Welcome to the madness that is the Fall Recruitment Program. Right about now, you're probably telling yourself that it's no big deal, you're a people person, how hard can interviewing be? Or you're crying, sweating like a pig, and breathing into a paper bag for fear of having to face yet another dead-eyed interviewer. We here at Nota Bene feel your pain, which is why we sent out the call in search of real advice for people going through OCI - beyond the usual tired gems of "wear a white shirt" and "don't talk about politics." Here is some real advice from real students - some of it funny, some contradictory, but all valuable in your search for a job.
How did you prepare for interviews?
"Everyone says, 'research the employer,' what the hell does that mean? It doesn't mean try to impress them with all your wondrous knowledge about their firm, sure that's good but not great. It means figure out for yourself what YOU want, what you're interested in, where you may want to be. Don't have a clue? Take a shot, the exercise itself helps you figure that out. Then do "research" about which firms fit your goals (read the website, talk to people you know, contact attorneys at the firm). As you learn more and try to figure out what really differentiates the firms (practice area, how they market themselves, what attorneys who leave go on to do, what type of talent they attract), then you'll probably identify areas where you want to learn more, not generally but specifically. The result is the ability to ask educated questions about the firm that communicate your thoroughness and actually yield answers you care about." - Eric, a 3L
"To prepare for my interviews, I researched the firms; made sure I had extra copies of my resume, transcript, and writing sample, and made sure my suits were clean and ironed." - Denise, a 3L
"I always went in with a cheat sheet - of things I really liked about a firm and questions I had for them. I had briefly reviewed the firms' websites and noted things I liked that made the firm stand out to me. Many of these were the same from firm to firm - e.g., 'I really like that X firm is a large, international law firm because there is such a wide variety of practice areas and significant resources and opportunities.' For callbacks, if I knew who I was meeting with I would also jot down notes about them - the type of work they do, anything I have in common with them, etc. After callbacks, I wrote down brief notes about what I talked about with each person so that I could personalize thank you cards." - Rebecca, a 3L
Did you actually research your employers? How?
"Research the employers online via google or bing in order to find out their key practice areas, philosophy on practicing law, imporatant clients, etc. Then, when they ask why you are interested in them you can use something that you found as a reason (beyond location). But, be sure that you give the right reason to the right employer!" - Tim, a 3L
"I didn't go too crazy with the research, but I definitely scoped out the firm's website; google'd them to see if anything interesting came up and also did some minimal research on my interviewer.... basic stuff like where the interviewer went to school, his/her practice area, etc. I also hit up NALP. And for students interviewing in this market, I would suggest checking Above the Law to see if the firm has been up to anything sneaky or anything that says 'a summer job or any is unlikely here.'" - Denise, a 3L
"I looked at the firm's website and googled the name of the firm." - Rebecca, a 3L
"I didn't research my employers until callbacks - I usually culled my information from what the interviewer said during their canned explanation of the firm and developed questions from there. Otherwise, most of the questions were about me and my resume, so I never felt the need to do anything in depth until I went to the firm itself." - Katie, a 3L
What NOT to wear
"A white shirt." - a 3L
"Girls should stay away from super short skirts... although it may get them a job, it probably won't be for the one they're interviewing for. I would also suggest staying away from super flashy shirts. On this one, the CDO is right - boring is probably the most effective." - Denise, a 3L
"Beyond the requisite suit, err on the side of what's conservative for you - you don't have to wear flats if three inch heels are your usual thing, but make sure they're not purple or something outrageous. And try to avoid obvious labels. You want to be remembered for your pleasant and artful conversation, not your $3,000 Louis Vuitton bag." - a 3L
"Avoid shoes that haven't been broken in." - Katie, a 3L
"If you're a girl with big boobs, don't wear a button-down shirt that gaps or stretches across your chest. And don't safety-pin it either, just get a new shirt for the love of God!" - a 3L
"Gray or blue suit. The only thing memorable should be your personality." - a law grad
"Don't wear colored nail polish - just wear clear or get a French manicure." - a 3L
What not to say
"So, tell me about your firm." "Sorry if I seem nervous, I'm just really hungover." "Do you guys have hot secretaries?" - a 3L
"What should I know about your firm?" - a 3L
"Use your common sense when it comes to conversation. Your job is to make the interviewer feel comfortable when talking to you and let them know that you'd be a nice, normal, hard-working addition to their firm. For example, don't feel constrained by the 'don't talk about politics' rule - but don't be weird either. Even if you think the interviewer is a bleed-blue Democrat or a die-hard Republican just like you, don't just assume that the interviewer swings your way - it's important to phrase your activities and beliefs in a diplomatic way, avoid making off-color jokes or snide comments about Congress, and keep your topics in the middle of the road. Think of it as 'politics-lite.'" - Katie, a 3L
What do you say when they ask "Do you have any questions?"
"It's ALWAYS a good idea to walk in with a couple of canned questions. I developed mine right after undergrad. Asking things like 'what are some the characteristics that [the firm] looks for in summer associates?' or 'what kind of projects do summers normally get?' are pretty standard and can at least get a conversation going. Also, asking questions of the interviewer can be very telling. For example, asking 'what's the best thing you like about working for the firm?' can be very revealing. Or students can ask straight out - 'what's the culture like at [the firm]?' I think having 3 or 4 canned questions can help if you're in a pinch and lacking on things to say or ask..." - Denise, a 3L
"Having good questions prepared is VERY important. I usually had a couple questions based on things I read on the website about the summer program or the practice groups (shows you've done your research). I also asked about things such as: how much interaction there is among the firm's offices; whether and how early the litigation associates specialize; what they wish they could change about the firm; how they see the firm changing over the next 5-10 years; affect of the economy on the firm; what attracted them to the firm; how are projects generally staffed; pros and cons of an office their size; and what the firm culture is like." - Rebecca, a 3L
"My favorite question is 'What is something that you wish you had known about your firm before you started there?'" - Katie, a 3L
How do you occupy your time between interviews?
"A bar. Seriously, relax and find something interesting to talk about with a friend, anything but law firm stuff. It gets your mind in the speaking mode while calming your nerves." - Eric, a 3L
"Hang out with the people who are not all stressed out and high strung. Go get lunch, compare law firm swag, or just relax. Ten minutes before an interview I would review my cheat sheet, freshen up, and go find the interview room." - Rebecca, a 3L
"I didn't have a whole lot of time in between my interviews, but I focused on getting rid of the sweat that had accumulated on the walk to the hotel and sucking down mints." - Denise, a 3L
"I tried to get a lot of my reading done in between interviews, but that didn't always work, so I usually kept a stash of trashy romance novels or magazines in my bag to take my mind off everything." - Katie, a 3L
What do you bring with you to interviews?
"Copies of my resume, transcript, writing sample, and the interviewer's bio if I could find it." - Denise, a 3L
"A Tide-pen, breath mints, extra pantyhose, band-aids." - Katie, a 3L
"A flask. Just kidding, I brought a bottle of water usually." - a 3L
Above all, NEVER do this _____.
"Hit on the interviewer. Bad idea. Trust me." - a 3L
"Lie." - a 3L
"Don't talk about other interviews, even when they ask you about them. Just deflect their question and distract them with a question about the firm." - a 3L
"Never ask a classmate how many interviews they have, where they're interviewing, what the interviewer asked, or any other obnoxious questions." - Katie, a 3L
"Never mention Above the Law. Ever." - a 3L
"Give up on an interview. Some may be awkward, some of the interviewers may not jive with your personality, but do everything you can to be charming, come off smart, and salvage what you can out of a failing interview. Also, I would avoid crying, begging, or resorting to inappropriate jokes about the 'bed' in the room..." - Denise, a 3L
How do you deal with an interviewer who's an asshole? Bored? Distracted?
"You will generally be interviewed by attorneys - not HR or recruiting staff. Some of the attorneys are really bad at interviewing. Occasionally they won't even ask you questions. Don't freak out - if you have one of these interviewers try to direct the conversation and highlight some of the impressive things from your resume and express your enthusiasm for the firm. Even if it isn't a typical interview, if you have a good conversation and they like you, you still have a good shot at getting a call back." - Rebecca, a 3L
"Same way that you deal with anyone who's a jerk - smile and move on. Ask more questions about them, see if they open up when talking about their situation. Otherwise, just listen carefully, smile, and try to relax - chances are, they're just not a people person, they might actually LIKE you and you wouldn't know it. So, don't give up on an interview just because it's getting challenging." - Katie, a 3L
"Smile, get through it, and then head to the hospitality suite after. See if you can find someone at the firm who ISN'T horrible and would like to chat with you." - a 3L
Do you have any stories from your recruitment that you'd like to share?
"I had one interview (and I know many of my peers who also had this experience) that just went really poorly. Both me and the interviewer realized in the first few minutes of the interview that the firm was not a good fit for me. After 10-15 minutes we had completely run out of things to say to one another. So I thanked the interviewer for his time and left early. I immediately crossed that firm off my list. While it sucks to have an interview go badly - even to the point of ending early - it's better to figure out during FRP that the firm is not a good fit then to figure it out after working there." - Rebecca, a 3L
"I went to a recruitment reception at Goodwin Proctor and was in a really good conversation with two attorneys when a summer associate joined the circle. At one point, I referred to the firm as 'Goodwin AND Proctor,' but rather than let it go by, the summer associate snidely pointed it out and said, 'Looks like you're not getting an offer, might want to do better research.' Without hesitation, I replied, 'And it sounds like your mom never taught you any manners.' I ended up getting an interview with them, though I didn't get an offer. I still don't regret that." - a 3L
"I used to think that people that got like 32 interviews out of 35 bids were jerks. I hated those guys. Until I realized that those people were screwed. The majority of the interviews take place in the first 2 weeks... so the people that get a ton of interviews are literally there all the time. And not only do they have to be there all the time, they have to be ON all the time. And that is tough. Interviewing is extremely draining, so be glad if you only get 5 or 6 interviews." - Denise, a 3L
What do you do after the interview?
"Take a breather. Replay the interview, then move on." - Denise, a 3L
"Avoid dissecting the interview word-by-word - your friends will thank you. This advice also applies to dates and doctor's appointments." - Katie, a 3L