On Campus Interviewing--The Two Way Ordeal

On Campus interviewing is around the corner. It can be the most exhilarating, exciting, exhausting and frightening time of the year. As former practicing attorneys, all of us at Solutus have experienced this process as both the interviewer and the student. Neither has an easy task. We thought it might be helpful to provide a few tips for both interviewers and students to help them through the process. The basics are obvious (for both): be polite, dress well, get a good night's sleep. But, we've discovered that there are a few very important rules that many good interviewers forget and many students do not respect.

Stay on Schedule. As an interviewer you only have a twenty-minute window to meet with and assess the student before he or she moves on to the next person. This process will go on all day and maybe for several more so it's very difficult for the interviewer to remember each student. First and foremost, stay on schedule! Your day will be hell if you don't. In addition, failing to stick to the schedule will have a domino effect causing the students to get behind with other interviews. Every one is scheduled so tightly during this process that failing to honor the timetable invites a train wreck and raises the possibility that you will be short-changed with a really good candidate later on in the day.

This rule cuts both ways. Students need to honor the schedule too. Don't overstay your welcome.

Remember Who You Meet. In addition to staying on schedule, a good interviewer should keep the interview to fifteen to eighteen minutes, and give yourself the remaining time to take notes. Don't count on remembering your impressions about this student later, because you won't. Students should also be gracious and give the interviewer a few minutes to jot down his or her thoughts before starting the interview.

It's difficult for the interviewer to take thorough notes during the interview (that's why we suggest summarizing your thoughts afterwards). However, don't be afraid to take brief notes during the interview (key words and phrases), and students should not feel uncomfortable about this. The first thing the interviewer should do is jot down something that will jolt his or her memory about the candidate. Something as simple as "funky blue suit," "tie with fish," or "cool earrings" will be enough to refresh your memory later.

Students should also try to find something to make the interviewer remember him or her. If you can, research who will be on campus and try and find something you have in common with that person. Nothing will make them remember you more than a fact of common experience: same home town, same undergraduate school, same community interests.

Remember the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule is the basic concept that states that a good interviewer talks only 20 percent of the time and listens 80 percent. We know this is a hard rule for a lawyer to stick to, but remember that if you are the interviewer, you have less than twenty minutes to determine whether or not each student meets your firm's objectives and warrants a call back. Give the student a chance to make their best impression.

The interviewer should prepare a short list of questions. And don't be afraid to ask the tough questions (Why did you get a C is this Class?, How come the firm where you summered didn't make you an offer?). Your firm will ask these questions of you, and how the students answer them may well determine whether or not he or she gets a call back.

If you are the student, be aware that the person interviewing you needs to get to know you in a short period of time. Provide him or her with solid articulate answers and do not be afraid to expand on your answer. You know your resume better than anyone, and you know what tough questions you'll be asked. Have well-organized and solid answers. Be focused about what you want in your law firm experience. If you're undecided, your interviewer will be too, and you won't get a call back. Do not ask questions of your interviewer until he or she asks if you have any questions. In the short time you have to meet, this may not happen. That's okay. You can ask all your questions if you get a call back. And the point of campus interviews is just that: to get a call back.

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