How to Get Callback Interviews Pre-OCI/without going through a screener interview

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Today I interviewed someone for callback, and if you haven’t read our articles before, I work at a V15 firm.  Now, if you know a lot about NYC white shoe firms and their interviewing timelines, you might wonder, how has this guy secured an interview even before OCI has begun at most T10 schools? The answer: he didn’t.

When I received my interview invite from the HR department, I noticed that the interviewee’s dossier stated “Referral” at the top.  This fact inspired me to inquire a little with him how he managed to get in the door, and his story inspired me to write this article.

Truth be told. I have seen this several times over the past year.  Last summer alone I interviewed two people who were “referred” pre-OCI.  But this guy is the earliest yet I’ve interviewed, and over the past two weeks in this first half of July, I had seen other pre-OCI interviewees being escorted through our hallways. Conclusion? Top NYC law firms are increasingly resorting to early pre-OCI interviews to fill their summer classes.

The fact has not gone unnoticed by the current student body, as demonstrated by this TLS thread here:  But how it works remains a mystery to most.  This article will explain.

Before I begin though, here’s two more bits of shocking news.  The interviewee I had today was non-diverse (so no credit for being an URM), and went to a T40 school (granted, top grades and NYC area).  So from the get go, we can refute the notion that only top graduates at top schools can score such Pre-OCI callbacks.

How did he do it? The answer is very simple.  He was referred.

Who referred him? His 2L friend who is currently summering at the firm.

How long did it take between his friend submitting his resume to him receiving a callback interview? Literally one hour.

How did he do? I don’t know yet, but I’ve already recommended him for an offer since he interviewed just fine. (Full disclosure, I am diverse, and graduated near the top of my class from a T6. I did not pass judgment on him for any of the extraneous factors that didn’t relate to my personal experience of the candidate. I think most interviewers operate the same way.)

Now, what can we learn from these facts? Several things. First, that it doesn’t take knowing a partner personally for you to get a pre-OCI referral, ANY foot inside the door of the firm is enough to get your resume in front of the human resources people.  

Second, the human resources department is small and highly responsive. Even at the largest of law firms, the HR department will not be a huge organization. An internal reference will be quickly reviewed and acted upon.  Firms have grade cutoffs, and the lower-ranked the school, the higher the grade cutoff.  This particular interviewee was obviously at the very top of his class, but he went to a T40 school. Depending on the strength of your recommendation, you might stand a chance of getting such a callback regardless of where you are.

Third, the candidate’s resume and transcript only went through HR, and did not go through the hands of any partner.  This means that criteria for assessment aren’t as stringent and multi-tiered as you might imagine.

What should you do? Make friends with upper years, you never know when a rising 3L friend who’s summering at a law firm may come in handy when you want your resume and transcript passed on. Beyond this, network like crazy. Clearly, if a rising 3L summer associate has the pull to get your resume to the HR people and get you a pre-OCI callback, anyone at the firm will be useful.

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