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Employment Sector Differences
Law firm interviews are usually structured as a conversation, with your resume used as the tool to ask questions and learn about your interest in the practice and your fit with the firm. Academic achievement is often important, although substantive legal questions are rarely asked. A few law firms include situational-based “behavioral interviewing” questions which focus on your past performance and achievements. A typical question may be “tell me about a time when you needed to work under pressure.” General, vague, or hypothetical answers will not suffice; instead, provide specific examples of how you successfully dealt with a particular experience or assignment. Review the Sample Interview Questions for more examples.
Law firm interviews are often a two-step process, with a screening interview followed by a callback interview. Screening interviews can be at the employer’s office or by telephone, but often take place during an interview program, such as the Virtual Interview Program (VIP). If the screening interview is positive, the usual next step is to invite a candidate to the employer’s office for a callback interview.
Typical callback interviews last for half of a day, and involve meeting individually with four or more attorneys. Most law firms will make the travel arrangements for candidates during the callback process and will also reimburse reasonable travel expenses. For additional callback information, click the Callback Interview link from this page.
Public Interest Employers
Although some public interest employers participate in structured interview programs such as the Virtual Interview Program (VIP), the Equal Justice Works Annual Conference and Career Fair, or the Public Interest Legal Career Fair, for the most part interviews for summer positions with public interest organizations are usually less formal than those for permanent positions. Often interviews for summer position may involve only a brief telephone interview. In fact, some public interest employers hire summer interns on the basis of a resume and cover letter alone.
Public interest employers seek students with a commitment to service and the mission of their organizations. Many of the interview questions will be structured to gauge your commitment. Some government employers, including district attorneys and public defenders, ask hypothetical questions to see how well you think on your feet. For example, interviewers at public defenders offices may ask: “If your client were charged with the crime of molesting small children, how would you react? Could you defend your client?”. Other government employers, such as the U.S. Department of Justice, have unique interview processes that vary depending on the particular division or field office.
Public interest employers typically do not reimburse travel expenses for interviews. If you cannot afford to travel to an interview, ask for a telephone interview. If you are a 2L, 3L, or LLM, CDO’s Travel Reimbursement for Interviews in the Public Interest (TRI PI) program provides some reimbursement for public interest interview expenses.
Consulting interviews are a combination of behavioral and case interviews. The behavioral part is a typical interview with questions about you, your resume, and your accomplishments. Be prepared to answer questions related to your interest in consulting, especially as it relates to your decision to attend law school. Take the opportunity to highlight experiences that demonstrate your leadership ability, your communication and teamwork skills, your analytical skills, and any business-related knowledge or experience you have acquired. The case interview is meant to test your analytical, verbal and presentation skills. It is not about coming up with the correct answer, but instead about how you think on your feet, analyze the problem, and articulate a solution. Many of the large management consulting firms including McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company have interactive practice cases available on their websites.
Following their often aggressive work atmosphere, investment banks tend to use a hard sell approach in interviews. Interviewers will question you about your analytical skills and interest in banking. In addition, specific topics that come up in these interviews include valuing a company, discounted cash flow, market multiples, financial rations, general accounting information, and stock analysis. Familiarize yourself with banking job-related terms. Wetfeet’s Beat the Street: Investment Banking Interviews (available in CDO), is well worth reading prior to interviews. It is also critical that you know what’s happening on Wall Street and with the company around the time of your interview.
A typical first-round investment banking interview is a 30-minute resume review and informal get-to know you session. This interview will involve questions related to your prior work and school experiences, your knowledge of finance and banking matters, and your interest in a career in banking. You will likely also be asked a brainteaser question, like “how many golf balls would fit in this room?” For these types of questions, the key is not in the answer itself, but in your deductive reasoning skills in coming up with the answer. If you make it through the initial round, you will be invited to second-round interviews at the office to which you’ve applied. These interviews are typically half-day to full-day events. Some banks conduct a third round in the office prior to extending offers.
Review Yale School of Management’s Sample Investment Banking Interview Questions for additional ideas about topics that may arise during these interviews.
Telephone & Video Interviews
Telephone/video interviews are very common, particularly in the case of interviewing for summer employment in the public interest. In addition, an increasing number of private sector employers have found telephone and video to be an effective use of time and financial resources. For the substantive part of the interview, you should prepare just as you would for an in-person interview, with adequate research and practice. One added preparation piece for a phone or video interview is the importance of testing the technology ahead of time. In addition, prepare your interview space by clearing the room of other people, pets and any other potential distractions. Have your resume and other applications in front of you in case you need to refer to them. During the interview, speak slowly, annunciate clearly and take your time. Do not interrupt the interviewer.