Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

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Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:36 pm

I'm at a lower T14 in the top 15% of the class. I'm on law review. I have a strong group of friends, and don't consider myself socially awkward. I'm friendly and polite.

Yet I keep striking out during pre-OCI interviews during the screening interviews I through mass-mailing. What concerns me is that I obviously look good on paper; otherwise I wouldn't even get the screening interview offers. So whatever I'm doing during the interviews must be totally wrong.

I think I might come across as too intense, or I might be trying to sell myself too hard. The line between informedl and over-zealous is a hard one to walk.

Does anyone have any tips about what to talk about? Should I be trying to make small talk? For example, whenever the interviewer asks, "do you have any questions for me," I always ask a firm related question. Should I instead ask a question about how they speak French, or about their Michael Jordon bobblehead doll, or whatever? Should I steer the conversation to non-firm related social banter?

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm at a lower T14 in the top 15% of the class. I'm on law review. I have a strong group of friends, and don't consider myself socially awkward. I'm friendly and polite.

Yet I keep striking out during pre-OCI interviews during the screening interviews I got through mass-mailing (non NY major legal market). What concerns me is that I obviously look good on paper; otherwise I wouldn't even get the screening interview offers. So whatever I'm doing during the interviews must be totally wrong.

I think I might come across as too intense, or I might be trying to sell myself too hard. The line between informedl and over-zealous is a hard one to walk.

Does anyone have any tips about what to talk about? Should I be trying to make small talk? For example, whenever the interviewer asks, "do you have any questions for me," I always ask a firm related question. Should I instead ask a question about how they speak French, or about their Michael Jordon bobblehead doll, or whatever? Should I steer the conversation to non-firm related social banter?

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Right2BearArms » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm at a lower T14 in the top 15% of the class. I'm on law review. I have a strong group of friends, and don't consider myself socially awkward. I'm friendly and polite.

Yet I keep striking out during pre-OCI interviews during the screening interviews I through mass-mailing. What concerns me is that I obviously look good on paper; otherwise I wouldn't even get the screening interview offers. So whatever I'm doing during the interviews must be totally wrong.

I think I might come across as too intense, or I might be trying to sell myself too hard. The line between informedl and over-zealous is a hard one to walk.

Does anyone have any tips about what to talk about? Should I be trying to make small talk? For example, whenever the interviewer asks, "do you have any questions for me," I always ask a firm related question. Should I instead ask a question about how they speak French, or about their Michael Jordon bobblehead doll, or whatever? Should I steer the conversation to non-firm related social banter?


You need to give a lot more info before you will get any helpful responses. What city/region are you interviewing for? How many mass mailing have you sent out and how many screeners have you done? Honestly, if you have been dinged from 2 of your 2 screeners so far, that is normal and just they way it can go. If, however, you have had, say, 10+ screeners and gotten dinged from all of them, there might be something to address.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Glasseyes » Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:17 pm

Yeah, hard to comment without knowing more. General best practice for screeners is just to be normal; definitely don't gun, and don't get neurotically weird and nervous in the room. Some interviewers will be super casual and others will be intense--can't control them, so just try to strike a balance of competent and chill while rolling with the punches. Firm specific questions can be useful but you don't need weirdly targeted questions. While it's good to know that a firm has the practice areas you're interested in, it's better to be curious and uninformed as to specifics than weird and intense about some partner's personal life.

tl;dr chill and don't be weird

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:26 pm

OP here:

I've had 2 screeners for firms where I should have been a shoo-in, based on the credentials of other people from my school who received offers. No callbacks for either firm. I don't want to go into more specifics as to the market.

A previous poster said striking out at 2 out of 2 interviews is pretty normal, but I thought that was for interviews obtained through more traditional means, like school based lottery systems. For mass-mail, I thought the chance of a call-back is usually higher, since the firm obviously doesn't have to grant you an interview in the first place. Is that not the case?

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Sprout » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:04 pm

My best interviews (ones that turned into callbacks) where always just conversations with the person about whatever. They weren't super "interview-y" in the traditional Q and A sense... I would just try to be friendly; don't forget to smile. Also I found that when I'm nervous I talk a lot faster than I normally do, so be mindful of that if you're the same way. It would be hard for me to remember that when a question IS asked, it's okay to pause, think about the response, and respond slowly etc. Gl!

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby GoneSouth » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here:

I've had 2 screeners for firms where I should have been a shoo-in, based on the credentials of other people from my school who received offers. No callbacks for either firm. I don't want to go into more specifics as to the market.

A previous poster said striking out at 2 out of 2 interviews is pretty normal, but I thought that was for interviews obtained through more traditional means, like school based lottery systems. For mass-mail, I thought the chance of a call-back is usually higher, since the firm obviously doesn't have to grant you an interview in the first place. Is that not the case?


Is it possible that they're waiting until after your school's OCI to decide on callbacks? Some firms do this. Either way, two screeners is a pretty small sample size from which to decide that you are screwing something up

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby El Pollito » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:06 pm

enjoy s&c

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm at a lower T14 in the top 15% of the class. I'm on law review. I have a strong group of friends, and don't consider myself socially awkward. I'm friendly and polite.

Yet I keep striking out during pre-OCI interviews during the screening interviews I through mass-mailing. What concerns me is that I obviously look good on paper; otherwise I wouldn't even get the screening interview offers. So whatever I'm doing during the interviews must be totally wrong.

I think I might come across as too intense, or I might be trying to sell myself too hard. The line between informedl and over-zealous is a hard one to walk.

Does anyone have any tips about what to talk about? Should I be trying to make small talk? For example, whenever the interviewer asks, "do you have any questions for me," I always ask a firm related question. Should I instead ask a question about how they speak French, or about their Michael Jordon bobblehead doll, or whatever? Should I steer the conversation to non-firm related social banter?


Not saying this to humble brag, just legitimately trying to help.
Around median at a lower T-14 with 1 V5 and 1 V20 offer (both pre-OCI). Interviews came from networking as a 1L rather than my grades (obviously). 2.5 years of legal WE, good at interviewing but fine-tuned those skills this summer.

I'm not an expert, but what I've found is that if you can get an interviewer to talk about how s/he came to work in x practice area, what s/he likes about it, what s/he wishes s/he'd known about x beforehand, and things like that, that interviewer will stroll off with a little glow in his or her eye. Interviews that only feature questions about the firm will probably be dull for both of you. Try to ask questions about that person's role in the firm and as they answer, nod and smile and make them feel like their response is the most fascinating thing you've ever heard. I think it's important to be able to ask moderately substantive questions about the area of law you say you're interested in, too. When possible, I'd note a couple relevant current events and ask my interviewers how they'd affect x.

That being said, random small talk can be great, too. I have a line on my resume about being a huge fan of a particular sports team and that led to a conversation with a partner about the unity that comes out of a sports fandom and, gosh dang it, I love seeing teamwork in action! It's probably not a question of what you're doing wrong and more a question of how you can come across more like yourself. :)

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:11 pm

While I understand that you're trying to sell yourself in an interview, you want to make sure it's organic. Treat the interview more like a conversation. Try to keep it flowing rather than a Q&A session. Make sure your answers seem genuine. Don't try and regurgitate talking points. We all like to think we're good BSers, but I found that other lawyers are apparently pretty good at seeing through the BS too.(so don't try and tell them what you think they want to hear) If you're really worried, see if you can do a mock interview with an alumnus and have them critique you.

In a mass mail interview, you know you have the credentials to get yourself in the room. So the interview is all about selling them on you being a person that they would enjoy being around. And often the best way to do that is to make it an enjoyable conversation, rather than an interview. This doesn't always work. Sometimes the person wants it to be a legitimate interview. But it will often work.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:52 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here:

I've had 2 screeners for firms where I should have been a shoo-in, based on the credentials of other people from my school who received offers. No callbacks for either firm. I don't want to go into more specifics as to the market.

A previous poster said striking out at 2 out of 2 interviews is pretty normal, but I thought that was for interviews obtained through more traditional means, like school based lottery systems. For mass-mail, I thought the chance of a call-back is usually higher, since the firm obviously doesn't have to grant you an interview in the first place. Is that not the case?


It might also be a yield protect thing. If your credentials are too good, they might assume you're unlikely to accept their offer. Especially if you're looking at a secondary market, but again this would depend on a lot of factors you're apparently unwilling to share.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby BoobGoddess » Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:56 am

It might be a Mitt Romney thing. When I do an interview, sometimes the moment I walk into the room, I think 47 percent. This person just isn't going to go for me, no matter what I do. I might spend the next 30 mins or whatever trying to prove them wrong, but it's usually just a waste of time.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Effingham » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:53 am

BoobGoddess wrote:It might be a Mitt Romney thing. When I do an interview, sometimes the moment I walk into the room, I think 47 percent. This person just isn't going to go for me, no matter what I do. I might spend the next 30 mins or whatever trying to prove them wrong, but it's usually just a waste of time.


What? Why would you ever think this? Why would the interviewer even be there?

To the op, based on your intensity comment, I would imagine your problem is pretty standard. Just learn to relax and go with the conversation, while still having some questions prepared for the end of the interview. My best interviews ended up reolving around things completely unrelated to the law.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:59 am

Effingham wrote:To the op, based on your intensity comment, I would imagine your problem is pretty standard. Just learn to relax and go with the conversation, while still having some questions prepared for the end of the interview. My best interviews ended up revolving around things completely unrelated to the law.


100% agree. The best interviews I had revolved around broadway, hockey, or how our spouses both were saints for being open to moving for LS and firm jobs.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby KMart » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:05 am

Effingham wrote:
BoobGoddess wrote:It might be a Mitt Romney thing. When I do an interview, sometimes the moment I walk into the room, I think 47 percent. This person just isn't going to go for me, no matter what I do. I might spend the next 30 mins or whatever trying to prove them wrong, but it's usually just a waste of time.


What? Why would you ever think this? Why would the interviewer even be there?

Just ignore them - they get off on giving shit advice.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Glasseyes » Mon Aug 01, 2016 4:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've had 2 screeners for firms where I should have been a shoo-in, based on the credentials of other people from my school who received offers


As someone else suggested above, the only firm that ONLY cares about your stats is S&C, and it unsurprisingly has a terrible reputation (probably for that reason more than the actual quality of life, but i bet it does suck to work there too). I missed out on plenty of firms where I should have been a "shoo-in" based on grades (if that was the only thing they cared about), and I landed a few where I should have been a stretch based on grades.

Grades are definitely a factor, and probably the single biggest "hard" factor for hiring, though a strong resume does count for a lot (especially when interviewing for regulatory practices or anything outside of lit/corp meatgrinder groups) and "fit" aka personality aka how well you interview is every bit as important. Different firms emphasize these factors differently, but don't bank on your grades alone to land you anything besides S&C (and only then if you've got the tippity top grades to get you in there). Work on that winning smile, OP.

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Johann » Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:52 pm

it should be a conversation. if you get to the end of the interview and the inteviewer asks if you have any questions, and you havent asked any questions yet, you are probably doing something wrong.

i never talked about anything unprofessional unless my interviewer went there. but it can be done fine (jsut not my style). its hard to give interview advice without specific questions.

do you have short and to the point convincing answers for softball questions? tell me about yourself? why law school? what do you like to do in free time? how is X school? how is law school? what classes do you like? does your resume tie together in a sort of theme? are there any red flags on your resume? gaps? weird work experience? weird interests?

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El Pollito

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby El Pollito » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:22 am

Glasseyes wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I've had 2 screeners for firms where I should have been a shoo-in, based on the credentials of other people from my school who received offers


As someone else suggested above, the only firm that ONLY cares about your stats is S&C, and it unsurprisingly has a terrible reputation (probably for that reason more than the actual quality of life, but i bet it does suck to work there too). I missed out on plenty of firms where I should have been a "shoo-in" based on grades (if that was the only thing they cared about), and I landed a few where I should have been a stretch based on grades.

Grades are definitely a factor, and probably the single biggest "hard" factor for hiring, though a strong resume does count for a lot (especially when interviewing for regulatory practices or anything outside of lit/corp meatgrinder groups) and "fit" aka personality aka how well you interview is every bit as important. Different firms emphasize these factors differently, but don't bank on your grades alone to land you anything besides S&C (and only then if you've got the tippity top grades to get you in there). Work on that winning smile, OP.

no the quality of life there is abysmal

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm at a lower T14 in the top 15% of the class. I'm on law review. I have a strong group of friends, and don't consider myself socially awkward. I'm friendly and polite.

Yet I keep striking out during pre-OCI interviews during the screening interviews I through mass-mailing. What concerns me is that I obviously look good on paper; otherwise I wouldn't even get the screening interview offers. So whatever I'm doing during the interviews must be totally wrong.

I think I might come across as too intense, or I might be trying to sell myself too hard.

As others have commented, the sample size is probably too small for you to draw any conclusions. But if you do have a problem, I bet it's the bolded. I know that so-called experts (including Career Services counselors) will say stuff like: "The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself!" I hate this advice. Just have a conversation like a normal person. If you try to tie every response to a talking point about one of your strengths, you'll come off as stilted at best and arrogant at worst. There are always a few really skillful interviewers who can seamlessly pull that kind of thing off, but you're probably not one of them.

Also, don't ask questions at the end of the interview just because you feel like you're supposed to ask questions. I can't tell you how many times someone asks a scripted: "So, how does your firm do X," when we just talked about X five minutes ago. When you ask a prepared question that was already answered during the interview, it makes it seem like you weren't listening during the conversation. If your questions really were answered earlier, just say: "No, I think we discussed all the questions I had."

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Re: Screener Tips- What am I doing Wrong?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 03, 2016 5:03 pm

Thanks to everyone who replied. Changed my approach and feeling good. Just needed to calm down a bit. :D



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