Why I Rejected a Candidate on Law Review

OCI from the Other Side of the Table:
An Interview with an Interviewer

            We’re into the second week of callbacks, and our friend the Big Law associate is back to tell us how it’s going and give us the scoop on who he’s extending offers to!

Ascend Legal: So tell us! How many offers have you made and how many rejections are going to be mailed out this week?

Big Law Associate: We haven’t made any offers yet. We’ve gotten a lot of duds. I assume these people were stellar in their on-campus interviews, but they were pretty awful at the callback. I guess it’s a lot easier to be “on” for 20 minutes than it is for half a day.

AL: Who were the duds?

BLA: Ugh -- this law review guy. He listed three interests at the bottom of his resume. One was soccer. I love soccer! But when I asked him about soccer, he said he didn’t play and he said he didn’t follow any teams. He finally admitted he only put it on his resume to seem well-rounded!

AL: Oof. That’s bad.

BLA: Yes! How can you not have any interests of your own? That’s just weird to make them up.

AL: We always tell our clients to be authentic in their interviews. It’s a lot easier to keep up the conversation when you’re actually interested in your interests!

BLA: I’m not looking for interests to be interesting. I’m looking for insights into the candidate as a person! And I’m always looking to learn something new! Tell me about candle making or pumpkin carving. I don’t care! As long as it’s really you.

AL:  I think some candidates are looking for a way to connect with interviewers, so they add general interests like travel or sports.

BLA: Listing interests like those don’t give you the opportunity to connect unless you have a real story that goes with them.

AL: Any other traps to look out for?

BLA: Oh, this other law review guy tried to describe his interest in litigation work as a disinterest in transactional work. He said he was more like a litigator because he was a “people person.” Presumably, unlike transactional lawyers. LIKE ME.

AL: Well, that’s not good.

BLA: I know! Who says that? Is he going to insult my family next? I really question that guy’s judgment.

AL: Once again, thanks so much for your time! We’re waiting on your next set of interviews for the scoop!

Don’t be law review guy! Ascend Legal offers consulting services to prepare you for the OCI process.  If you need help, let us know! For more information, visit www.ascendlegal.com.

Are You on the Immediate No-Callback List?

OCI from the Other Side of the Table
An Interview with an Interviewer

            The first week of On Campus Interviews is over, and to see how it went, Ascend Legal talked to a Big Law associate who was sent to two large law schools in California. Some great tips ahead!

Ascend Legal: How many interviews did you do in total? And how many call-backs did you make?

Big Law Associate: About 42. I had 20 people on my schedule per day, and then did two additional interviews. I called back 5 people. It was an exhausting day.

AL: Who were those two additional people? How did they get on your schedule?

BLA: One was someone who emailed the firm’s head of recruitment ahead of time. Her resume was really impressive, and I was told to add her to my schedule. The other person I interviewed as a favor. He knew someone in our office and that person asked me to add him.

AL: We always advise our clients not to drop off their resumes on interview day because they get lost in the shuffle. Did you look at any resumes outside of those on  your schedule?

BLA: No, I didn’t have time. Sad to say, I think all the ones that got dropped off at the hospitality suite got thrown away.

AL: Did you interview anyone who was an immediate “No Callback”?

BLA: Yes, definitely.  I think there were about 5 people that I knew wouldn’t work out almost immediately.

AL: Tell me about them!

BLA: I really wanted to like one of them. She looked great on paper, but the interview was bad. She seemed obsessed with doing international work. We’re an international firm, but I’m interviewing for our [local] office. At one point, she wanted to brainstorm on how she could work in our [foreign] office! It was pretty clear she wasn’t interested in our [local] office and that she would jump somewhere else as soon as we trained her.

BLA: Another guy said he wasn’t really interested in working very hard, but could do it for a year or two. And there was someone who was just too weird. He had terrible grades too.

AL: What do you mean “too weird”?

BLA: Honestly, he was on the borderline as far as grades went, but he kept name dropping famous people. It was really off-putting.

AL: So, who did you bring back? What did they all have in common?

BLA: Some really great people! They just presented themselves really well. They had a lot of energy and they were really interested in the firm. One woman asked specific questions about our summer program, and you could tell she had done her research. I guess I called back people who were genuinely interested in the firm . . . and who weren’t douchey!

AL: Got it! Thanks for your time!

Thank You Notes

Not All Thank You’s Are Created Equal

You step out of your on-campus interview and you think it’s gone well.  You established good rapport with your interviewers.  The conversation flowed easily, and you think you have a good shot at a callback interview.  Someone told you that you should always write a thank you note to your interviewers.  But should you really?

Having interviewed hundreds of law students over the years on campus, I can tell you that a handwritten thank you note is not worth the time it will take for you to write.  By the end of the interview day, the interviewer will have a pretty good idea about who to call back.  The handwritten note will arrive far too late to make any difference.

So that leaves whether you should send an email (and not a text – see our prior blog post) thanking your interviewers.  Does it really make a difference?  I have never received an email from someone who was solidly in the “no callback” category that somehow convinced me to change my response to “callback.”  However, I have received well-written and thoughtful emails that have swayed me to give a callback to someone I was on the fence about.

What are best practices for sending thank you emails?

First, immediately after you’ve come out of your interview, take a minute or two to write down or put into your phone some notes with highlights of your conversation.  This will help ensure that you don’t forget something important as you proceed through the chaos of the interview day.

Second, take any down time that you have during the interview day to compose thank you messages.  The sooner you can send a message, the better.

As I mentioned before, the interviewers are actively forming their mental callback lists throughout the day, so waiting until the end of the day is not ideal.  The lawyers will be checking their email throughout the day to make sure they are being responsive to client requests, so they will see your message relatively quickly.

Third, the message itself shouldn’t be more than 2-4 sentences.  You don’t need to compose a lengthy literary masterpiece.  Sorry to say, but your interviewer won’t have the time to read through your novella.

Finally, be thoughtful and personal with what you write.  You should absolutely tell them that you appreciated their time out of their busy schedules to speak with you.  You should absolutely tell them that you are excited about their firm.  However, stopping at these kinds of generic statements is a wasted opportunity.

This is where the notes you took down earlier come in handy.  You should recap the most important highlight of your interview but also couple it with a reminder or pitch about an important attribute of yours.

It’s one last opportunity for you to leave an impression that you are the type of candidate they want to join their ranks.  See our prior post about the Six Attributes that law firms are looking for ideas on the types of attributes that matter.

Ascend Legal offers consulting services to prepare you for the OCI process.  For more information, visit www.ascendlegal.com.

Making Impressions Without a Single Word

Putting together a bulletproof resume and preparing yourself to answer tough interview questions are essential components to doing well at OCI, but that’s only part of the package interviewers are looking for.

Over the years we have interviewed countless students at the top law schools around the country, and every year we’ve rejected otherwise qualified candidates because they don’t present themselves properly. Some have slouched like piles of jello in their chairs.  Others refused to make any eye contact.  Some have even come in hung over!  Needless to say, those students did not get called back.

You need to appear interested, engaged and confident.  Here are seven ways to make sure you present yourself that way:

· Make Eye Contact.  When you shake hands, or are talking to someone, look at their eyes. (If looking directly at their eyes makes you uncomfortable, then look at their eyebrows.)  Looking away makes you seem disinterested at best or dishonest at worst.

· Have a Good Firm Handshake.  Don’t be a hand crusher!  But an impotent handshake comes off as a lack of confidence.

· Smile!  This will help you seem engaged and interested.  It will also make you seem more approachable.

· Sit Up in Your chair and Lean Forward a Little.  Don’t slouch or shrink back.  Sitting forward projects confidence.

· Avoid Fidgeting.  Generally, keep your hands in your lap and both feet squarely on the ground.  Hand gestures are fine, but you shouldn’t be directing an airplane to its gate.  Fidgeting will make you appear nervous or like you are hiding something.

· Look Thoughtful.  After you’ve been asked a question, count to 2 or 3 in your head before responding.  It will seem as if you’re not just regurgitating a canned answer (even if you are) but are trying to tailor your response to the interviewer.

· Be Courteous and Professional.  We cannot emphasize this enough.  The way you speak to a senior partner in a law firm is completely different from how you speak to your friends.  Carry yourself with a higher level of dignity and formality (but not stuffiness) than in your day-to-day life.

So what do you look like during an interview? Now’s the time for some cell phone video (or if your memory’s full, do it the old fashioned way with a mirror). Record yourself walking into a room and answering a few interview questions. Practice until you’re comfortable. This will give you some muscle memory of what it feels like to smile, sit up, pause, etc. so that you’ll know what to do during your interview.

Not sure if your non-verbal communication skills are top notch?  Ascend Legal can give you guidance and also provide mock interviews.  For more information, visit www.ascendlegal.com.

Six Critical Attributes Exercise

Converting Your Strengths Into Talking Points

So, you know the Six Critical Attributes that law firm interviewers are looking for (if you don’t, click here to see our blog post from July 26th), which is a great first step. But how do you figure out how you’ve demonstrated those traits? Try our exercise below.

  1. Make a List! List your 5 greatest achievements. These can be taken from any part of your life -- volunteer work, school, previous jobs, travel. Have you run a marathon? Did you work during undergrad? Have you perfected a foreign language?
     
  2. How Did You Get There? Look over your list, and for each item, think of how you achieved it. Did you have to do it over and over again before you succeeded? Did you do it even though others told you that you wouldn’t be able to do it? What’s your story for how you accomplished these five greatest achievements?
     
  3. Make a Match. Look over our Six Critical Attributes and make a match. How did you work hard? How did you get over obstacles? How did you train? Fit as many of the Six Critical Attributes into your story. And that’s it -- you’ve got 5 great talking points at your interview.

We’d love to help you do even more! Get personalized training and advice from Ascend Legal. Start by visiting our website at www.ascendlegal.com/products.