What you need to know about Callbacks

Tags: Interviewing Articles

Hey folks, callback season has begun. Partners have been out on OCIs across the country the past few weeks, and the results are trickling in from campuses. At our firm, we are anticipating up to 30 call-back interviewees per day over the course of the next two weeks, and I myself have been interviewing two or three candidates a week.

I will cut to the chase here about what callbacks are: a failsafe.  When you’ve received a callback, you’re over the hump.  All the firm is trying to do is to put you through five or six long conversations to see your cultural fit, ability to hold a conversation, and possession of basic social graces.  This would be the case for all typical applications.  For those who are slightly off the curve, for example individuals who overcame some substantial negative fact (see our guest post on the Girl’s Guide to Law School) to obtain a callback, the situation is slightly different.  The callback interviewers will not have spoken with your OCI screener, and you will have to outperform your record repeatedly in every single interview you have during your callback.  This is because every single person will walk into the interview with the adverse fact in mind, and the OCI interviewer will not have passed on any personal praise directly, or whatever logic caused her to invite you for a callback.  At most, callback interviewers will assume that you must have done something right, and will walk into the callback interview expecting to be dazzled.  So, if you’ve got an adverse fact, it’s still an uphill battle here.  Take all the advice we gave in our guest post linked above, and be sure to do a follow-up e-mail very quickly after your interview.

I recommend a quick follow-up for all interviewees, because human resources typically sends out evaluation forms to interviewers right after their interview is complete. Some interviewers might wait a while before filling out the evaluation, but I typically find that I like filling them out and getting the out of the way while memory of the interview is fresh. Several times I have received follow-ups after I had already filled out my evaluation, and it was a shame because I always appreciate more attention and thought put in.  If you send a thoughtful follow-up right after the interview (duck into a coffee shop and use your laptop, or type one out on your phone), you maximize your chances of impressing your evaluator before they write their evaluation.

Back to typical interviews.  As I stated above, you can relax a little, and in fact, relaxing a little is probably good for you during callbacks.  You do not need to remain extremely reserved and punctilious, you do not need to be so careful, and you definitely do not need to tell rehearsed lines over and over again.

You’re probably wondering, why shouldn’t I just do what worked for me at my OCI five times over?  Good question.  You shouldn’t rely on what you did during OCI because you’ll get burned out.  The callback is with 4-5 sets of people for a good reason: the firm will want to see you interact with a diverse crowd of people in a compressed timeframe, but maintain enthusiasm, a good tenor of conversation, impress, and entertain throughout.  What you want to avoid the most with a callback interview is to bore the interviewer.  They already know your grades pass muster, they already know your credentials check out, what they want to know NOW is that you’ll fit in, and that you’ll be a good colleague to work alongside.  If you just come in with a prepared speech or repertoire, and try to repeat that five times over, you will get sick of it and lose interest by the end, and it won’t fit into the lunch or coffee interview format with your associate interviewees.

So, bringing it together, here are the two things you need to do:

1. Relax, you’re over the hump, just come with some stories about the things you’ve listed on your resume, and be ready to laugh and converse with your interviewer. Do not be rigid, do not rely overly on prepared talking points, express interest, express hunger, but most of all, keep yours and their eyes from glazing over, and avoid boredom and lapses in conversation.

2. How do you do that?  We stress preparation endlessly, and we believe that if you have your resume down pat, and practice areas of interest thoroughly researched, you’ll have set yourself up for a relaxed and confident attitude, and free your mind to talk about all other subject matters with your interviewer.  Frequently, interviewers at the callback stage are more interested in you as a person than anything else, so focus on your interests and seek commonalities, talk about fun things, and strive to maintain eye contact—the most effective way to prevent their eyes from glazing over.

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