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Preparing for OCIs

|Written By Kap Rooney
Preparing for OCIs

With school starting and interview season forthcoming, Canadian Lawyer 4Students will be running a series of articles over the coming months to assist students with the recruitment process. In part II, we get a current student at a large, commercial law firm to give advice on how to prepare for your interviews.

Finishing up your applications is quite the rush in and of itself. However, it’s only the beginning of a three- or four-tiered process. If you’ve done well with your applications, then you’ll need to start getting ready for the actual interviews.

What exactly is an OCI?

On campus interviews are where firms send one or two representatives — usually the student co-ordinator and a lawyer at the firm — to schools across the country to meet candidates whose applications interested them. If you’re applying to a large, commercial law firm, your OCI will likely be in the form of a 17- to 20-minute meeting.

Does getting an OCI mean I have a job?

Nope — but you have your foot in the door, which is all anyone can ask for.

How does one prepare for an OCI?

Truthfully, there’s not much one can do to really get ready for an OCI. Obviously, you should know the basics about the firms you are interviewing with and have one or two questions ready for the recruiters you meet. Other than that, don’t waste your time trying to understand the nitty-gritty of the transactions the firm is working on.

The key is to know your resumé inside out. In other words, if you claimed to be an expert in French art history and haven’t touched a text since first year of undergrad, it’s time to get cracking on those books. Nothing looks worse in an interview than being asked a question from your CV where it is clear you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about (you are being interviewed by lawyers — they will likely be able to detect when you are lying).

So how exactly does the interview go?

Typically, an interviewer may start off with something easy like, “Why do you want to work at Firm X?” or “How do you like law school?” before working down your resumé and asking you about some of the experiences you have listed.

If it’s just an interview about me, how do I distinguish myself?

Think of your interview as a date; you’ll likely have some idea from the non-verbal cues of your interviewers if they are actually interested in what you are saying or if they are counting down the seconds until they never have to see you again (for example, you will notice if they are nodding their heads, fidgeting with their pens, looking you in the eye, asking you follow-up questions, etc.).

Along the same lines, don’t give your interviewers any reason to think that you’re not interested in them; the same answer given by someone who is smiling, looks put together, and is looking at both interviewers is more convincing than someone who is half asleep, can’t stop moving their hands, and looks pensive about being there in the first place.

Wait, you said something about questions. What are those?

Near the end of every OCI, your interviewers will generally ask you if you have any questions for them.

While there is no need to ask some inane question about the inner workings of the firm’s partnership structure (since they know you’ll have no idea what that means), don’t ask dumb questions where the answers can be found directly on a firm’s web site.

If there is an aspect of the firm that you are curious about, such as its pro bono program for example, ask about that. Otherwise, there are always standard go-to questions such as asking how students are integrated into files at a firm.

How much research should I do on my recruiters?

Other than knowing the names and positions of your interviewers, it’s really not that crucial to know too much about them (and if you forget their names, don’t freak out — they’ll introduce themselves to you).

Certainly, asking a recruiter how Timmy’s soccer game went over the weekend will guarantee you to not get asked back for a subsequent interview . . . ever.

Someone told me we should write thank-you e-mails to all of our interviewers . . .

They’re superficial, inane, stomach-churning, and likely the least sincere messages you will ever write in your life (I hope).

Nonetheless, they are a necessity. The recruiting game is all about showing firms you are “interested” in them — and if every other applicant gunning for a job is writing thank-you notes to recruiters and you aren’t, then that can be a strike against you.

However, don’t scare off a recruiter with a three-page opus espousing your love for their firm. A simple, two-line e-mail (example below) ought to suffice to meet your obligations without scaring anyone off:

“Dear Person X,

I’d like to thank you for the interview today. It was a pleasure to meet you and learn more about Firm Y.”

Overall, the OCI process comes down to being poised, polished, and ready to talk about yourself in a manner that comes off as confident but not arrogant. A lot of it, though, also comes down to luck — having an interviewer who shares the same interests or experiences as you can make an average candidate look exceptional (and vice versa).

Like many students, Kap Rooney entered law school in 2010 to delay getting a real job for three years. He will soon need to find another way to avoid growing up.


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