This summer, whether on-campus interviews (OCI) are in person, virtual, or a combination, the goal remains the same: Get a callback that leads to a summer associate offer.
We crowdsourced some practical tips to help you prepare to dazzle during OCI. We won’t get into technical rules about spacing after periods in your resume or quadruple checking for typos because you already know that. While this advice is directed towards Big Law and OCI, it is helpful for other interviews as well.
1. Make a good first impression
Speaking of dazzling, ensure you have good lighting for your virtual interview- open your windows or use a ring light if it helps. Also, make sure your background is not distracting. If possible, opt for a blank wall rather than a bed and close the door to eliminate interruption. For both in-person and virtual interviews, wear a proper fitting suit. Is it weird to wear a suit if you’re Zooming from your bedroom? Yes, but do it anyway.
2. Practice your answers
Whether with a friend, in front of a mirror, or with career services if they offer mock interviews, practice can improve your comfort level with the interview process and help you refine how to answer standard questions. Even 10 minutes of practice can make a remarkable difference.
3. Research the firm
Many big law firms look the same from the outside, but it is important to learn what makes them different. The firm website is a great starting point, but remember that the website is designed for potential clients, so you should use other resources, including alumni from your law school who work or worked there, LinkedIn, news articles, etc. You want to note if they have any big-name clients where that information is public, especially on the types of matters you are interested in working on.
Also, make sure that you know information about the firm that relates to your interview specifically. For example, you want to know where they have offices and the practice areas in those offices. You don’t want to talk about your interest in their entertainment law practice while interviewing for their Dallas office if the entertainment law partners are in New York and don’t take on new associates.
Learn the correct way to pronounce the firm’s name. If you are not sure, here is a pro-tip: Call one of their offices to hear how the operator pronounces the firm’s name.
4. Research the interviewer
As with the firm, do not rely exclusively on the firm website, although it is a good starting point. Check LinkedIn and google for additional information on the interviewers. This also helps you develop questions you can ask them. For example, if this partner worked at a few other big law firms before, you could ask what about this firm persuaded them to change firms. You can ask the associate who has only worked at this firm about the most significant differences between working as a summer associate and a full-time associate. If this partner has represented a client in a case in the news, you can ask about the case. Many lawyers are very proud of their work and love discussing it.
5. Research yourself
Why did you go to law school? Why big law? Why this big law firm? Why this office of this big law firm? Think through answers to these questions to tell a story connecting your grades and resume to your career goals. We know that the truth might be that you watched a lot of Suits and want to be the next Jessica Pearson, but please don’t say that in the interview, unless you have a spotless resume, transcript, and have impeccable comedic timing.
Seriously, try to connect your work and educational experience to what you are saying you want to do at their firm. For example, you could say,* I decided to go to law school because I enjoyed the critical thinking aspects of a philosophy class I took in college. I really enjoyed my 1L contracts class, and after completing a Hotshot capital markets course and following the events of the stock market in the past year with Reddit and meme stocks, I would love to spend the summer in your Capital Markets and M & A practice groups.* The truth is very few law students come into law school knowing exactly what they want to do. The goal is to provide a well-thought-out response about why you are interested in this area of the law.
6. Learn about the practice area
Learning about the practice area(s) you are interested in will make you come across smarter and more believable. If, like many law students, you’re not sure about whether you’re interested in a transactional or litigation practice, check out Hotshot’s free courses for law students. There are many introductory courses on M&A, venture financing, accounting & finance, litigation, securities, and bankruptcy, which provide a broad overview of each practice area. Use the knowledge from these courses to discuss your interests and impress the interviewer. We’ve created a helpful starting point with courses that you can complete for a Hotshot certificate which is sharable on LinkedIn.
7. Be human
Once you have an interview scheduled, your resume has made it through the cut. The interview is an opportunity to show your (professional) personality. If you choose to have an Interests section on your resume, it’ll likely come up, so be prepared to discuss it. If you are undecided about it, we recommend having one and including an interesting but appropriate interest that you would enjoy speaking about. This could very well be the primary topic of conversation in your interview. It allows you to connect with the people across the table from you. Be energetic and engaging throughout your interview, and if it does not come naturally to you, practice.
Don’t be a jerk: Not to the recruiting coordinator, not to your classmates who are also stressed like you, not to anybody because, well, it’s generally a good rule, but specifically, everyone talks, and no one wants to work with a jerk.
8. Be confident
You got to the interview stage, you’ve researched them and now know their cat’s birthday, you’ve watched Hotshot videos and now have a better understanding of what they do. You are prepared. Now be confident, or like Amy Cuddy says in her viral Ted Talk, fake it till you become it. Provide thoughtful answers to the questions. It is okay to pause before answering a question. A 2-second pause is barely noticeable and can be invaluable to helping you give a polished response.
9. Have fun
OCI can be nerve-racking, but it will go by quickly, so relax and have fun with it. You will have some enjoyable conversations with people who are just like you, just a few years ahead.
We wish you the best and hope you take advantage of the free Hotshot resources available to you.
Photo credit: Tim Gouw on Unsplash