Friday, July 25, 2008

On Campus Interviewing: Are You Ready?

Before you know it, anxious and bright law students will knock on doors to greet various firm representatives for OCI (on campus interviewing).  Some OCI starts as early as mid-August.  We're already reviewing resumes at HP's firm.  We will get into OCI tips for your behavior/attitude, but here's a list of the top 10 things you should know about OCI:  

10.  Most firms have preferred schools.  If a firm sends a representative to your school (as opposed to collecting resumes), your school is probably on the firm's preferred list.  This relates to the school's prestige, quality of students, past summers and associates who have matriculated at firm ("feeder" school).  Some firms have particular feeder schools for particular areas of the country.

9. Cover letters, resumes, transcripts and writing samples are generally requested. Do us a favor and fix any mail merge letters.  Every year I get one that is referring to another law firm.  Sloppy. Yes, that does disqualify you when I am reviewing resumes.

8. Even though we ask for resumes, transcripts, cover letters, etc., we typically review them VERY quickly. I'd say each applicant might get a minute, tops when we are picking which candidates we will screen.  The person interviewing you is supposed to spend a few minutes getting familiar with the resume and jotting down questions based on your experiences.

7. We select resumes on the obvious: grades, journals, moot court. Different firms have different cut offs for different schools.  For Harvard it may be top 50 percent of class.  For other schools, it may be top 10 percent.  I can go outside the limits if there's something to "add."  For instance, this person is at 20 percent of class, but made law review and has an internship at the DA's office.

6.   I look at undergraduate school and performance there.  This HP likes to see honors. 

5. I am also selecting based on possible "fit" for the applicable office.  For some places, you really need a connection to the city. For others, not so important.  In some firms, the office may be looking for a hire in a particular department.  If litigation is not hiring and you want litigation, you probably won't get an interview.

4. Don't take it too personally. As I mentioned, we don't analyze the resumes for hours; just a review.  We may think one person is a potential "fit" and another is not; maybe you spent 2 years after law school in City X and your classmate only spent 3 months.   Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why your friend got an interview and you did not.  

3. Please do some research on the firms.  I know it is hard to learn about so many different places, or maybe they all sound alike, but you should know some basic facts.  And, you are so lucky these days to have so much information -- Firm websites, Google, etc.  All HP had was Lexis and NALP forms (and informal chats).  Check the news releases on the firms' websites, that will help.

2. If you find out in advance who will be interviewing, read that person's biography.  Google them.  That way, when you get to the part of the interview where they ask you "any questions," you can ask them about their pro bono case, or how they got involved in the XYZ board, or the firm committee.  We like this, it shows you put effort in and prepared.  It doesn't have to do with you sucking up to us, it demonstrates that you would similarly prepare for a client meeting or presentation.  

1. Be prepared to speak about something substantive.  If you had a law-related job your first summer or at some other point, you could talk about a motion you drafted, or a court proceeding you observed/assisted.  Good interviewers will try to see if you can discuss a substantive matter articulately.

And drooling!


Anonymous said...

great post. HP, what do you look for in a cover letter?

Anonymous said...

Quick question. I'm a rising 3L at a top 20 school. My second semester in Law school I got a D from a visiting professor. Other than that I have a 3.8, however due to this single grade my CUM is 3.43 (Up from a 3.0 after first year). When reading resumes and transcripts is this something that will get picked up, or will my resume generally get tossed out for missing the cutoff?

Hiring Partner said...

To Anonymous 6:30am July 28:

- It depends on the firm, the reviewer, if they have a particular need in an area you have experience, etc. At some firms, not meeting cut off is death. But, you are at a top 20 school and now have a 3.43 cumulative average, which sounds pretty decent. Don't harp on the single grade. I know it stinks, but it happens (esp. with the visiting professors). I wouldn't bring it up; people may not even notice. But if someone wants to be a bankruptcy lawyer and I see they got a D in bankruptcy, it would give me pause. I'd pass.

Remember, don't whine about the grade. You have good stats, stress the positive - your work experience, journals if you have, anything else. Hold your head high and be positive.

- Your problem is the economy and market. 3L hiring is hard in normal markets, but in this increasingly more difficult one, you are going to have to spread the resume wide, and network.
I have seen very marginal candidates get jobs because the fit a niche --is there a niche that you could fit based upon your experiences.

-- you might want to take a look at some legal recruiter websites to see what areas are hot now -- areas where they have several positions -- that will indicate where there is a need. But make sure it is something you are interested in and could be good at. Even if a firm is hiring for ERISA, say, if you have no interest, keep looking.

Good luck!

- We will discuss networking in more detail in a separate post. HP has been busy.

Anonymous said...

Great and helpful blog, HP.

I'm a 2L that is going through OCI last month and I am really wrestling with a question, silly and stupid as it may be.

I have a goatee. It's who I am. Is facial hair an automatic ding or a detriment? Now obviously for professional reasons, I can and will shave without problem for the interviews, but I like the way I am. My great fear is that I shave for the interview process, get an offer, then grow it back over the course of the school year and show up with it during the summer. It feels like I am "tricking" the firm.

Any advice would be awesome. I really am obsessing over this minor point, but I can't help it.

Anonymous said...

My liberal arts college didn't issue honors designations. Will this hurt me?