The On-Campus Interview: Get In, Get Out, Get Called Back
For many law students across the country, ‘tis the season—not of summer Fridays and beach trips, but of the on-campus interview program. OCI, as it is called at many schools, provides students the opportunity to interview for summer associate positions with multiple law firms over the course of a few days. While each law school runs its interview program a bit differently, there are a few things you can do to maximize your OCI success.
Keep your eye on the prize. There is only one goal of an on-campus interview: to receive a callback from the firm. A callback interview, which takes place at the firm’s office and consists of interviews with several partners and associates, is the next (and final) step in obtaining an offer to join the firm as a summer associate. Even if a firm is not your first choice, your goal is to get a callback interview. As you may have heard, the economy isn’t doing too well, and law firms have become more selective than ever. In order to be in the best possible position to receive an offer of employment from a firm you like, you should aim to receive as many callbacks as possible. This means that everything you say during the interview should communicate that you would be absolutely thrilled to accept a position at the firm.
Do your research. Even though on-campus interviews generally last only twenty minutes, you should prepare for them as you would a full-length interview. Besides making sure you know how to pronounce the firm’s name (Georgetown Law has a handy pronunciation guide on its site), take the time to read its website. Find out about its locations and practice areas, read some of its recent press releases, and look up information on the structure of its summer program. Vault’s law firm profiles contain the most important information you’ll need to know in an interview, including office locations, practice areas and recent news. If the firm has sent you the name of the person who will be interviewing you in advance, look up his or her biography on the website and know what type of law he or she practices.
Practice. Here’s some good news: many hiring attorneys ask the same questions during on-campus interviews. The most common questions you’ll receive are: Why did you go to law school? What has been your favorite class in law school and why? Why do you want to work at this firm? What practice areas are you interested in? The answer to these questions is never, “I don’t know.” If you’re not sure what area of law you’re interested in, research different possibilities and pick the one that sounds best to you: no one is going to hold you to the area of interest you expressed during an on-campus interview, and having goals and direction always sounds better than the alternative. (The exception to this is if a firm interviews for specific practice areas—then you’ll want to be sure before committing to a specialty.) Also, take time before each interview to come up with a specific answer for why you are interested in the firm, such as its renowned securities practice or its incredible formal training opportunities (again, Vault’s firm profiles contain all of this information).
Know your resume. You never know which resume bullet your interviewer will latch onto. Be prepared to talk about everything on your resume from study abroad to fraternity life—and if you don’t want to talk about it, take it off your resume. Also, be ready to substantively discuss your writing sample, any articles you’ve worked on for a law review or journal, and at least one project you worked on during your 1L summer job.
Have questions prepared—but not the wrong questions. Nearly all of your interviewers will leave time at the end for your questions, and you should always have at least one prepared. Appropriate topics for questions include substantive logistics of the summer program (how work is assigned, whether more than one practice area can be explored), a question about the practice area you are interested in, or a question about the interviewer’s own practice. Inappropriate topics include anything non-substantive about the summer program (how many weeks it runs, whether you can take vacation during it, what kind of events it includes, what the salary is, whether the firm helps find housing) as well as anything that could yield a negative answer (e.g., how many hours do you work?).
Have some common sense. Don’t take any risks during on-campus interviews. Arrive at your interview early (but don’t knock on the door until the time of your interview). Dress conservatively, neatly and professionally.
Now, go get those callbacks—good luck!
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