Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Your Ideas

Hey gang.  

I feel like it is time to get some more input from you.  What questions do you have for HP .. please no more on thank you notes.

How can HP and other HPs make the interviewing and hiring experience better?

What was the best place you interviewed and why?  What really made a difference?  

Give me your insights.  Should we try to get on more blogrolls?  Other ideas for expanding our base?  


e. said...

Examples of questions well answered and badly answered -- what interviewers are looking for. What, in your experience, gets people a job?

Example: Nice interviewers don't ask the awful question "What is your greatest weakness?", but if they do, what are they looking for?

Anyone can answer any question, but what makes a good answer?

Anonymous said...

HP, any sense as to whether firms will be more likely to "no offer" 2Ls next summer, given the economy? Is your sense that firms have controlled at this point to maintain their historic rates, or are they maybe worried about having to "cut" more at the end of next summer?

Anonymous said...

What about the prospects for someone who wants to lateral from a non-federal clerkship? How does one go about that? (Let's just say for the sake of argument that I want to stay in the same city as my clerkship, and that the judge is well-respected in this city for his skill and diligence, and is known for working his clerks hard.) What tips can you give?

Anonymous said...

As far as how to make the process better- Please, oh please- no pre-interview dinner the night before. This forces us to come up with two really nice and separate interview outfits.While I do have multiple suits I wear, I usually wear a couple of the same pieces. Having to show up two days in a row looking completely different in both nice outfits really stretches our budgets. Isn't 5 hours a long enough interview without a 2 hour dinner the night before???

Anonymous said...

What attracted me to the firm I went with was that they were enthusiastic to get me. I received a callback the day after my OCI, and an offer the day after my callback. This was a HUGE draw. I'd rather work somewhere that really wants me, rather than a place that is acting like they are doing me a favor. While there are many great candidates out there, I feel like firms do a diservice to themselves to act snooty. It turns some of the better candidates off.

During my callback with this firm the associates and partners really let their hair down. It was a friendly conversation where we got to know each other, traded travel stories and shared laughter. Stiff interviewers who read off of a sheet are a huge turn off. Interviewers who have no personality and are unenthusiastic are a huge turn-off. I know of one firm that is not that great of a firm, but almost got several top notch candidates solely on their extremely enthusiastic on-campus interviewer.

During OCIs, I enjoyed interviews were it was a conversation more than an interrogation. I had a callback interview where I was grilled over every little detail of my resume. While this might be a tactic to see how I react under pressure, I walked out of the callback interview knowing I would never accept an offer from them. I was very interested in the firm going into the callback too. The interview was also I had to verify every piece of data on my resume. Strange to say the least. I know this wasn't something that was unique to me either, many others experienced this at this firm.

Another bad story, one OCI interviewer asked me the same question twice because he wasn't listening/paying attention. This wasn't unique to me...he did this to several people who ended up landing multiple offers from great firms.

I also realize that his isn't a buyers market right now, and I recognize I'm lucky to have a job; however, you asked for the good and the bad of OCI season, so here they are.

Most firm seem very similar on paper. Every little detail matters, because, as students, we'll draw conclusions from small details, just as you would draw conclusion from a small typo in a resume.

In terms of questions you can answer, I'd like an answer to whether you know roughly before the OCI who is getting a callback and who isn't. Also, I'd like to know whether we can expect lots of no-offers this season...

Anonymous said...

Good call-backs:

Met a representative sampling of people (i.e., senior partner, junior partner, senior associate, junior associate, both genders) in requested practice areas.

Was greeted by my OCI interviewer, or at least saw him at some point in the day.

Was offered a cab back to where I was staying.

Bad call-backs:

Had lunch alone with awkward senior partner rather than with two associates or at least partner-associate pair. Senior associate proceeded to talk politics at lunch.

Was quizzed on details of my writing sample problem.

Was left in waiting area for half an hour because the recruiting person who was to meet me couldn't make it and no one else felt the need to fill in.

Hadn't heard from a firm in over a month until I emailed them -- received a quick response that they are back-logged, as if this inspires confidence in their management after they told me they'd be back to me within two weeks.

Anonymous said...

I liked one firm I interviewed at far more than any others (and far more than I expected) because their HR person obviously read my resume very closely.

I shared an interest or had something in common with everyone I interviewed with. Sometimes the connection was pretty subtle/tenuous, but her effort was obvious and it totally paid off. I think that callback ended up going over like two hours because everyone was so easy to talk to. At the same time, to echo what others have said, it wasn't just a softball interview. They asked a lot of tough questions. I think those kind of interviews are much more satisfying.

Anyway, my question for you is -- How does one tactfully ask about a firm's financial stability and morale?

The firm I am thinking of has had kind of a rough year due to some notable partner defections and ominous legal troubles. Its probably not too hard to guess which firm this is. I really liked them though, so I want to bring it up without insulting anyone.

f-3 said...

Thanks for the input opportunity, HP.

I would like to request a post on what 3Ls should do next spring if their firms rescind offers, when it's too late to interview (it happened this past spring to a firm's Charlotte office). My firm seems to be OK now, but the recurring theme from this economy is "Who knows what will happen in 6 months?"

As for the good and the bad during OCI:

Turnoff: an interviewer who has not taken at least a few minutes to scan my resume before interviewing me. It shows lack of preparation and lack of interest.

Turnoff: recruiting attorneys who behave as if they are talking to their fraternity brothers / sorority sisters. I witnessed that first hand last year when attending a V10 firm reception, and right there I decided I was not going to work for the firm.

Turnoff: firms who spend too extravagantly on recruiting. Hard balance to strike (being cheap versus being careful with your money), but the more extravagant the firm is, the more I worry about its ability to manage its finances properly (and the number of unnecessary hours I will have to work to keep that up).

Turn-on: Proactive follow-up from the recruiter and interviewers after issuing the offer.

Turn-on: Interviewers who go beyond "How was your trip to Europe?" "Tell me about your rock-climbing." It makes me feel that the interviewer will choose candidates on purely subjective criteria. I know it's a subjective thing at the end of the day, but there should be some objective and professional evaluation also. Plus, if it's purely subjective, it does not give me faith about the rest of the people the firm hires. Contrary to 9:10 pm, I don't mind the interrogation actually, as long as it's done politely - it shows me the firm is careful, and it makes me feel that much better if I'm selected for a callback / offer.

Turn-on: Firms who show me a cross-section of people in terms of years at the firm, and in terms of personality. Last year for me, it came down to two mid-sized firms who showed me their people are not cookie-cutter types, even though I had an offer from a much more prestigious V30 firm. The V30 firm was very nice, and they have a reputation for being a well-managed firm. However, their people came across as being very homogenous in personality, and I finally declined.

Anonymous said...

Talk about laterals. What are you looking for from a mid-level (3-6 yr) candidate? Are grades still as important or does experience start to take over?

Anonymous said...

Following up on an earlier post re: feeling "wanted." I just accepted an offer from a larger firm after considering several others. Was amazed by the difference between being "recruited" and simply being "seen" by a firm. The firm I went was full of honest, decent people who took geniune interest in me...long before they knew they were going to make an offer. They had read my resume and asked me probing questions about school, work etc. Moreover, they they called me within an hour of my interview while I was still at the airport. They made it clear that they thought I was the right fit, had the right skills, etc. After that point (which was early in the process), I measured every other firm against those guys.

Meanwhile, several partners at other major firms had barely glanced at my resume before talking with me, and when they did talk they asked boiler plate questions that indicated that they could really care less about me...even though they ended up offering me a job a day or two later. We're not looking to be pampered; we understand that the firm holds the keys, especially in this market. However, it seems to me that firms have to be more careful in this market as well--if there are fewer slots that means a mistake is more expensive, which should mean, at least theoretically, that firms would be more dilligent.

Also, was surprised at lack of class when turning down certain offers. Several firms acted as though I was making the biggest mistake of my life and/or was a total idiot. In contrast, one firm partner I spoke with wished me luck, confirmed that they had been really intersted in me and told me to contact him if I ever wanted to make a change. That was very revealing, b/c the other partners who treated me poorly had been saying nice things to me on offer phone calls just weeks before. Not surprisingly, if my summer gig doesn't work out I'll be calling that partner rather than others I spoke with...

Anonymous said...

Hi HP--I do have one question--is Charlotte a bad market right now? A firm I am lookingat right now just acquired a Charlotte law firm this past year and seems to have a varied practice, but I am uneasy about going to a location where the banking industry seems to reign. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'd like some advice on how to choose the right position, especially as a lateral. There is a lot for law students here, but often the lateral market can be even tougher. If I don't know whether I want to go to another firm or in house, for example, what types of questions should I ask to help me figure out whether I want to do the job and what my future opportunities are from there (without coming across too negative or non-committal)? And for those who want to lateral to another firm, what really distinguishes a candidate from the others?

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear about how to position yourself to be valued both as a summer associate and as a first year.

Anonymous said...

I was really impressed by the OCI interviewer who sent a personalized ding letter. That was really classy (they are known as a classy firm) and I would love to interview with them again.

Tony said...

Can you talk about the clerkship hiring process? How do you look at clerks that are looking to join your firm and did not summer with you?

Anonymous said...

I would also like to hear about how to position yourself as a summer and junior associate to get on the partnership track.

I also have to add, I really appreciated the kind responses from the firms with whom I declined callbacks. Two of them wrote me back nice, personalized emails saying they understood and were sorry that I would not be joining them. They added that it was comforting that I'd be staying in the same city/market because it's a small world and they hoped we'd meet again. Classy.

Anonymous said...

Major Turn Off: When callback interviewers said things to me that made me expect offers. One partner said to me, "I think this firm would be a perfect fit for you." An associate at a different firm said, "I'm definitely giving you a strong recommendation." Neither firm made me an offer.

Classy Move: Each time I called to decline an offer, the person I spoke to was obviously disappointed, but wished me well and said nice things about the firm whose offer I ultimately accepted. None made me feel guilty about my choice. One of these firms actually mailed me a letter expressing disappointment that I declined their offer, but inviting me to apply again after the summer.

Room for Improvement: It would be nice to know the grounds on which we were dinged for callbacks or, especially, offers. The standard form letter offers little guidance to us perplexed law students.

Anonymous said...

Interviews generally:
The best interviewer by far had already highlighted a few points from my resume and asked specific questions. He could not have taken more than 2 minutes to prepare, but doing that and highlighting a few points then asking pointed questions about those areas and those areas alone at least made it sound like he was interested in getting to know me. Sure he was probably just doing this to make me feel special but it worked. I took the callback and though I didn't accept the offer I still have positive feelings toward the firm from that interview despite knowing such feelings are largely irrational.

Screening interviews:
Who you send to do the interviews really matters.

At least for those of us who were lucky enough to have a number of choices for callbacks the second to most common reason my friends and I did not accept a callback was because the person we interviewed with was an extreme introvert, came off as a jerk, or some other glaringly noticeable negative. (the most common was firm prestige)

If the one person you're sending to represent the firm is this bad then either that's the best of what you've got to offer or you're too disorganized to ensure the right person is coming to represent the firm.

Two other points:
1. A number of firms sent 2 people to do the screening interviews. My classmates had mixed feelings on this, but I liked it. I had two people to use to get a glimpse into the firm. One set was two arrogant and eat-what-you-kill attorneys. That says something about the firm. Whether it is good or bad depends on the person. One set was the opposite. One clearly was not in-sync beforehand as the associate (often it was an associate and a partner) clearly was more honest than the partner wanted. I don't recall any combination that did not have at least one female (not a surprise) or at least one partner (also not a surprise). I thought the one male and one female and the one partner and the one associate was the smartest combination to maximize the firm's coverage. They just need to be in tandem to pull it off and to not intimidate the student (unless that's there goal).

2. Please don't send a "greeter" who sits outside the interview room so prior to the interview you can be "greeted" (read: informally interviewed) by someone. I had days where I had as many as 12 screening interviews. The last thing I wanted was to have to be "on" during the few minutes between interviews. I really resented the firms that did that. I didn't care, but I also noticed the greeters were all female and all far more attractive than any female attorney giving the actual interview. Not sure if those women were offended for plainly being picked for being attractive but I would have been offended.

Callback interviews:
I'm not sure there's much to say here other than provide a good mix of attorneys that are somewhat normal (genders, races, seniority) and if your firm is one of those firms whose atmosphere alone can suck the life out of you (I did callbacks at a few) then just pray the student is too oblivious to notice or just doesn't care (of course in my estimation either way you lose).

Anonymous said...

Being a foreign LL.M. candidate at a U.S. law school I would be interested to know about hiring foreigners for U.S. offices. Do you do that? Why or why not? Are there any special qualities you are looking for in us, or typical mistakes we make when applying/interviewing?

Anonymous said...

How hard is it to find jobs in cities outside of your law school??? (i.e. New York City student seeking a Miami/Atlanta/Charleston job).

Anonymous said...

If a firm rescinds an offer to a 3L for economic reasons, do you think it's a good or workable idea to negotiate for lower pay / benefits / higher billable hours, etc. to show that you are willing to help the firm out to counter the rescission?

Anonymous said...

Question: My friends and I who have accepted offers are concerned about the economy and the possibility of not getting a permanent offer after the summer. Anything besides working hard, being personable, etc., that can best position ourselves to get a permanent offer? Or are we just at the mercy of the market?

Feedback: I turned down an offer from a firm that has a great reputation in the practice area in which I'm most interested because every partner I met was either cold, boring, or both. Make sure your interviewers have good personalities (friendly and can show interest in the student) because I don't imagine working for the firm; I imagine working with the interviewer.

2L said...

Question: I had a great callback at a firm that subsequently gave me an offer, yet the recruiter has been incredibly unresponsive to my requests for speaking with previous summers, to the point where a friend who summered in a different office had HER recruiter ask this woman, and she STILL ignored all of us. Is this a sign of a lack of sincere interest in me or is this just a bad recruiter?

Good experience: Positive attitude, easy conversation, didn't quiz me on "The Law" for the entire interview, actually seemed interested in my existence, recruiters proactively kept tabs on me (obviously, I'm not hard to please)

Bad experience: Partner whining about the economy and his daughter's college applications during the interview, attorneys getting drunk and inappropriate at offer dinners, general pomposity, recruiter who scheduled me to speak with all litigators when I told her I was interested in corporate, being difficult about repaying me for expenses that amounted to less than $100.

Anonymous said...

One thing that turned me off on a firm that I went on a callback for was the way the recruiting department handled my travel. They have been totally unprofessional the entire process (agreeing to serve as a host firm for a trip, and then, when they asked if I could change interview plans with them, refusing to pay for a hotel for a second night, not faxing a form to the hotel to pre-pay for it, still not reimbursing me after almost 6 weeks...) I am not expecting lots of perks and understand it is expensive for firms to bring in out of town candidates, but when a recruiting department does things that increase stress and anxiety as one is interviewing I see it as very unprofessional and it led me to quickly lose interest. I actually enjoyed the interview and the attorneys I met with but was totally turned off by the way I was treated by the recruiters.

Anonymous said...

My grades are solid, but not outstanding. I got on at a great firm though. If I am let go and must find another job, will prospective employers focus more on my transcript or recent work history?

f-3 said...

7:59am - it is hard to generalize into an "either / or" proposition. In fact, I can't see a law firm not caring about both, unless you've been out of law school for a while.

If you are someone (like me) who had a long work history before law school, firms will pay attention to that. Your work history may matter even more if you happen to be interviewing for an area of law related to that history. So, if you were a software engineer before and they're looking for IP / patent folks in the software space, you'll have an advantage.

Your summer internships are important, but bear in mind that other law students have also had internships. How will you differentiate yourself from other summers who have also written memos and done multistate research?

As for grades, assuming you are a law student or soon-to-be graduate, your grades are still going to be a very important factor. I've been told that when junior attorneys attempt to lateral after their second or third years, their prospective employers still ask for their transcripts! (Another reason not to completely tank your 3L grades).

It's a long way of saying - stay strong in both academic and outside work. You already know how to study. Next thing to think about is how to improve your non-academic skills, to show why you are different, and better equipped to handle firm work, than the rest of the law school bunch.

Ben said...

I have a question for HP. Say an individual is having a difficult time with 2L interviewing but has decent credentials (20%, LR), and worked in-house 1L summer. Would returning to work in-house for the second summer be a bad idea in anticipation of interviewing 3L year? Would it scare off a local firm from hiring because of lack of law firm experience?

Anonymous said...

Great site HP, thanks for all the advice. I have some questions that I can't seem to find much information for online.

I recently received an offer for my 2L summer at my top choice firm (mid-size firm in secondary market). They are very flexible with dates and the option of splitting--in fact, they seem to really be encouraging it. I don't have any other pending offers from firms, so if I did split it would likely be with a smaller firm in my hometown or interning for a judge.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on splitting between a firm and a judge for the summer. On one hand, it seems that if I worked for the firm for 12 weeks, that my chances of receiving a permanent offer would be improved (showing a commitment to the firm, more time to meet all the lawyers, etc.). On the other hand, it seems that I should try to diversify so to have a backup plan if the firm can't give me an offer (not worried about performing poorly during the summer, but that the firm wouldn't be able to take all of their SAs due to the current economy). That being said, here are my questions:

Is it a good idea to try to split between a firm and a judge for one's 2L summer?

If I have no regional ties to the firm, would splitting in a different region show the firm a lack of commitment to that geographical area? If I split within the same region would that change your view on whether this is a good option?

Would the negatives of working for free for half the summer outweigh the benefits, if any, of working for a judge for the other half?

Thanks for your help and the advice on this site. Anyone else, please feel free to provide input on this as well. Thanks!