing?

This attitude is crazy! If you don’t know what you want (or you’re reluctant to discuss it), how can anyone help you? People need to know what you’re looking for, and you need to be prepared to tell them.

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How to Conduct Great Informational Interviews #4: What Did You Learn?

NotesWhile the informational interview is fresh in your mind, take the time to record your impressions.

Include a brief description of:

  • what the interviewee does in an average day at work
  • the details of their work environment
  • what you would like and dislike about this particular job

If the person you spoke with warned you away from their field, or from being a lawyer in general, include the reasons they offered for this opinion.

Look for Common Themes

Your goal with informational interviews should be to try to tease out common themes.
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How to Conduct Great Informational Interviews #3: Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

BusinesswomanBefore you arrive for your informational interview, it’s useful to think about what knowledge you would like to gain from the experience and come up with a basic list of questions you’d like to ask.

What’s the Point of an Informational Interview, Anyway?

Your goal is to get a good overview of what the person you’re talking with does on a daily basis, and their opinion on the pros and cons of their job.

Useful Questions to Ask

Typically, you’ll want to ask some of the following:
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How to Conduct Great Informational Interviews #2: Request an Informational Interview

Phone of cansOnce you’ve identified your target interviewees, it’s time to reach out and ask each of them to meet with you and share their experiences.

Example Script for Requesting Informational Interviews

Here’s a basic script to follow, for a phone or email request:
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How to Conduct Great Informational Interviews #1: Identify Your Target Interviewee

CirclesIt can be intimidating to think about calling or emailing a complete stranger and asking them to meet with you. Keep in mind, however, that most people love to talk about themselves, and will often be quite flattered that you have an interest in meeting them.

Think About People You Already Know

One of the easiest places to start is with people you already know.
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Rock OCI and Get the Job You Want: Interview Tips

Photo of Questions MarksCongratulations, you’ve got an on campus interview! Let’s get you prepared.

Common Summer Associate Interview Questions

Luckily, most summer associate interview questions are softballs, as long as you’re sufficiently prepared. The interviews are short, and the interviewer is tasked primarily with figuring out whether you’re sincerely interested in the firm, and whether you’d be a good fit. Consequently, he’s probably asking everyone the same basic questions, and any detours will arise from interesting elements of your résumé, so you have some control over what will be discussed.

The Easy Questions

Here’s what you’re likely to be asked in an on campus interview:

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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?

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