In-firm interviews: how to seal the deal

In-firm interviews: how to seal the deal
With the fall having arrived and interview season in full swing, Canadian Lawyer 4Students will be running a series of articles over the coming months to assist students with the recruitment process. In part IV, we get a current student at a large, commercial law firm to give advice on how to prepare for in-firm interviews on Bay Street.

Finally, after months of hard work and anticipation, the time has come to prepare for the portion of the recruitment process that will actually seal the deal — the in-firm interviews. By now you have likely heard various truths and rumours through the law school gossip chain about the experiences of your classmates. Regardless of what you’ve heard, it’s important — especially at this stage of the game — to stay focused on what is in front of you and block out any unnecessary distractions.  

What are in-firm interviews?

The “in-firm” interview process is where the various Bay Street law firms interview candidates at their law offices to make selections for their summer recruiting class. This year, the recruiting process will take place from Nov. 5 to 7.

How are the interviews structured?

Typically, most firms will have you for a two-hour period for a first interview, where you’ll meet with two to four lawyers. For subsequent interviews, there will be more flexibility in terms of timing and who you meet, though these interviews can be for as long as two hours as well.

Wait, subsequent interviews?

There is virtually no chance of securing a job at any firm without going back for a repeat visit at least once, if not twice. Think of it this way: every person who has been offered an in-firm interview had the required marks to get an on-campus interview and made enough of an impression on the recruiters who went to their school to get selected to meet more individuals at the firm.

At the last stage of the game, the firms are looking to see who will fit in well at their offices and who has a desire to work at a specific firm, both of which can only be achieved with multiple visits.

How does one show interest during an interview?

This is always a tricky issue. On the one hand, if you never express an interest in coming back for subsequent interviews or write the required thank-you e-mails to the individuals who interviewed you, the firm will likely decide it isn’t in their best interest to offer you a job.

On the other hand, if you’re singing the praises of the firm a half-hour into your first interview, this will likely come off as far too desperate and disingenuous.

So what do I do then?

Generally, at the end of an interview it’s always a good idea to express an interest in coming back for a follow-up interview (if the firm hasn’t asked you to come back already). Additionally, sending thank-you e-mails to every individual you’ve met at the firm (don’t worry, most people will give you their business cards) is a must.

If I have to go back for subsequent interviews, how will I fit in every firm I want to meet with?

Therein lies the quandary every student who interviews is faced with. On the one hand, you want to give yourself the maximum number of opportunities at getting a job by interviewing at as many places as possible. On the other hand, to secure a job you are going to have to prioritize some firms over others by early Tuesday, if not even by Monday morning.

There really is no magic advice here, except to trust your instinct in terms of which places feel right for you, and to notify the student director of a particular firm via e-mail or phone if you decide not to attend an interview, dinner, or reception with a firm. The firms understand that eventually individuals begin to cut firms during the process, but make sure you’re not a total no-show (besides yourself, it doesn’t look good on your school, either, to be a total flake).

Will firms pressure you to join them?

This really depends on the firm. Every firm, to some extent, will try to gauge from you what your interest in their firm is, though some will be super aggressive and ask you outright by Tuesday if you will definitely accept an offer from them.

Again, there is really no right or wrong answer here; you have to do what’s comfortable for you. If you’re OK with telling a firm early on in the process that they’re your No. 1 choice and you will accept any offer from them, go ahead. If you’re not, then don’t (the “fit” clearly isn’t working).
Can I tell multiple firms that they’re my No.1?

Many people do — and it works — though many people (including yours truly) never did, and it also works. Again, it comes down to your beliefs. Know, though, that no summer job is worth compromising your integrity for.

What else do I need to know?

Similarly to on-campus interviews, you should know your resumé well. Have five to six questions ready for each firm and have some idea why you want to work at a particular firm.

Other than that, have a few outfits ready for interviews and keep a bag to carry to the various firms so that you can stash away various business cards, check e-mails during the day, and tuck away some snacks and mints for between interviews (you can check in your bag at the reception desk of every firm).

Anything else?

Keep the names and numbers of the various student co-ordinators you are interviewing with on your phone — you never know when you may need to make a call.

Avoid the underground PATH like the plague. Barring a snow or rainstorm, it’s always better just to use the sidewalks to avoid showing up late for an interview.

When will I find out?

Firms will send out calls at 5 p.m. on Nov. 7.  

Overall, there is a lot to remember and get ready for, but it’s crucial not to overthink the in-firm process. Keep your e-mails crisp, have some polished outfits, and trust your instincts throughout.

Good luck.

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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