How To Make Yourself Stand Out During OCIs
Many large and mid-size firms conduct on-campus interviews (OCIs) the summer before law students’ 2L year. Students are interviewed for summer associate positions for the following summer that can lead into full-time employment after law school ends. This means OCIs are very important to many students, but the OCI process is competitive. While it’s definitely important to have good greats and an excellent resume, employers look to other factors to determine who will be the right fit. Read our tips so you can stand out during OCIs!
How To Make Yourself Stand Out During OCIs
1. Try to look the part.
Part of being prepared for OCIs is looking the part of an attorney. Knowing how to dress appropriately doesn’t mean you’ll stand out during OCIs because of your clothing, but it will mean you’ll stand out as a polished candidate. So that means, dressing appropriately for OCIs and a call-back interview is more about blending in than it is about standing out.
Both men and women should dress conservatively meaning no bright colors or bold patterns. Typically that means, men should wear a neutral suit and women should choose a skirt and suit jacket or pantsuit. Underneath a suit you should wear a white, light blue, or other traditional pastel-colored shirts. Stay away from patterns unless it is a thin, light pinstripe. Women shouldn’t wear heels that are too high and men shouldn’t wear bold ties or socks. Again, OCIs aren’t the time to show off your fashion sense. Most law firms are still very traditional. Stay professional and subtle.
Finally, the same philosophy goes for your hair, makeup, and nails. Make sure you wear natural makeup, if any at all, and keep your hair and nails neat. If you have painted nails or a manicure it should be a neutral and subtle color, and it should not be chipped. Again, if you want to stand out during OCIs, your physical appearance should demonstrate that you know how to appear professional and polished. Employers want to know that you can go to a client meeting without distracting everyone with your crazy tie or neon top. Stand out by blending in!
2. Be conversational.
We hear many employers say that students who stand out during OCIs are those that are conversational. It can be easy to get nervous and launch into a recitation of your resume. Try to avoid this! Ask questions and allow things to come up naturally. The most successful interviews are those where both parties leave thinking they’ve had a great conversation.
Additionally, keep in mind that every interviewer has a different style. Some interviewers will ask you all about your resume, some will ask you a few questions, and some won’t ask you any questions at first and have you lead the conversation. Believe it or not, it seems most people struggle with the interviews where they are meant to lead the conversation. All of this is to say you should come prepared for an interview with thoughtful questions that allow you to incorporate your own interests and experiences.
If you need practice with your nerves or interviewing abilities, try doing practice interviews with friends or someone from your school’s career services office.
Once in the interview room, a student stands out during OCIs by making personal connections and being likable. Employers are looking for students who are smart and accomplished, but they also want to make sure they’d be fine spending 40+ hours a week with you!
3. Don’t overlook your writing sample.
During OCIs employers will typically ask for a resume, transcript, and writing sample. Some may ask for a cover letter and references. Many students think they’ll stand out during OCIs with a stellar resume and transcript. Of course, this is important, but many students consequently end up overlooking their writing sample.
Many writing samples have to be edited down from a larger piece of writing. For example, you may just include one section of an argument from an appellate brief. That means you may be referencing something in the writing sample that was previously talked about in the larger piece of writing but not in the actual sample. The same may happen with citations. Beware of this! Using a short cite in the wrong place or referring to a previous argument that the interviewer doesn’t have access to is sloppy, and isn’t a good reflection of you or your school.
Even if you’ve taken these editing issues into account, you should thoroughly proofread your writing sample for even the smallest of grammatical or citation errors. To people who look at legal writing all day, something like an unitalicized “Id.” will stand out like a sore thumb! This may seem like an exaggeration, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. We can assure you that interviewers do look at your writing sample. And if you’re looking to stand out during OCIs, your writing sample needs to be just as polished as all of your other application materials.
4. Make sure to research the firm.
One of the main things your interviewers are going to want to know is, “why are you interested in ______________?” They are expecting you to have more than just a generic answer. The truth is many of the firms that conduct OCIs are full-service commercial law firms that are very similar to their counterparts. If you want to stand out during OCIs you’ll need to do your homework to make sure you can find something that sets each firm apart.
Interviewers know that you are going to at least peruse their website. You may even read the biographies of the interviewers. This isn’t enough to make you stand out. You certainly shouldn’t ask your interviewers any questions that could be easily answered by a bit of clicking through the firm website.
Instead, try looking up recent cases the firm was involved in on Westlaw or Lexis. Research some of the firm’s unique practice areas or unique industries it works in. Try reading through the legal news in your region. Perhaps you can do research about alumni of the firm that have gone onto judgeships or public servant roles. You can even find alumni of your undergraduate institution or law school who work at the firm. This will help give you insider information about what makes their firm different from others. Gathering this information and being able to talk about it will make you stand out during OCIs.
5. Know your resume.
While preparing for OCIs, follow this rule: if it’s on your resume, be prepared to talk about it! Some interviewers don’t focus much on your resume, but plenty of interviewers will ask questions about nearly everything on it. Ask yourself, is that experience or award relevant to my work now? Can I talk about it in an informed way? If the answer to those questions was, “no”, then it doesn’t belong on your resume.
If you are asked about something on your resume but are unable to offer much information about it, you’ll appear as though you’ve misrepresented yourself. Your interviewer may even question what other things on your resume are overstated or misrepresented. You don’t want to stand out during OCIs by being the person with a dishonest resume. Here are some legal resume tips to ensure you stand out for all the right reasons!
OCIs are an exciting experience, and we’re sure you’ll be prepared to put your best foot forward. Remember to keep these tips to stand out during OCIs in mind, and just be yourself. Good luck!