Two quick tips today for your callback interviews

Tags: interviewing articles

I was at a cocktail party at the firm last night, and chatted with a few people, one partner, a couple of mid levels, and a senior associate, about the folks they’ve been interviewing over the past few days.  What they said reminded me to write this article.

By the type of questions they ask, callback interviewers can be roughly broken into two types:

1. the type that just chats with you. This is much more likely with your junior associate coffee/lunch interviewers.

2. the type that asks you questions with a view to the evaluation form in mind.  This is much more likely of people who have to talk to you individually 1 on 1 for 20-30 minutes in the office.  

What does this mean for you?  

It means that you need to know what is typically on law firm evaluation forms.  How should you find that out?  Reach out to folks from your school who work there, network!  Of course, you don’t have to ask flat out for the evaluation form, more indirect questions, for example “what are you typically asked to assess?”, can get to the same thing.

Typically, however, law firm interview evaluation forms are similar.  They are short, and ask a series of generic questions such as: “how will the interviewee interact with our clients?” “with colleagues?” “will the interviewee be able to handle our work?” “Discuss anything particularly memorable about this interviewee.”

Tip one: for interviewers with whom it becomes quickly clear that they are asking you questions with the evaluation form in mind, I would try to guide them in direction where they can give positive answers on the form. Even if not, you should be sure to introduce topics of conversation that would help the interviewer fill out the form, because regardless of what kind of conversation you’ve had, they all have to fill it out in the end.  Of course, this is keeping in mind that you should not be rigid, go with the flow.

By the type of things they are looking for, interviewers can be divided into two types as well:

1. the type that looks for a buddy they can work alongside. This is obviously the junior associate in her 1-3rd year.

2. the type that looks for somebody they can rely on to get things done speedily and accurately. This is any associate above the 4th year or junior partner.  

These individuals have completely different psychological approaches to the interview.  You can be completely relax and friendly and have a great rapport with the second type of interviewer, and still get ranked low on the evaluation.  This comes straight from a senior associate I spoke to, who said that he is suspicious of people who just guides the conversation towards friendly banter, and doesn’t take the bite into substantive issues.  Even if the conversation was great fun, he often discounts the individual in evaluating them.

Tip two: guide the conversation with the interviewer’s personal needs in mind: junior associates are looking for a cool, friendly person they can hang out with, camaraderie, and probably someone they can see themselves complaining about the job to (everyone complains).  Senior associates are frequently looking for smart, effective people who can rattle off a whole slew of war stories about their previous work experience, or otherwise demonstrate professional competence, someone they can rely on to soldier on.

Simple facts, pretty obvious in hindsight, but not always kept in mind by the interviewee.

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