Interviewing woes

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Anonymous User
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Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:28 pm

This thread comes long after the end of OCI, but I'm hoping to get some helpful advice as I struggle through my future job search.

I'm in the top 1/3 at a T14 and interviewed with firms that were right up my alley GPA-wise (and a few lower-range safeties, but not such clear safeties that I'd fall victim to the firms' yield protection). An OCS counselor said that out of all her unemployed advisees, I definitely have the best grades.

Must be my social skills, right? Well, I've never been accused of having poor social skills: I worked in customer service for quite a few years (with great reviews) and have a great, diverse group of friends (I offer this to you as evidence that I'm not socially awkward). An OCS counselor told me that I had a charming personality. During my interviews, I was referred to by various interviewers as "articulate," "assertive," and "relaxed." I feel just as comfortable discussing the legal issues that I explored in my 1L summer gig as I do talking about the weekly NFL picks -- and I've had to do both.

And yet here I am, unemployed, after more callbacks than I care to count. There is obviously nothing that I can do about my 1L grades at this point, so as I continue applying to small firms, it will all come down to my interviewing ability...and I have yet to get any constructive criticism about it, including from OCS.

So, query: what might I be doing wrong?

Anonymous User
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:35 pm

Probably nothing. It's just easy to fall through the cracks.

bdubs
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby bdubs » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Which market are you targeting? It sounds like choice of market and ties to market are important, so maybe firms are questioning your resolve to stay with them.

Aqualibrium
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:39 pm

What markets are you applying to?

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:44 pm

I only have connections to the bloodbath that is DC (born and raised) and the market of the school (a secondary market). Also a couple of smaller markets in cities that I LOVE -- no ties, but my OCS counselor claims that my face lights up with this megawatt smile whenever I start talking about why I want to be in those cities.

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DoubleChecks
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby DoubleChecks » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I only have connections to the bloodbath that is DC (born and raised) and the market of the school (a secondary market). Also a couple of smaller markets in cities that I LOVE -- no ties, but my OCS counselor claims that my face lights up with this megawatt smile whenever I start talking about why I want to be in those cities.


hm, sounds like it might, at least partially, have to do w/ ties then

keg411
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby keg411 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So, query: what might I be doing wrong?


From the way the rest of the thread has gone, I'm guessing failure to target NYC.

solidsnake
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby solidsnake » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:04 pm

People who lack a sense of focus career-wise, e.g., gave weak, unpersuasive answers to questions like, "why THIS firm?", "why THIS practice area?" didn't seem to do as well as those who come across as more self-aware and directed in terms what, specifically, they were looking for in a firm and in their careers more generally (for argument's sake, assume grades are non-issue). Where would you say you fall along that spectrum?

Aqualibrium
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I only have connections to the bloodbath that is DC (born and raised) and the market of the school (a secondary market). Also a couple of smaller markets in cities that I LOVE -- no ties, but my OCS counselor claims that my face lights up with this megawatt smile whenever I start talking about why I want to be in those cities.



Sounds like that's your problem. For secondary markets, even with ties, you often see a sort of inferiority complex that causes them to question why students who would seemingly have much better options would want to work there. They can like you a lot, but if you don't give them specific reasons why their firm is the one you want to work at, I don't think you'll see much success.

Secondary market firms often have more leeway with regards to the way their summer program is structured, so there may still be hope for you. This may seem like groveling, but I'd make a list of the 3-5 firms you liked the most, research thoroughly and find the things those firms think makes them different from their competitors, and make contact; emphasize those things as your reason for still being interested. At this point, even if they can't add you on this summer, you need to be trying to build relationships so that they'd strongly consider you next year. It may be a long shot, but stranger things have happened (I know of a guy who got dinged at a v100 firm, then later got an offer at that same firm for an SA because he did something like this).

I got dinged at a firm I really loved last summer. I kept in contact with the hiring partner and others at the firm and really got to know the firm and the people better; I ended up being the very first person they made an offer to this year.


edit: I think Solidsnake hit on the point I was trying to make as well.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:23 pm

solidsnake wrote:People who lack a sense of focus career-wise, e.g., gave weak, unpersuasive answers to questions like, "why THIS firm?", "why THIS practice area?" didn't seem to do as well as those who come across as more self-aware and directed in terms what, specifically, they were looking for in a firm and in their careers more generally (for argument's sake, assume grades are non-issue). Where would you say you fall along that spectrum?


Hmm, good point. I suppose my answers could have been stronger in a couple of the interviews, though in a couple of others I thought that I articulated my interest in both the firm and the practice area very well and had a good story to back it up.

Any advice for how to answer this question when it comes to interviewing with smaller firms? It's easy enough to find solid points of interest (things that the firms think make them different, as Aqualibrium put it) in biglaw firms, but how do you differentiate a small family (or whatever) law firm from the one right next door?

solidsnake
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby solidsnake » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
solidsnake wrote:People who lack a sense of focus career-wise, e.g., gave weak, unpersuasive answers to questions like, "why THIS firm?", "why THIS practice area?" didn't seem to do as well as those who come across as more self-aware and directed in terms what, specifically, they were looking for in a firm and in their careers more generally (for argument's sake, assume grades are non-issue). Where would you say you fall along that spectrum?


Hmm, good point. I suppose my answers could have been stronger in a couple of the interviews, though in a couple of others I thought that I articulated my interest in both the firm and the practice area very well and had a good story to back it up.

Any advice for how to answer this question when it comes to interviewing with smaller firms? It's easy enough to find solid points of interest (things that the firms think make them different, as Aqualibrium put it) in biglaw firms, but how do you differentiate a small family (or whatever) law firm from the one right next door?


it doesn't matter how much you thought you articulated your interest, it matters what they thought. You need to be honest with yourself (CSO probably won't) and gauge whether you come over as one of those ambivalent types who is "open to anything," which, to me, sounds like an insecure hedge done by someone who fears talking themselves out of a job. Personally, I went into each interview knowing exactly what I want and completely willing to walk away if I sensed I wasn't going to get it there. That being said, being charming, friendly, and OBSERVANT is still -- and always -- the modus operandi. The firm I ultimately chose was literally my #1 choice because of fit, culture, mentoring, and practice group; and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity ahead. Make sure to communicate that to your interviewers and recruiters. Like law exams, you only get credit for what the reader/listener perceives.

with smaller firms, i dont have that much experience, but I believe that they tend to not have such a broad practice nor the resources or economy of scale to provide for one. so you being a fit is even more key perhaps than in biglaw. the tradeoff is that the standard grade/school metrics (which isn't your problem anyway) are relaxed.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:00 pm

I'm in a very similar situation grades/schoolwise, and also struck out. I've also failed so far post-OCI despite pulling out every stop short of applying to NYC, which I likewise did not do. (I mostly targeted a "hard" market, though not DC.) I think my interviewing skills might be slightly worse: I tend to talk too much and I'm a little geeky (so if things like sports come up, I'm useless). That said, I've also usually done pretty well in contexts requiring interpersonal interaction, so while this claim might sound a bit suspicious, I really don't think I'm just some horrible freak -- I talk too much when I'm not careful, but I'm also said to be pretty fun to talk with and well-spoken. Basically, I think in both our cases, a combination of bad luck and even worse market selection was what did it. No need to beat yourself up too much.

The "ties" factor really does suck, though. People from DC probably have it worse -- the one market besides NY where nobody cares about ties.

Aqualibrium
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:04 pm

solidsnake wrote:Personally, I went into each interview knowing exactly what I want and completely willing to walk away if I sensed I wasn't going to get it there. That being said, being charming, friendly, and OBSERVANT is still -- and always -- the modus operandi.


I went into every interview exactly like this, and actually did withdraw from a couple of places for that reason. Great advice David Hayter.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:10 pm

solidsnake wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
solidsnake wrote:
with smaller firms, i dont have that much experience, but I believe that they tend to not have such a broad practice nor the resources or economy of scale to provide for one. so you being a fit is even more key perhaps than in biglaw. the tradeoff is that the standard grade/school metrics (which isn't your problem anyway) are relaxed.


That's what I'm worried about. At this point, if I want to go into private practice, it seems that small firms are my only option. But, as you said, my being a fit is key, so it all comes down to interviewing...and when a firm's practice is relatively narrow, it may be hard to express my interest in that firm in a way that makes me well-suited for that narrow practice. Yikes.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm in a very similar situation grades/schoolwise, and also struck out. I've also failed so far post-OCI despite pulling out every stop short of applying to NYC, which I likewise did not do. (I mostly targeted a "hard" market, though not DC.) I think my interviewing skills might be slightly worse: I tend to talk too much and I'm a little geeky (so if things like sports come up, I'm useless). That said, I've also usually done pretty well in contexts requiring interpersonal interaction, so while this claim might sound a bit suspicious, I really don't think I'm just some horrible freak -- I talk too much when I'm not careful, but I'm also said to be pretty fun to talk with and well-spoken. Basically, I think in both our cases, a combination of bad luck and even worse market selection was what did it. No need to beat yourself up too much.

The "ties" factor really does suck, though. People from DC probably have it worse -- the one market besides NY where nobody cares about ties.


Yeah, bad luck and market selection...Although I must say that applying to NYC would not have done me any good, since I probably would not have been able to conceal my strong dislike for the city during interviews -- and that would have killed me on the spot. Acting skills only go so far...

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby scribblehead » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:17 pm

Don't worry, there are plenty of great jobs that you won't hear about via OCI. Have you considered the NJ market? Here are a couple openings that are seeking entry-level attorneys:

--LinkRemoved--

and


--LinkRemoved--

BTW the $29 an hour job is a temporary doc review gig in Westfield, NJ that's been going on for 5+ years. My buddy is working there now and said that half the temps are now Top 14'ers. They have 3 guys from G'Town, two from NYU, and even a gal from Columbia that all started last week.

All of them either missed getting gigs from OCI or were laid off from biglaw in the recent bloodbaths. Needless to say, all of them are depressed to a level approaching suicide. Why wouldn't they be? Hell, my pal Holbs dropped out of high school in 10th grade and just got a temp gig delivering fuel oil for the winter (he has a hazmat license). He's brining home $24 an hour and gets an extra $50 if he goes out at night b/c some clown ran out of oil and is freezing.

Guess what else? He doesn't have any student loans to pay back!

Aqualibrium
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I probably would not have been able to conceal my strong dislike for the city during interviews -- and that would have killed me on the spot. Acting skills only go so far...


I want to preface this by saying I mean absolutely no offense.

I may be way wrong and totally off base here, but if you can't act, can't sell, can't conceal your distaste for certain things, then you can't effectively service clients, and you can't effectively navigate the firm environment. Maybe they did you a favor?

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extragnarls
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby extragnarls » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Yeah, bad luck and market selection...Although I must say that applying to NYC would not have done me any good, since I probably would not have been able to conceal my strong dislike for the city during interviews -- and that would have killed me on the spot. Acting skills only go so far...


This isn't a dig, but next time you feel this way, think about the post below and then muster up the enthusiasm to sound like you really want the job, no matter what or where it is. I don't have anything to say about the content of the post, but just thinking about it should help you drum up some pretty genuine interest in the firm.

scribblehead wrote:Don't worry, there are plenty of great jobs that you won't hear about via OCI. Have you considered the NJ market? Here are a couple openings that are seeking entry-level attorneys:

--LinkRemoved--

and


--LinkRemoved--

BTW the $29 an hour job is a temporary doc review gig in Westfield, NJ that's been going on for 5+ years. My buddy is working there now and said that half the temps are now Top 14'ers. They have 3 guys from G'Town, two from NYU, and even a gal from Columbia that all started last week.

All of them either missed getting gigs from OCI or were laid off from biglaw in the recent bloodbaths. Needless to say, all of them are depressed to a level approaching suicide. Why wouldn't they be? Hell, my pal Holbs dropped out of high school in 10th grade and just got a temp gig delivering fuel oil for the winter (he has a hazmat license). He's brining home $24 an hour and gets an extra $50 if he goes out at night b/c some clown ran out of oil and is freezing.

Guess what else? He doesn't have any student loans to pay back!

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:04 am

Aqualibrium wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I probably would not have been able to conceal my strong dislike for the city during interviews -- and that would have killed me on the spot. Acting skills only go so far...


I want to preface this by saying I mean absolutely no offense.

I may be way wrong and totally off base here, but if you can't act, can't sell, can't conceal your distaste for certain things, then you can't effectively service clients, and you can't effectively navigate the firm environment. Maybe they did you a favor?


I agree with you that acting is a huge part of interviewing and a huge part of being a successful attorney. However, I did not say that I could not act. I merely said that I could not fake enthusiasm about spending the next 3-5 (or more) years of my life in a city that I (insert strong language here). It's one thing to conceal your dislikes when representing a client whose position you don't agree with...and it's another thing entirely to conceal your dislikes when they have to do with the direction and quality of your OWN life. Concealing your dislikes when representing Big Tobacco is different from concealing your dislikes when being handed a cigarette.

But you do make an excellent overall point about the skills that it takes to succeed in the firm environment. I do appreciate the insight, and I apologize if this response came off as snarky.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby 20160810 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:I only have connections to the bloodbath that is DC (born and raised) and the market of the school (a secondary market). Also a couple of smaller markets in cities that I LOVE -- no ties, but my OCS counselor claims that my face lights up with this megawatt smile whenever I start talking about why I want to be in those cities.

I was going to say I suspect you might have erred in targeting DC/SF and not NYC, and this seems to ice it for me. Sounds like you're just a victim of shitty luck and really competitive markets. Send out lots of mailings and see if you can't make something happen for you. Just goes to show the wisdom of the advice that if you're at a T14, you should never not bid on NYC at all.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Kohinoor » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:This thread comes long after the end of OCI, but I'm hoping to get some helpful advice as I struggle through my future job search.

I'm in the top 1/3 at a T14 and interviewed with firms that were right up my alley GPA-wise (and a few lower-range safeties, but not such clear safeties that I'd fall victim to the firms' yield protection). An OCS counselor said that out of all her unemployed advisees, I definitely have the best grades.

Must be my social skills, right? Well, I've never been accused of having poor social skills: I worked in customer service for quite a few years (with great reviews) and have a great, diverse group of friends (I offer this to you as evidence that I'm not socially awkward). An OCS counselor told me that I had a charming personality. During my interviews, I was referred to by various interviewers as "articulate," "assertive," and "relaxed." I feel just as comfortable discussing the legal issues that I explored in my 1L summer gig as I do talking about the weekly NFL picks -- and I've had to do both.

And yet here I am, unemployed, after more callbacks than I care to count. There is obviously nothing that I can do about my 1L grades at this point, so as I continue applying to small firms, it will all come down to my interviewing ability...and I have yet to get any constructive criticism about it, including from OCS.

So, query: what might I be doing wrong?
You may have been number 2 on each callback.

concurrent fork
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby concurrent fork » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:So, query: what might I be doing wrong?

You targeted DC and one (probably very competitive) secondary market. HLS kids with similar class rank were striking out in DC. I doubt that your results are a reflection of your interview skills.

scribblehead
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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby scribblehead » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:59 am

OP, do you have any interest in bankruptcy work? Here's a gig:

--LinkRemoved--

I know you don't like NYC, but sadly that's the best place to get entry-level gigs and/or temporary doc review. At least this firm in the CL ad will give you a chance to learn and hopefully make a bit more than the $36,400 base salary. If you hustled and brought in your own clients you could make maybe 45-55 K once you learn the ropes. That's how the small-firm game works: take low salary and eat what you kill in "commissions." I'd shoot for a 50/50 split on any work you bring in yourself.


Here's a firm in PA offering a similar deal:

--LinkRemoved--

Don't knock CL either- these firms are shrewd to post on there (for free) are opposed to lawjobs.com and other pay sites. Lawjobs charges over $200 a week for a classified employment ad. For small firms, best bet is CL or hanging around local bar associations etc. Lawjobs is mostly offering gigs to laterals with portable business and 5-7 years experience in biglaw. CL is where the rest of us have to dig out gigs.

True, these salaries may be much lower than you expected, but sadly in today's market small firms are rarely offering much more than 40 K. These little shops simply can't pay inexperienced newbies big $$$ to learn the ropes of client interviews, pleadings, etc.

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:46 am

dook?

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Re: Interviewing woes

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:02 pm

OP, hang in there.

I was in your position until last week. I was also born and raised in the DC area (MoCo, MD as it were) and fell victim to the bloodbath that was DC fall recruiting. Even worse for me, my school is in the greater DC area, so I couldn't even fall back on a secondary market.

However, just last week I received an offer at a small but very well regarded firm in the DC suburbs. Contrary to what some posters here think about small firms, it's not "shitlaw," and they don't do PI or insurance defense. While it may not pay $160k, I'll actually have the opportunity to really take responsibility over cases, learn the skills necessary to have a successful career as an attorney, and will have a legitimate shot at one day making partner while representing local businesses in the area where I grew up.

OP, all I can say is to keep plugging away and don't give up hope. If there was a hiring partner you interviewed with who you liked (esp. if s/he is from your school), reach out to him. I did this and it helped me identify a weakness in my interviewing style that actually stemmed from advice I received from OCS. Try to set up externships to distinguish yourself from the crowd. I know that things seem tough, but you have to keep being proactive and plugging away. Remember- it's always darkest before dawn.




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