Law schools, and therefore law students, have your number. Schools go to great lengths to prepare their students for their OCI experience—sharing lists of interview questions to be prepared for, lists of questions to ask of their interviewers and even classifying the different types of interviews and interviewers students may come across. For example, New York University School of Law highlights the following interviewer types. If you are looking forward to being involved in on-campus interviewing or callbacks, which one will you be? Or will you differentiate yourself from the stereotypes?
Chatty party host
“So, you worked at the National Hockey League last summer – that must have been awesome. I remember when I interned with the American Baseball League…damn, those were the days. We’d get free tickets, so I’d invite a bunch of friends and we’d party all night.”
Chit-chats for 15 minutes; may be colloquial and use profanity. This is not, however, an invitation to be too informal or unprofessional. Remember, they already have the job. You will have to direct the conversation to the points you want to make.
“Your resume indicates you graduated from Cornell in December 2010 and worked as a finance analyst with the Hilton Corporation in March 2011. What were you doing from January to March 2011?”
This interviewer is a fact checker, seeking an inconsistency or gap. Be confident, and prepare your response.
“Why did you work at a massage kiosk at the local mall when you could have been doing something else to further your legal career?”
This interviewer is testing you under pressure to assess your reaction. The interviewer may do ask a pointed question about your grades or a particular job choice. Prepare your response, and be professional and courteous.
Lazy, bored, distracted
“So, tell me about yourself.”
This type of interviewer is difficult to engage in conversation. You must be engaging and interesting to catch their attention and direct the conversation to the points you want to make.
Thorough resume reader
“I see that your senior honors thesis dealt with the US governments treatment of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War – how did you become interested in this topic, and what did you conclude?”
This type of interviewer may ask you about details on your resume, and thus you should be prepared to discuss anything listed on your resume (e.g. work experience, academic papers, activities, committees, language skills, etc.).
The above interviewer descriptions are all taken directly from a student handout for NYU Law School’s EIW Orientation: Interview Skills Workshop (2017). NYU also warns students about getting caught up in conversations about “how things used to be” with NYU alumni and refocusing the interview on themselves as candidates.
In short, students are prepared and they can read what kind of interviewer you are. It makes sense to assume that most, if not all, are ready with well-prepared and rehearsed answers for the traditional old school questions such as:
“What are your strengths/weaknesses?”
“What do you like most about law school? What do you find most challenging?”
“What was your favorite class in law school? Why?”
[These questions are just three of many provided by Harvard Law School to its students in preparation for OCI.]
Why waste your time on these and other well-worn questions? Instead, think about the following:
How can you ask questions that focus on job-related skills and experience that are especially relevant for entry-level lawyers at your firm?
How can you ask questions that keep it conversational but get beyond the superficial and give you information on how the candidate actually thought and behaved? (on the basis that past performance is a good indicator of future performance)
How can you use the candidate’s resume as a starting point to ask open questions about the candidate’s experiences that relate to the key selection criteria for your firm?
If the resume does not give you a good starting point for these things, what questions can you ask that will get to the same core competencies?
How can you ask questions that do not make it obvious what answer you are looking for?
This will not only enable you to differentiate yourself as an interviewer but it will also enable you to differentiate your firm from those that go with the ordinary and expected formulae.