The Callback Interview
After the First Interview: The Waiting Game.
After you say thank-you and leave the initial interview, the waiting game begins. During the fall interviewing season, most employers will hold a second (and in rare instances even a third) round of interviews before offers are given. Students often wonder: When will I hear back? The answer, typical of most everything in the law, is “It Depends.”
Sometimes you will hear about callback interviews within a day or two of your first interview. Other times it could take a week or two, and still in other instances it could be over a month. The best advice we can give you is to avoid listening to law school gossip as to who received a callback from employer X. There often is no rhyme or reason as to when you will hear back and not everyone hears at the same time.
Some employers wait until they have interviewed at all of the law schools on their fall schedule before scheduling any callback interviews. Other employers try to schedule callbacks immediately, but there can be delays depending upon when the initial interviewers are able to give their feedback to a hiring committee. Some employers may select a few students for callbacks right away and then keep a larger pool of students waiting with the intent of contacting these students for callbacks later on.
We generally recommend that students wait at least two weeks after their first interview before contacting an employer to check on their status. Keep in mind that even at this point in time the employer still might not have reached a decision. Overall, avoid stressing yourself out by over analyzing the situation and remember sometimes no news is good news.
What is a Callback Interview?
A callback is usually conducted after a short screening interview during which the employer has determined you may be a good fit. You may be invited to a callback within 48 hours of the initial interview or it may sometimes take up to 4 weeks. The callback interview may last several hours or even an entire day during which you will meet with several attorneys to assess “fit.” You will also be able to better determine if the employer is right for you.
Scheduling the Callback
Contact the recruiting coordinator within 24 hours of receiving the callback to accept or respectfully decline. It is acceptable to decline a callback if you know you do not want to work at that particular firm--it may be an opportunity for another student to receive an interview. However, keep in mind that an initial interview will not give you a full picture of what it would be like to work for that employer. A callback will give you the opportunity to meet with several attorneys at the employer’s place of business and help you better determine if the employer is right for you.
Make sure you know how much time to allot to the callback and do not schedule any other activity shortly before or after it. If the callback is located outside of the area, discuss with the recruitment coordinator how travel arrangements will be handled. Most large firms will pay for reasonable expenses for interviews outside of your geographic location, but make sure you discuss this with the recruiting coordinator as to how the firm handles such matters. If you are traveling to a city for more than one callback, let the firms know, as then they may split your travel costs between them.
Preparing for the Callback Interview
By now, the employer has already decided that you have the credentials to work at the firm, and wants to know whether you will fit into the firm’s unique culture. Your personality, interests, and rapport will determine whether or not you will ultimately be given an offer. Conduct comprehensive research on the firm and the attorneys you will be meeting with. Do not limit yourself to the firm’s brochure or website; look at a firm’s cases and clients as well. Additionally, talk to friends, associates or alumni that work there or have worked there. This will allow you to ask intelligent questions and let the firm know you are knowledgeable and interested in their practice.
Likely Callback Scenario
You will first meet with the recruitment coordinator of the firm. This person is part of the interview, as are support staff you may meet along the way. Be kind, courteous, and professional as they likely have a say in the hiring decision. Moreover, on the job, support staff can “make or break” you so make the best possible first impression. After an initial introduction, you will meet with the attorneys who will interview you. You may meet them one at a time or several attorneys at once. Commonly, the recruiting coordinator will provide you with your schedule/interviewer roster in advance. Each interviewer will make their own assessment about you, so maintain your enthusiasm and interest in the firm throughout the process. Your personality will distinguish you from other candidates being interviewed. You may then be taken to lunch or dinner with the firm’s attorneys; this is a part of the interview as your social skills and out-of-office behavior are being assessed.
Promptly send thank-you notes expressing your interest and gratitude for the opportunity to meet with the firm. Make sure letters are concise, well composed and without typographical errors.
Quick Tips for the Callback
- Be punctual, (no more than 10 minutes early.) Of course, never be late.
- Bring extra copies of your resume, writing sample(s), transcript, and references.
- Get the names and correct spellings of all interviewers so you can write thank-you notes.
- You may find yourself answering the same questions asked by different attorneys. Do not assume that this attorney should know your answer to the question because you have answered it before-this is this particular interviewer's first time hearing it. Always display enthusiasm and interest in the interviewer and your interview answers.
- Have at least 5 or 6 questions to ask your interviewers. You can ask the same questions to different attorneys, as you may receive different responses, thereby giving you a broader understanding of the firm and whether that environment is for you, should you receive an offer. Do not say: “No, I do not have any more questions.”
- Be aware of your body language and that of your interviewer. Be careful not to interrupt the interviewer; know when it is appropriate to elaborate your answers. Think about your responses and answer the questions asked.