On-campus interviews in a pandemic

As the spring semester kicks into gear, a law school experience that most of us dread will be in full swing. On-campus interviews, or OCIs as they are commonly referenced, are a marathon of interviews for law school students seeking summer or post-graduate employment. The spring OCIs will be the first time 1Ls experience OCIs. As someone who has been through both spring and fall OCIs, I have a few tips to offer to those who have not experienced on-campus interviews.

Donald Pinckney
Donald Pinckney, 2L Student Ambassador

1. Embrace the awkwardness

            Obviously, the pandemic looms over everything that we experience in law school, and OCIs are no exception. Because of the pandemic, most employers will probably opt to conduct interviews by Zoom or some other web platform, so all of the tips for conducting yourself via Zoom apply. Dress accordingly, find a quiet space, use an appropriate background and make sure the host can hear and see you. With those four things in mind, remember interviews are inherently awkward and Zoom will only amplify that awkwardness. The lag will cause you to talk over the host accidentally, the connection may drop, you might not be able to hear the host or vice-versa. This all happened to me during my fall interviews, along with my AirPods disconnecting and my laptop attempting to update mid-interview. Just embrace that some things are outside your control, and the interviewer may be trying to deal with similar issues. Apologize and move past the issue but do not linger on it. Showing grace when dealing with an issue will only endear you to the interviewer and improve your chances of a call-back interview.

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare

            Every firm or organization you interview with will expect you to have questions. This is your opportunity to find out not only about the firm but also how they potentially align with your interests. For instance, if you are interested in civil litigation and the firm specializes in defending worker’s compensation cases, that may not be the firm for you. Yet again, this happened to me during an interview, and when I asked the firm about their civil litigation department, I was told it was a small part of their business. When I looked at their website, I saw civil litigation mentioned as a practice area, and only by asking did I discover that civil litigation was not the focus of the firm. This is what I mean by be prepared–approach the interview from the perspective that not only are you selling yourself to the firm, but they are selling it to you. Be prepared to ask those questions that would affect your summer experience.

3. Be a person, not a lawyer

            It’s tempting when interviewing during OCIs to lean on the stereotypes of lawyers and try to sound impressive. Again, this was a mistake of mine and was especially difficult to break, but during an interview, an interviewer asked me to tell them a story that was not on my resume. Being put on the spot like that forced me to put aside the polished persona I had prepared and be myself. So, I told a story about being stuck on a freeway overpass during a tornado warning and that story sold the interviewer on me as a person. I let my guard down for a few minutes and showed the interviewer who I am day-to-day. That is the person the firm will see every day, and giving them a glimpse of that person will help you more than any other bit of advice I can give. Be polished, be prepared but remember to be a person.

-By Donald Pinckney, a 2L from Toledo, Ohio and a KU Law Student Ambassador

The Career Services Office (CSO) provides resources for interview preparation and virtual interview tips on the CSO’s Interview Resources page, and tips for virtual meetings on the CSO’s Professionalism page.