Preparing for On Campus Interviews (OCIs) can be challenging for some students, especially students who are not confident in themselves or their grades. OCIs are opportunities for students to receive a job from local firms who come to the school for the interviews.
Ultimately, every employer is unique. Each employer will be intrigued by different things. For instance, one employer may care more about having good grades while another employer cares more about a student who has had long-term employment in the past.
Rather than focusing on every little thing employers will look for, this article seeks to generally prepare you for OCIs so you can land that successful position.
Know the Dates
Obviously, you will not receive an interview if you do not apply in time! This article is actually a little late to the game. OCIs are upon us. If you haven’t started looking at companies, now is the time to do so. Today! Discover which companies you have an interest in working for and write down when the application is due. Many law students are surprised about how early OCIs actually start. Don’t be the student that is caught off guard by the timeline.
Do your Research
Nearly every law firm does (or should) have a website. A quick scan of the website will tell you almost everything you need to know for your cover letter, resume, and interview itself. What are some of the things you should look for? First, who is the person conducting the interview and what kind of work do they focus on at the firm. Second, what are the firm’s practice areas. Third, what kind of work do the clerks and summer associates focus on (do those match your interests). Fourth, how big is the firm. Fifth, what notable projects have they completed successfully.
There is other information you can conduct outside of examining the firm website. For instance, Drake Law School hosts several career seminars lectured by local firms. Attending one of these seminars could give you inside information about what that employer looks for in interviews (these may also be recorded and posted online in your school’s recourses). Additionally, you can read reviews and mentions within news articles. You might be surprised to discover just how much you can learn about a firm, before the interview.
Prepare your Cover Letter and Resume
The next step is to apply your research. Your cover letter is a short, opening document designed to introduce yourself and why you are interested in the firm. Think of the cover letter as a short personal statement similar to what you prepared while applying to law school.
Address the cover letter to the individual conducting the interview. If you do not know who is conducting the interview, call the firm to find out.
My cover letters consisted of four short paragraphs:
- First a paragraph stating your current year at school, what position you are applying for, and outlining any enclosures you may have (a resume, writing sample, and transcript depending on the requests.
- Second, a paragraph describing your interest in the firm. This should include some information about what pulled you towards applying for the company including practice areas, firm successes, and values.
- Third, a paragraph describing how you can add value to the firm (and possibly how the firm can add value for you). Perhaps you have done some work in one of those practice areas before or been successful in certain organizations that tie into the firm’s practice areas.
- Fourth, a brief paragraph expressing your excitement, thanking them for their consideration, and mentioning that you look forward to speaking with the interviewer.
Attached is an example of my Cover Letter
In my experience, employers may or may not look at your cover letter. You should still prepare a good one, but your resume is a far more important tool. I recently published an article about preparing a resume, complete with an example and a template. As such, I won’t say more in this article.
Revise your Writing Sample
Many employers require a writing sample, usually a brief or memo from your writing class. You may have scored well on your writing assignments, but that is not a reason to refrain from revising your writing sample. There is always room for improvement, and you should embrace the opportunity to improve. One of the best ways to revise your writing sample will be by working with your writing professor. They’ve read and graded your sample. Consequently, they know the best ways to improve your work. If you follow their suggestions, you will have an excellent work product to present to potential employers.
Dress to Impress
“Look good, feel good.” How you dress is going to be the first personal impression your potential employer will make an assessment. Do not be the person who shows up in jeans and a T-shirt.
Be Professional and Be Yourself
Up to this point, everything discussed has focused on preparing for the interview. However, things change slightly when you are in the interview. You still want to be professional, but the interview may be the one opportunity the firm has to see your true personality. Be yourself, but be respectful. Try not to be too nervous.
During the interview you should also be prepared to take notes (I never did but it never hurts to be ready) or ask questions. In fact, I had my questions written down beforehand where I could easily review during the interview (employers like seeing students come prepared). These questions could be related to their work, or what work you may be expected to perform.
Write a Thank you Letter
After the interview, you should write a brief thank you letter to each individual who interviewed you. If you were interviewed by two people from one firm, write a letter to both of them. This letter has a deadline of being sent within 24 hours of the interview.
The letter should contain two short paragraphs. First, mention a feature of the discussion that particularly stood out to you. This shows you were listening and engaged during the interview. Second, a statement of your continued excitement and a mention that you look forward to visiting with them more.
Sometimes, firms have a second on-site interview. Be prepared to start the process all over again. Good luck!