Eric Drattell has been the Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Risk Management Solutions Inc. for 7 years. Before that he worked as Director of Legal Services at Cisco, Deputy General Counsel at Sun Microsystems, and a partner at McDermott, Will & Emery. Below he goes through the steps of what to do after you get the callback.
Congratulations at having survived the meat market known as OCI. You’ve now gotten a callback from a law firm or corporate legal department and you want to be ready to dazzle the five or so people you’ll meet in the in-office round of interviews. You stood out from among the 20 or so people the employer interviewed on campus, but now is most definitely not the time to rest. Now you’ll be competing with a hand-selected group of bright, ambitious, hard-working people for one of a few open slots the employer has.
Having been on the hiring committee for a big firm and now as a hiring manager for my company’s legal department, there are definitely some things I look for in a candidate. Everyone getting a callback is smart and accomplished, so it takes more for the cream to rise to the top than a good GPA and class standing.
So what do employers look for? I think there are a few traits that stand out. The m0st important is preparation. I work hard to master the details necessary to succeed in my work, and I can get a sense very early in an interview for whether a candidate digs in and sweats the details or is someone used to getting by having done the minimum. Have you done any research on the firm or the company you are interviewing with? If it’s a firm, do you know what their practice includes? You would be wasting everyone’s time, including your own, if you have a passion for plaintiff’s work and didn’t know you were interviewing with a firm that does only defense work. If it’s a company, do you know what they do? I can’t tell you how many people I have interviewed who haven’t even bothered to look at my company’s website. If you haven’t done at least that, then don’t be surprised if your interview is suddenly cut short.
You should also prepare for who you’re interviewing with. Have you Googled the interviewer or checked his or her LinkedIn profile? I know someone is prepared when she asks me a question that reveals she’s done her research. For example, asking me why I went in-house after 12+ years in a firm, and how I would compare a firm practice to an in-house practice, is a very good question. Caution is advised, however, in asking questions that could make you seem like a stalker.
There are many views on how to dress for the callback. It probably goes without saying that you dress formally when you have a firm callback. Proper attire is a bit trickier when you’re interviewing with a company. Often, if the company uses a recruiter, he or she will tell you what to wear. If you have no information, however, I would tend to default to more formal dress, especially if you’re going to be interviewed by a Baby Boomer.
Finally, you should come armed with questions for the interviewers. It doesn’t matter if you ask the same questions of each interviewer; it matters that you are asking questions! Ask questions that reveal that you’ve prepared for the interview, have an interest in what the firm or company does, and shows something of you that isn’t in your one page resume. Like the person who hasn’t checked out our website, the person who says he or she has no questions will never get to the next round of interviews.
There are, of course, no guarantees in life, and you are competing in a tough job market for only a handful of openings. But you can maximize your chances of success in your interviews by doing what you’ve likely been doing your entire life: working hard, being prepared, and thinking critically. Good luck!