OCI Mistakes

3 OCI Mistakes That Could Cost You!

3 OCI Mistakes That Could Cost You!: For many law students, securing on-campus interviews (“OCIs”) is the whole point of working tirelessly throughout 1L year.   Some see OCIs as even the most pivotal part of law school!  If you can land an OCI with a top firm and then land an offer, you have set yourself up for success after law school.

Many good firms that recruit a summer associate class at OCIs extend full-time job offers to them!  Remember, firms compete with each other too.  And, the firm with a 100% offer rate to their summer associates is seen as a much more desirable firm than the one with a 75% offer rate.  So, the student who gets recruited at the end of OCI season can usually breathe a sigh of relief for the remaining two years of law school because the odds are that he will receive a job offer at the end of the summer after 2L year.  This is very different from the student struggling to juggle job applications throughout 3L year while gearing up to study for the bar exam and worrying about financial security post-law school all at the same time!

3 OCI Mistakes That Could Cost You!

We want you to be that student recruited at OCIs.  Do NOT make these 3 OCI mistakes because they could cost you the job!

Before we get into the OCI mistakes that could cost you the job, here’s a quick refresher on the general OCI structure.  OCIs usually begin on campus, as the acronym suggests.  A lawyer from the firm visits the law school to conduct what are usually “screener” interviews. The lawyer whittles down the list of potential candidates through the interview process. Usually, within a couple of weeks, the candidates who did NOT make the 3 OCI mistakes below are notified that they have received callback interviews.

The nature of callback interviews varies depending on the particular legal job.  Government callbacks such as for a position with the District Attorney’s Office tend to be more substantive and performance-based.  You will likely be asked various legal hypotheticals, be asked to engage in role-playing, and be asked to explain various legal issues in any of your submitted writing samples.  Biglaw callbacks tend to be more conversational and do not generally involve legal hypotheticals.  Both types of callbacks usually involve meeting with various panels of lawyers.  A successful callback interview will result in a summer position offer, which is exactly how you want your OCI recruitment season to end!

To get a successful ending to your OCI recruitment season, do NOT make these 3 OCI mistakes:

1. You don’t anticipate potential minefields.

Just about every candidate has his own unique minefield(s).  It is your job to take a serious and critical look at your profile and figure out what your minefield or weakness is.  Once you identify it, you must be able to skillfully maneuver that minefield with the interviewer!  Take some time at home to interview yourself.  Ask yourself those difficult questions and practice your responses out loud.  Make flashcards that summarize your response into 3 concise points and keep practicing.  It shouldn’t be hard to pick out the difficult questions to ask yourself.  Every candidate has the moments where he thinks to himself, “Man, I really hope they don’t ask me about that.”  Don’t just roll the dice!  Be prepared.  The more comfortable you are with your response, the better job you will do maneuvering that minefield during OCIs.  And your interviewers will be all the more impressed with you!

For example, one common minefield involves a candidate’s hometown prior to attending law school.  Let’s say you grow up in New York City.  You’ve spent most of your life there and just about all of your family and friends are there.  But, you decide to attend law school in Ohio.  You have an impeccable 1L transcript and land a ton of OCIs with prominent Ohio firms.  Every single interviewer will ask you something to the effect of, “Why should I believe that you would want to stay at my firm any more than a year or two? Don’t you want to return to New York where your whole life is?”  Count on that question and tackle it eloquently and confidently!  It likely will not be that pointed, but that is the gist of what an employer wants to know.

No employer wants to invest time and money training a new associate only to then have that associate put in his notice a year or two later to return home.  You must find a way to explain your ties to Ohio, or your lack of ties to New York, and why that employer should invest in you.

This is an easy OCI mistake to avoid if you just take the time to prepare!

2. You oversell yourself.

Selling yourself is good, but overselling yourself is bad.  Candidates oversell themselves for many reasons.  Sometimes it’s because they are so nervous that they try to overcompensate by acting overly confident.  Sometimes it’s because they feel their resumes or transcripts leave something to be desired. Therefore, they hope to pull the wool over the interviewer’s eyes.  Regardless, overselling yourself is off-putting to an interviewer and is often extremely transparent.

You must remind yourself that the legal profession is grueling and usually requires long days and nights at the office working closely with a team of other attorneys.  The last thing an already stressed out attorney wants is to spend his long days and nights working with someone who is off-putting.

One of the common ways in which a candidate oversells himself is by claiming to be an expert in something after taking a single class in the subject area.  It is true that you should show an interest in a firm’s specific practice areas, especially those areas for which the firm is hiring.  But rather than boasting about your “expertise,” emphasize how your interest has been piqued by your classes and that you are eager and willing to learn more.  You want to demonstrate that you appreciate the complexities of the law and are capable of tackling them if you were to be extended an offer.

Do not try to oversell—your grades and resume are there in your interviewer’s hands.  Your grades and resume landed you the OCI. Now, the interviewer wants to see that you are pleasant, interesting, and eloquent.  Be confident in your abilities and your integrity as a future lawyer.  Leave that overselling far away from the interview room.

3. You ask bad questions. (Yes, there are bad questions!)

Your interviewer is human.  And, he holds your fate in his hands. As sad and unfair as it may seem, an interviewer may deny you a callback interview based on you asking a bad question.  What are bad questions?  Questions that are odd, inappropriate, irrelevant, redundant, or obvious.

Question asking time is not meant to be an exercise in creativity.  Question asking time is meant to test your professional judgment.  The bulk of the interview is spent with the interviewer talking at you (explaining the firm, its culture, the position, etc.) and asking you pointed questions.  You are allocated usually just a brief amount of time to ask the interviewer pointed questions.  You must demonstrate what you judge to be a good use of that time.  Of course, do not say that you have no questions! But, also, do not ask bad questions.

You do not have to think of questions that are unique and that have never been asked before.  The interviewer doesn’t care about novelty.  The interviewer wants to see what you, a candidate for employment, thinks is a legitimate and professional question to ask the interviewer based on everything that has already transpired during the interview.  Here are some “don’t ask” areas:

Don’t ask something previously mentioned in the interview!

Whether your interview is 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, try to be truly present and paying attention for the entire duration. Don’t ask your interviewer something they already spent 5 minutes explaining to you.

Don’t ask something that you easily could have found on the firm’s website!

This will only annoy your interviewer. The interviewer may not even necessarily know the answer to your question! He or she is most likely too busy managing their workload to pay attention to other details.  You do not want your interviewer to have to say to you, “Oh, that should be on the website. Just take some time to look.”  That will leave a sour taste in his mouth after your interview.

Don’t ask questions about work-life balance!

You don’t have a job offer yet! OCIs are not the time to worry about a healthy work-life balance. Of course, we all want work-life balance!  And, every employer knows we want that.  But the question portion of your OCI is not the time to discuss work-life balance.  If the interviewer brings up work-life balance to emphasize the firm’s focus on it, it is then fine to show your appreciation for that.

But, it is very risky to choose that topic to bring up yourself.  It can be off-putting to many interviewers.  Depending on the firm, after your OCI, after your callback interview, and then after you receive an offer, there are continued interactions with the firm such as through various social events or dinners.  At that point, you may have various offers from firms and you may be trying to make your final decision as to which offer to accept.  With an offer in hand, it is likely much safer to open up discussions about work-life balance with people at the firm.

Interviewers don’t always remember the “regular” things or even all the good things about an interview. However, you can bet that a bad thing will stick in the interviewer’s memory after an interview.  Stay away from these OCI mistakes!

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