On March 29, the MSBA New Lawyers Section sponsored a Q&A with hiring attorneys to help prepare them for OCI (On Campus Interview) season. Panelists Kirsten Schubert (Dorsey & Whitney), Adam Brown (Cousineau, Waldhauser & Kieselbach),Nicole Truso (Faegre Drinker), and moderator Briana Al Taqataqa (Dorsey & Whitney), shared advice, tips, and what to expect during these interviews.
Here are 10 pieces of advice our panelists shared during the session.
- Write a good cover letter: Cover letters are important. “It’s your opportunity to tailor message to a specific firm,” said Schubert. Be sure to learn more about the firm and share why you are interested in working there. Your school’s career service center will be able to help by providing examples. Most importantly, do not copy and paste the same letter to different firms.
- Put time into your resume: Even if your resume may seem short, or not have a lot of experience connected to the law, it’s still valuable to employers. “You want to show your transferable skills,” said Brown. Make sure the resume is visually pleasing, yet simple—no fancy colors. One page or two? While this isn’t as much of a sticking point as it once was, “It depends,” said Brown “Put the important stuff on top. You’re on the safe side if you’re on one.” If you have gaps, be sure to address them either in your cover letter or resume. “You don’t want the recruiter to walk away thinking you did nothing,” said Truso.
- Practice: Make sure you practice for the on-campus interviews. The panelists said that they can often tell a difference between who practiced for an interview and who did not. Brown said that you’re probably going to get asked the same question over and over again. Make sure you are consistent. The sweet spot for answering a question is about two minutes. “It’s enough time to be complete and be specific, but it also shows you can be concise,” said Brown. Truso added that she looks for how a student can relate the question back to themselves, “Try to take every opportunity, no matter how mundane the question and tell me why you’re special and why I should remember you.”
- Stay energized: OCI days are tiring for everyone involved. “Figure out a way to keep the energy up,” said Schubert. Make sure you’re just as energetic on your last interview as you are on your first. “Walk into an interview with energy,” she added.
- Reaching out to other attorneys: While some students may be hesitant to talk to attorneys at a firm they want to work at, all the panelists supported the idea of connecting with them. “I think it’s very valuable for students because it’s a way to get yourself in front of a lawyer at a firm,” said Kristen. “You have to be a little bit savvy about it. You can’t just cold call people. It’s a great time to learn to network.”
- Expect behavioral interview questions: “These questions are not designed to intentionally trip you up, but to help employers find out things that may not come across on a resume,” said Schubert. For example, leadership qualities, how you work on a team, reliability, grit, etc. You can easily search for example questions online or ask your career services to help.
- Treat interviews over a meal with the same level or professionalism: If you are invited to an interview over a meal, do order food at the restaurant. (However, be cautious with meals like spaghetti.) Don’t order alcohol, even if your interviewees do. Don’t complain about the restaurant, and remember that your interviewees may take note of things that aren’t direct questions—for example, how you treat the waitstaff.
- Ask questions about the job: Have questions you want to ask firms prepared ahead of time. “You cannot say, I think you’ve answered all the questions,” said Brown. Again, reach out to your career services if you’re struggling to come up with some. Ask about the business.
- Connect with your career office: Law school career offices have plenty of resources to help prepare you for OCIs. Brown, who previously worked at St. Thomas, said that summer is a good time to start building that relationship.
- Get involved with the bar association: Being part of a New Lawyers Section, whether through the MSBA, HCBA, or RCBA gives applicants a leg up. “It just looks so much better on a resume when you have that,” said Brown.