Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

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Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:07 pm

I am currently a rising 2L working on OCI applications.

Background:

I was ranked #1 at a lower T1 school after first semester of 1L. I am now ranked #2 after second semester (3.941). Assuming I put a "good faith effort" into the write-on, I should be on law review.

To top it off, I had a professor that gave glowing reviews about me as one of my references and had a cover letter that received lots of compliments during interviews. My writing sample could have been better, but I had an interview at almost every firm I applied to at 1L OCI.

So where am I working? In an unpaid, non-competitive government volunteer position. Of all the firms I interviewed at, I only had 1 call-back, and did not get the position. Now, I'm not complaining. I am thoroughly enjoying the job I have. BUT, I am scared for 2L OCI, since it really matters this time. If everything went "right" by the book the first time and I still did not get an SA, I am uncertain how to proceed.

Questions:

First, is it okay to use the same cover-letter? I will only be applying to two firms that also participated in 1L OCI. For those two, I am assuming I should change it because it was, apparently, quite memorable. For the others, I don't see why I should change it, except maybe to tailor it a little more carefully to certain firms.

Second, is it safe to assume that my problem is my interview skills? If so, my plan, so far, is simply to practice more. I followed all the usual recommendations the first time (research, think through the usual questions, think of questions to ask, etc.), but here I am. Any other recommendations?

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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:12 pm

To OP: I'm also at a T1 school and I think I knew like 2 people who got 1L SA jobs. Outside of like the top 10, I really don't think they exist. Seems like you're overthinking things if you're considering your 1L job hunting experience to be indicative of your 2L OCI experience.

Almost everyone I know at T1 and lower T14s is working an unpaid government job. The few that aren't either 1) had a family connection, 2) went back to their old job for the summer, or 3) had some exceptional work experience.

Just chill brah.

SchopenhauerFTW
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby SchopenhauerFTW » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:14 pm

This may seem strange to suggest, but maybe you could use your grades as leverage and talk directly to the dean of your school about your situation. No one wants to see their #1 or #2 student getting no-offered and stuck with a volunteer position, and they'll probably go out of their way to 'correct the situation'. :wink:

Honestly though you'll be fine at OCI.

Edit: When I said 'fine' I meant in terms of your GPA, but then again it's not an exact science...
Last edited by SchopenhauerFTW on Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:19 pm

How are your interview skills? Have a lot of people review your cover letters.

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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:25 pm

OP here: First, thank you for the reality check.

How are your interview skills?

I get the feeling that my interview skills are questionable. A friend watched me at a networking event and told me that I needed a wing-man to pull me out of talking about awkward topics (apparently poverty is something you should never, ever discuss in this type of situation because it makes people uncomfortable? I wasn't trying to be on a soap box, I was just talking about my experience as an elementary school teacher in a low-income school district..).

Considering I think my personality is somewhat awkward generally, however, I am a little worried.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:30 pm

OP: In my opinion, your concerns are real. Does your OCI/OCS offer interviewing technique sessions ? Ask specifically about appropriate & inappropriate topics of conversation.

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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2012 2:50 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here: First, thank you for the reality check.

How are your interview skills?

I get the feeling that my interview skills are questionable. A friend watched me at a networking event and told me that I needed a wing-man to pull me out of talking about awkward topics (apparently poverty is something you should never, ever discuss in this type of situation because it makes people uncomfortable? I wasn't trying to be on a soap box, I was just talking about my experience as an elementary school teacher in a low-income school district..).

Considering I think my personality is somewhat awkward generally, however, I am a little worried.


Could be a cultural issue. Gotta realize that most members of the legal profession are white middle class commuters whose parents fled to the suburbs specifically to avoid acknowledging the problem of inner-city poverty. Thus, who are you to remind them of it?

Yeah...but in general, just think about where your average law firm attorney comes from and plan accordingly. Maybe you need a list?

Politics
Religion
Sex
Poverty
Anything excessively personal
Anything that could possibly say anything negative about you (learning disabilities at age 6)
Anything that could give away your socio-economic status as less than upper white middle class surburban ("I worked on a farm" --- nope! Had to learn that one the hard way. True story.)
Anything that makes you seem out of the ordinary - being unique is fine. Especially unique work experience. Overseas experience is really fun to talk about and scores points. But you have to learn that fine line between a "good" unique and letting them think that maybe you don't match the minimum of the cookie cutter profile they seek for all new associates. ("I started a heavy metal band after college" = probably not going to fly).

BeenDidThat
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby BeenDidThat » Thu Jun 21, 2012 8:01 am

Contrary to the above poster, I highly doubt that the mere act of talking about poverty from the perspective of an inner-city teacher nixed you. There are plenty of ways the convo could turn sour, but the convo itself is not the issue.

I would definitely speak to your CSO or a dean and see if you can get a sense of what the issue is, then try to correct it.

Anonymous User
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Could be a cultural issue. Gotta realize that most members of the legal profession are white middle class commuters whose parents fled to the suburbs specifically to avoid acknowledging the problem of inner-city poverty. Thus, who are you to remind them of it?

Yeah...but in general, just think about where your average law firm attorney comes from and plan accordingly. Maybe you need a list?

Politics
Religion
Sex
Poverty
Anything excessively personal
Anything that could possibly say anything negative about you (learning disabilities at age 6)
Anything that could give away your socio-economic status as less than upper white middle class surburban ("I worked on a farm" --- nope! Had to learn that one the hard way. True story.)
Anything that makes you seem out of the ordinary - being unique is fine. Especially unique work experience. Overseas experience is really fun to talk about and scores points. But you have to learn that fine line between a "good" unique and letting them think that maybe you don't match the minimum of the cookie cutter profile they seek for all new associates. ("I started a heavy metal band after college" = probably not going to fly).


I've had fairly positive reactions to talking about my background and socioeconomic status to interviewers and my CSO advisers, though the interviews were all in government. Do you really think it's something to avoid mentioning during firm interviews? Can you tell us more about your experience? What if you're a minority?

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PennBull
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby PennBull » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:26 am

Anonymous User wrote:Anything that could give away your socio-economic status as less than upper white middle class surburban ("I worked on a farm" --- nope! Had to learn that one the hard way. True story.)


Seriously? Details?

SchopenhauerFTW
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby SchopenhauerFTW » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:27 am

PennBull wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Anything that could give away your socio-economic status as less than upper white middle class surburban ("I worked on a farm" --- nope! Had to learn that one the hard way. True story.)


Seriously? Details?
I want details as well. I'm a little troubled by a few of the items on that list...

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PennBull
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby PennBull » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:29 am

SchopenhauerFTW wrote:
PennBull wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Anything that could give away your socio-economic status as less than upper white middle class surburban ("I worked on a farm" --- nope! Had to learn that one the hard way. True story.)


Seriously? Details?
I want details as well. I'm a little troubled by a few of the items on that list...


I would also like to know the firm where that was considered questionable.

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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:46 am

The real problem with most of those topics isn't their substance per se but the ease with which you may seem preachy when discussing them. Very few people are likely to hold it against you that you are from/worked with people from poor urban backgrounds, but it's quite possible to be perceived as judgmental (and you never know what will get people defensive, so it may not even be your fault).

Anonymous User
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:50 am

OP here:

It seems counter-intuitive that I played up the 'I grew up on a farm' (I did..) and worked in low-income schools to get into law school, but shouldn't talk about it to get a firm job. But I guess it also doesn't really surprise me. I will see what CSA says, although so far they have been less than helpful in general.

The more I think back on my interviews, the more I realize what a buffoon I was overall. I made a lot of mistakes, and more obvious ones than mentioning poverty. I did feel, however, like my interviews for government jobs went really well, but I still barely got anything there either, which scares me the most (~10 interviews at one job fair, no offers). The only explanations I could come up for there was (1) the number of times I was told "well, with your resume, it looks like you'll be getting a firm job" or (2) my personality is just that off-putting.

As I've been reading more online interview advice, a few more questions:
What mentality do you go into when you interview? Do/should people really try to be over-enthusiastic, always super happy and energetic? I try to be enthusiastic about my work, and to come across as laid back (not uptight, as I'm told my grades may imply), but I'm also not the life of the party. I've never been very social, for example, or good at networking. For those who are more reserved, what do you do to mentally go into "sell yourself" mode?

Anonymous User
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:51 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Could be a cultural issue. Gotta realize that most members of the legal profession are white middle class commuters whose parents fled to the suburbs specifically to avoid acknowledging the problem of inner-city poverty. Thus, who are you to remind them of it?

Yeah...but in general, just think about where your average law firm attorney comes from and plan accordingly. Maybe you need a list?

Politics
Religion
Sex
Poverty
Anything excessively personal
Anything that could possibly say anything negative about you (learning disabilities at age 6)
Anything that could give away your socio-economic status as less than upper white middle class surburban ("I worked on a farm" --- nope! Had to learn that one the hard way. True story.)
Anything that makes you seem out of the ordinary - being unique is fine. Especially unique work experience. Overseas experience is really fun to talk about and scores points. But you have to learn that fine line between a "good" unique and letting them think that maybe you don't match the minimum of the cookie cutter profile they seek for all new associates. ("I started a heavy metal band after college" = probably not going to fly).


I've had fairly positive reactions to talking about my background and socioeconomic status to interviewers and my CSO advisers, though the interviews were all in government. Do you really think it's something to avoid mentioning during firm interviews? Can you tell us more about your experience? What if you're a minority?


I think it might be different if you are a minority. I am not a minority, so I am not sure. It wasn't actually a bad experience. It was a mock interview at my school for 1L's with a partner from a top midwestern firm. He asked me what made me unique, so I told him about growing up on a small Arkansas dairy farm. He advised me not to talk about this during a real interview because "some firms" might think I wouldn't fit in with their firm culture. A minority could be a "diversity" hire, so talking about overcoming poverty might be part of the package. A white person is not a diversity hire, so they might be held to a different standard. Add to that the prejudice of the educated against "white trash."

Also, I think dixiecupdrinking might be right. A white person talking about her observations of poverty in a minority community might easily come off in bad taste; it's really nauseating when celebrities talk condescendingly about Africa. Perhaps I am over-thinking things and going in the wrong direction. But in either case, I'd say poverty really is a subject to avoid.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

SchopenhauerFTW
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby SchopenhauerFTW » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:52 am

dixiecupdrinking wrote:The real problem with most of those topics isn't their substance per se but the ease with which you may seem preachy when discussing them. Very few people are likely to hold it against you that you are from/worked with people from poor urban backgrounds, but it's quite possible to be perceived as judgmental (and you never know what will get people defensive, so it may not even be your fault).
Okay, I understand this. But I think there's a discernible difference between someone who grew up in poverty and some Meghan or Josh telling you about how their world perspective was forever changed after their Teach For America gig.

Anonymous User
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:58 am

OP-- I'll start by saying that with your grades, I would be shocked if you don't get an SA. And moreover, if an employer can't handle hearing that you cared about alleviating poverty, do you really want to work there? Most of the top firms have serious pro bono programs, which is actually a selling point at recruiting, for a lot of people.

Now, here is the clincher-- I do think your interviewing could vary in level of "skill" depending on how much you really want the job and click with your interviewer. It happened to me-- despite grades that should have been in biglaw territory for my school, I could not get an SA position. I noticed that I felt awkward during many of the interviews, but realized only much later that it was because I didn't really want to be there. I was a much, much (like, orders of magnitude) better interviewer when talking to employers in the area I really wanted to work, and lo and behold, I got a job.

This isn't to say that you don't want a biglaw job, nor even that your ranking would prevent you from getting one after what you consider an imperfect interview. However, it's worth examining whether some subtle thing at any given interview made you uncomfortable, or tipped you off that it wasn't the right opportunity for you. If you can identify this, you can make sure you do target firms where you'll be happy and appreciated, and not have to tiptoe around things like your socioeconomic background or interest in pro bono work. (Even if you can hide "uniqueness" initially, you won't be able to do so forever, so you'll be best off at a firm that knows you grew up on a farm/worked with people in poverty/played in a metal band but also took your law school work very seriously, and wants to hire you anyway.)

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TTH
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Re: Can get interviews, can't get call-backs -- help?

Postby TTH » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:02 pm

Talk to Career Service about setting up a mock interview with someone you've never met before that will provide feedback to either you or to OCS




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