The on-campus interviewing season is here! While the end of summer vacation may bring a sense of dread to many, it is also a time for 2L law students to get excited about selecting a great place to start a legal career. We also know navigating the on-campus interview and in-office callback process can sometimes feel overwhelming and nerve-wracking, however, the following tips will help prepare you for smooth sailing through this unique hiring process.
On-Campus Interview: Make A Great First Impression
Think of the on-campus interview as your first chance to make a lasting impression. You will have a limited amount of time (typically about 20 minutes) with an interviewer from a firm. You should be sure to maximize the exchange of information during this short meeting—the more you learn about the firm and the more the firm learns about you, the better. For both the interviewers and candidates, the on-campus interview day can be long and somewhat of a blur. Make sure that you set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool by making the best first impression possible.
On-Campus Interview: Do Your Homework
One way to set yourself apart, stand out, and make a good impression at the on-campus interview is to come prepared. Think about what is important to you in a firm, and gather as much information about the firms you are interviewing with in advance of your interview. Consider the firm history, culture, and recent accolades. Most firms highlight this information on their websites. Don’t focus on researching the campus interviewer, as they often change due to client demands. Show your interest in the firm by being knowledgeable about the firms you are interviewing with. This will make for a smoother, more successful process, and the interviewers will be impressed with your interest and knowledge about their firm. Additional topics you should research include:
- Firm location(s)
- Office size(s) and size of the summer program in the office locations you are interested in
- Primary practice areas in each location
- Does the Summer Program offer a rotation across practices?
On-Campus Interview: Stand Out from the Crowd
Interviewing is an art. Nerves are a normal part of interviewing and are to be expected. Trust us; the best thing to remember is to BE YOURSELF!
The inevitable question “Tell me about yourself” is bound to be asked, and you should be prepared to answer in a succinct, yet personable manner that sheds light on the journey you’ve taken to get you where you are today. To shake off any pre-interview jitters, practice presenting your “elevator pitch” to your family and friends until it feels natural.
On-Campus Interview: Prepare your Elevator Pitch
If you found yourself in an elevator with a firm’s hiring manager and had only 30-seconds, how would you present yourself?
Introduce yourself; give a brief background of your experience, education, and what you are looking for in a position. If you are interested in a particular practice area, explain why. If you are undecided, that is okay too. You can focus on why you went to law school or reflect on your past work experiences.
Try imagining the roles reversed—if you were the hiring manager and found yourself in an elevator with a candidate who wants to work for you, what would you need to know to decide if you want that person to join your team?
On-Campus Interview: To Thank or Not To Thank
When should you follow up with your on-campus interviewer? Should you send a hand-written or electronic thank you note?
The good news is, most law firms make callback decisions quickly. Typically, you will hear back from a firm within a few business days. If you don’t hear from a firm within a week, you should feel free to email the firm’s recruiting department to inquire about the status of your application.
Many students choose to send thank you notes following their screening interviews. While this is a thoughtful gesture, keep in mind your on-campus interview meets dozens of students, and an email from every applicant may overwhelm an inbox!
The Callback Interview: Scheduling, Travel and Preparation
Congratulations on receiving a callback interview!
Try to schedule callback interviews with various firms during the same trip together. Check with the firm’s recruiting department about their travel recommendations before booking your travel if necessary. Firms often share the cost of your travel expenses, and grouping interviews can help reduce cost and save you time.
The callback interview typically consists of two to three hours of interviews with a mix of partners and associates, usually from a variety of different practice areas at the firm. If you are interested in a particular practice area, be sure to let the recruiting department know so they can try to match your interests with interviewers in that same practice area. It’s okay to be undecided as to practice area interest! Many firms have a broad practice and look for students who are flexible with varying interests.
Schedule your callback interviews as you receive them—interview slots tend to fill up quickly, and if you need to reschedule, contact the recruiting department immediately. Again, to prepare for your callback interviews, focus on the firm’s practice areas and any information you can find online about recent news, verdicts, and deals, rather than the individual interviewers on your schedule, as interviewers will continue to shift to accommodate a firm’s business needs.
The Callback Interview: Have I Said This Already?
You’ve found yourself in the office of your potential future employer, and now you blank on what more you can say. You can expect some of the same questions asked during the screening interview, but be prepared to provide more details and examples. Your goal here is to demonstrate yourself as personable, confident, motivated, and interested in the firm. This is also the chance for more people at the firm to learn about you, your professional accomplishments and goals, as well as who you are outside of the professional world. You are introducing yourself not only as a future employee of the firm, but also as a potential colleague to these interviewers—are you somebody they would enjoy working with?
Remember to research the firm you are interviewing with, not the interviewer. Last-minute scheduling changes happen frequently. If you are prepared to ask thoughtful questions about the firm and practice generally, you will be prepared regardless of the interviewer.
Research more than just the firm’s website for information. Reach out to law school alumni at the firms you are interested in to gain an inside perspective. Check out Vault, Chambers Associate, and other websites for additional information about law firms.
There is usually time for you to ask questions and your interviewer will likely encourage you to ask questions. Be sure to have thoughtful substantive questions prepared! Try not to ask stock questions where the answer is easily found on the firm’s website; instead, focus on questions that will provide you with valuable insight not otherwise available.
Remember, these interviews are prime opportunities to learn more about the firm.
Some questions we suggest include:
- How did you decide which practice area to pursue?
- What made you (the interviewer) choose to work at the firm?
- What training and development programs are available to junior associates at the firm?
- How often do associates collaborate across practice areas and with other offices?
A Final Reminder…
Remember, this process is an excellent opportunity to learn about different firms, make connections, and speak with lawyers across various practice areas and geographic regions.
Interviewing is a two-way process; ask thoughtful questions about what matters most to you. In many ways, you are interviewing the firm as much as we are interviewing you.
We hope these tips will give you the confidence to rock any interview ahead. Good Luck!