One of your top-choice firms is coming to your campus and you’ve secured an interview. You’re dressed to impress and ready to sit down across from one of their partners or associates and sell them on your potential as a future star attorney.
You’re ready—but there’s one surprising part of the process for which you may not have adequately prepared. The hospitality suite where the firm’s recruiters and associates are standing by to offer you conversation, refreshments, and maybe a firm-branded pen or phone charger is another essential component of your first round interview. As veterans of many hospitality suites, we’d like to share our dos and don’ts to help you make your visit a totally suite experience.
DO stop by a firm’s suite before your scheduled interview.
We recommend visiting a firm’s suite prior to your interview if your schedule allows. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the firm’s profile and values and arm yourself with the information you need to ace the interview. You should plan to spend about 30 minutes maximum in a suite. Remember that the interview itself may be on a different floor or in a different building altogether, so make sure to leave yourself enough time to get there without being late.
DO use this opportunity to learn about the firm’s culture.
The hospitality suite is your chance to learn about a firm’s culture. There will likely be recruiters, associates, and current summer associates in each suite, and talking to them is an invaluable source of information about what working at the firm is really like, as well as about the type of lawyer who succeeds there.
We recommend introducing yourself and briefly stating your interest in the firm, then asking open-ended questions (about their area of practice, recent matters on which they’ve worked, etc.). Some of the associates may be graduates of your law school, so it may be easiest to break the ice by talking about those shared experiences (favorite classes, professors, etc.).
If not, the right open-ended questions can give you a lot of information. How did you choose this firm? What made you decide to be a litigator? What kinds of matters have you been working on? You’ll come away much better informed—and more prepared for your interview.
DON’T be nervous – we’re there to meet you!
Walking into a room where you don’t know anyone can feel, well, awkward. But it doesn’t have to be. The suite is there so we can meet candidates like you, so please don’t feel shy about coming in to meet with us. Just walk in, tell us your name, let us know you’re interested in the firm, and we’ll be talking like old friends in minutes.
If you and a friend are both interviewing with the same firm, you may be tempted to go to the suite together. This is fine, but make sure you can operate separately, with your own questions. You’re preparing to have two separate careers, and it’s important that you ask the questions that make the most sense for you. We’re also looking for candidates who are mature and sophisticated enough to hold their own with partners and clients. If you seem to be clinging to another student, we’re more likely to have reservations about your ability to do just that.
DON’T forget that this is an interview.
Remember that everything that happens in the hospitality suite is a component of your interview. You should speak and behave as you would in an interview setting—especially because you don’t always know who’s listening. (Partners conducting interviews, for example, will often stop by the suite during their breaks to get coffee.)
You want to be relaxed and confident, but not too comfortable. For example, the suite isn’t a good place for you to charge your phone or catch up on your reading. A good rule of thumb: ask yourself if the hospitality suite is the only place you can do the activity you’re thinking of doing. It’s the only place you can have conversations with associates from the firm or make a positive conversational impression on a recruiter. Many law schools will reserve dedicated space for students during their on campus interview program: use that space to attend to any personal business.
DO keep your goals in mind.
It helps to enter a firm’s suite with a goal in mind. We think a great goal for students is to have brief, positive interactions with 2 to 4 people from each firm in which they are interested. Make sure you don’t ask about anything that you can easily find on the firm’s website or in their recruiting brochure—save the questions about where the firm has offices or its core practice areas. Remember that your goal is to learn the behind-the-scenes culture of the firm: what motivates its staff and lawyers, what they’re proud of, and where they’re headed in the future.
DO recognize that recruiters can impact your candidacy.
While your on-campus interview with a partner or associate should be your primary focus, you may not realize how important your interactions with recruiters and associates in the suite can be. When lawyers are on the fence about a candidate, they often ask us for our impressions of them. You want us to remember you and say that we were impressed by your credentials and enthusiasm.
DO remember to be respectful.
The on-campus interview process can be nerve-wracking for even the most composed student, but that’s no excuse to forget your manners! Always remember to treat the hospitality suite with respect—it’s not a grocery store or supply closet. Feel free to eat some food, have a beverage, or pick up some of the “swag” on offer. Don’t fill your bag with cookies to eat later or Freshfields-branded fidget spinners to re-gift to friends and family.
There’s also no need to hide who else you’re meeting with that day. We know that you’re likely meeting with a number of other firms. Remember to be respectful when discussing them, though. Don’t take calls from other firms’ recruiters in front of us, or comment positively or negatively on what’s being offered in other suites.
This last one goes without saying, but don’t come in the room to ask what free items or refreshments we have without making any attempt to learn more about the firm or show genuine interest in working with us. Even if a firm isn’t at the top of your list now, you may want to join them down the road as a lateral associate or find yourself working with them across the table. Either way, always bear in mind that you’re making a critical career decision—don’t jeopardize it to get a free pen.
DON’T be afraid to ask for a last-minute interview.
What if you weren’t able to get an interview with one of your top choice firms? You still have a chance.
Arrive at the suite early in the day. (That doesn’t mean you should be waiting there at 8:59am when the recruiter opens the door; wait a few minutes.) Explain that you’re genuinely interested in interviewing with the firm but weren’t selected and that you’d love an interview opportunity if a slot becomes available. Make sure you have copies of your materials ready to leave behind with your contact information clearly noted.
Once you do that, be sure to check your phone and email regularly throughout the day. There are no guarantees, but if we are impressed with a candidate, we will often ask a partner or associate to adjust their jam-packed schedule to meet with a last-minute applicant. Feel free to check in that afternoon if you haven’t heard anything—again, be brief, enthusiastic, and genuine, and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Are you a 3L? There’s no need to let that shake your confidence. Just explain your situation to us and ask if we have availability for 3Ls. We’ll give you a candid answer. Remember, it’s in our best interests as well as yours to be honest about our recruitment needs.
The on-campus interview process can be overwhelming, but it’s also by far our favorite time of year. We hope you find this article helpful and that we’ll get to meet many of you in person this August. See you in the suite!