Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Friday, September 26, 2003

"Last-Minute Interview Tips"

I've been picking on the Office of Career Services a lot lately, but they're the ones scheduling all of these "tips sessions," so it's kind of their own fault. On Thursday afternoon, I went to the Interview Tips panel, featuring hiring partners from three big law firms talking about what they look for in an interview. Not unlike most events like these, the advice was well-meaning, but painfully predictable. "We strongly encourage you to research our firm before the interview." Thanks. The following is a dramatization of the actual event. The dialogue is not real.

Hiring Partner 1: "The key to a successful on campus interview is making a good impression on the person interviewing you. You want to be able to talk intelligently about things on your resume, and show the interviewer that you would be a good asset to the firm. It is important for you not to say stupid things."

Hiring Partner 2: "I agree with everything my colleague said. In addition, you want to be appropriately groomed, dressed appropriately, and give appropriate answers to questions that would make us want to bring you down to our office for a call-back interview. Being inappropriate in any way is not appropriate."

Hiring Partner 3: "I emphatically agree with everything my colleagues have said. In addition, I emphatically suggest that you probably want to bring a copy of your resume with you to the interview, and I emphatically suggest that you probably want to try your best to answer whatever questions the interviewer asks you."

The hiring partners all agreed that interviewers may ask about anything on the resume, or anything not on the resume. One example given was if a candidate "had a great experience with the Oakland Raiders this past summer" that might make for an interesting conversation topic in an interview. Even more so if the interviewee is female. One tip provided was that before the interview, candidates might want to check out the firm's web page and look at any "news flashes." For instance, one firm bragged about getting a death row inmate executed after 18 years on death row. I mean acquitted. Oops.

Law school grades are apparently meaningless but important. But all three hiring partners advised that we should bring up any "outlier grades" during the interview and explain them. Good thing all of my grades sucked. Wouldn't want to have to be explaining any outliers. Apparently, "nothing good can come out of a thank you note." I think they mean anthrax. (As I write that, I'm realizing that anthrax, like Monica Lewinsky, may have somehow lost its relevance sometime between that dude at the tabloid in Florida dying and right now. It will take its place in the pile of discarded comedic material from history, right next to jokes about Pee-Wee Herman, and fake NASA abbreviations corresponding to the Challenger disaster.)

One hiring partner said that he expects some warmth when he tells people they have earned a call-back. "It should be like a party in your phone," he did not say. "Finding out you have a call-back should give you an orgasm," he did not say either. The hiring partners all talked about how we shouldn't lie about what kind of law we want to practice because some fields are "hot," and some fields are "cold." Instead, we should lie about what kind of law we want to practice because otherwise how will we ever answer the question they'll ask us about it. I found it funny that they said "environmental law is cold." Maybe in Canada. But in California, it's quite temperate. And in Ecuador, it's downright steamy.

One hiring partner said that they solicit opinions from everyone a recruit meets at the firm - partners, associates, paralegals, secretaries, janitors, and the man who operates the secret spy camera in all the hallways. "We like to hear from everyone who lives their lives at [our firm]," he said. I don't like to hear that people "live their lives" at this firm. I'd much prefer they "spend their days" there, or "work reasonable hours" there.

A chunk of time was spent talking about questions that students should ask during interviews. Asking "checklist" questions is bad - "what kind of training do you provide?" "what's the summer program like?" "when will this interview be over?" - but questions about things we're really interested in learning about are good. But not things we can learn by reading the web site. Or things that demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about the firm -- "I don't speak German, and I'm worried that since you're based in Berlin I will have trouble." "Oh, you're based in Cleveland. Oops." Or things that make you sound like a lazy good-for-nothing -- "What's the work-life balance like? I don't enjoy working hard. I'm a lazy good-for-nothing."

So what's the overall lesson here? Don't be dumb. Say sensible things, be polite, know about the firm before you interview. And probably no gum-chewing. Yeah, gum-chewing would be a no-no. Cursing is probably out too. And loud burping. Inappropriate laughter. Unmatching socks. A large top hat. A fake Scottish accent. All bad. I guess.