If you missed part one of our series on how to ace your law firm interview, hop on over and read it. Today, our anonymous law firm associate is back, with five more tips for making sure you don’t screw up the callback process!
1. Leave the oversized purse or backpack behind.
These can look sloppy. Try to leave your hands free and just carry in a nice portfolio or folder with extra copies of your documents (on professional, not copier paper). Typically your suit jacket (yes, you need to wear a jacket! See below) has pockets that are big enough to hold your keys and phone without looking bulky. If you don’t absolutely need something, don’t bring it into your interview.
Ladies—if you carry a purse, leave the high-end designer labels at home.
If I see a Fendi over your shoulder, it is at best distracting (How did this student or recent grad afford this thing? Do they even need a job? Is it fake?), and, at worst, looks materialistic.
Same thing goes for watches, especially for you, gentlemen. Wear one, but leave the flashy stuff at home. Instead, take something simple that is in good condition and goes well with your attire. That said, don’t go too casual either. If you have a tired, dirty, pleather zebra print bag, or middle-school-looking cardboard folder that you think is a stunning addition to your professional ensemble (I have actually seen both of these in interviews!), do yourself a favor and think again.
2. Wear a suit, and while we’re at it, the jacket stays on.
A lot of students and recent grads. who are looking for their first or second professional job, or doing OCIs with hopes of becoming a summer associate at a firm are not accustomed to wearing suits. That’s ok! Why would you be? Even though you may feel uncomfortable, it’s important to follow the rules when you are interviewing.
Law is a stodgy profession with stodgy rules.
Interview attire does not mean “business casual.” What you may wear to a another event, such as a graduation (slacks and a non-dress-shirt, tailored pants plus a shirt and tie, sundress, skirt and sweater combo., etc.) is probably not formal enough. If you are in law school now, chances are you need to invest in a suit anyway.
One nice suit will come in handy for networking events at your school, interviews, and moot court as well. Do yourself a favor and just get one. You don’t need to break the bank, though,—lots of lower-end stores have perfectly acceptable options. Also, if you shop at a department store, look for one that offers free tailoring. Your suit should not look like you dragged it out of your mom’s or dad’s closet or a consignment bin.
Skirts should hit just at the knee, and pants should never touch the ground. It’s amazing what tailors can fix! On the subject of suits, I get this with the men more than the women, but please leave your jacket on.
Taking your jacket off before (or during, yikes!) an interview should be tantamount in your mind to removing your shoes or dental retainer.
It is gauche, unprofessional and should never be done. As a caveat, one time, during my stint as a summer associate at a big law firm, I was working on an arbitration involving an employer and a labor union and it was about 100 degrees in a jobsite warehouse with no air conditioning. Technically, the summer was not over, so I was still in “interview mode.” However, this is one of very few situations in which I could imagine removing your jacket may be appropriate. Even if you live somewhere exceedingly warm, if you are indoors in an interview setting, the jacket most likely should stay on.
3. Cultivate a neat, clean, natural, daytime look.
If you could easily convert your interview attire into club wear or party clothes, change them.
If I’m interviewing you and you’re telling me how “detail-oriented” you are and you happen to have chipped purple nail polish on (this happened!), I’m not going to believe you. I’m just not.
Ladies and gentlemen—please wear a collared shirt. Yes, ladies too. Camisoles, cowl-necks or other shirts can look fantastic under a suit once you already have the job. For the interview, keep it conservative. Stick to a dark navy or black for the suit. For shoes, belt, purse, etc. either black or a nice burnished brown leather can go well with navy. For black, stick to black. Ladies—keep the heels fairly low, and go with pumps rather than peep-toes, sling-backs or other styles. If you wear a skirt, wear sheer stockings that match your skin tone.
If your jacket sleeve has a patch that lists a material, such as wool, or a brand name, cut it off. These are tags and they are meant to be removed! Same thing goes for the little “X” stitches that sometimes come on skirt slits and pleats. These threads are only there to hold the fabric in place before the item is sold. Leaving them on is like walking in with a sticker that says your size or the price. Finally, don’t wear sparkly, obviously fake, or ostentatious jewelry. Lay off the perfume (it can be really embarrassing when your interviewer is allergic!).
4. Be (a more conservative, agreeable, professional version of) yourself!
The goal is to impress, but not to put off. If you have very strong views about something that is at all controversial, or if your nature tends toward dark sarcasm and very dry wit, that is fine! It may even be great! These things make you who you are. Should you let it all out in OCI, though? No.
Keep your political, religious and personal ideas to yourself because you don’t want someone who disagrees with you to form opinions based on your viewpoints rather than your qualifications (to be safe, this goes for your résumé as well, sorry Young Democrats/Republicans Society!).
That said, though, be you! Remember, you also have a say in where you work. The goal of being chosen as a summer associate is not only to gain invaluable experience, but to try out a particular firm and see if it fits with what you want. Sometimes it doesn’t! All too often in law school, we are told what the steps to “success” are. Successful OCIs and landing a firm job are two of the requirements that are commonly thrown around. But, take a step back. If you are compromising yourself, your values or what you honestly feel is the key to your future happiness to get a job now, the chances are stacked against you that you will not enjoy this job if and when you get it. If you have to re-shape or re-invent who you are to mesh well with the firm or the people in it, remember that this can only go on for so long. You may be miserable very soon.
5. Send a thank you e-mail or note the same day.
I always send a handwritten thank you to each interviewer, including non-attorneys. Immediately after the interview, I go to a coffee shop in the neighborhood and write a quick card that follows this general template:
- Thanking them for their time and consideration,
- Saying how much I enjoyed meeting and talking to them (weave in personalized details, see above),
- Confirming my interest in the job,
- Reiterating why I would be a successful or competitive applicant for the position.
I mail the card from the same neighborhood so it will get back to the office quickly. Hardcopy cards may sound too old fashioned, but I have found they go a long way. When I was in law school, one of my interviewers from OCI actually contacted the office of career planning at my school to give a rave review of my thank you note of all things. He said it was the best interview he had ever done! (maybe he was new at this…). Also, as a summer associate, I once went into the office of an attorney who had interviewed me during the previous OCI season and noticed that my thank you note was tacked up to her bulletin board (a quick aside: if you and your interviewer both love ducks, soccer or Paris, why not look for a card with a photo on it? They will remember you better!)
E-mails work well too, especially when time is of the essence. Whatever you decide to send, though, proof read it three times and make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. It may get forwarded to the people in charge. Any time I get a thank you following an interview, I forward it to the other interviewers and put it into the applicant’s file for consideration.
With that, I hope your OCI experience goes well. Most of this advice is common sense, so stick to what you probably already know. When in doubt, go conservative. Be yourself and try to enjoy the experience!
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Want more tips on interviewing for law jobs? Sign up for our free mailing list today.
And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Ace Your On-Campus Interview: Part 1
- The Key to OCI Success
- Rock OCI and Get the Job You Want
- The One Thing That Needs to Be On Your Résumé to Ace a Callback Interview
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