We asked area hiring attorneys whether the economic downturn has changed how they interview job candidates. Although none suggested that the economy has changed their own interviewing process, the responses provides some important lessons for any job seekers.
Lesson 1: There is simply more competition.
“I don’t think interviewing has changed for us as a result of the economy–but it is more competitive than ever, which is making the interview a more critical part of the process as we try to distinguish exceptional candidates from one another.”
“I don’t think the hiring process itself has changed much in the economy. There are just more people competing for fewer slots, so everything feels tough.”
“My interviewing style has not changed with the economy, but I have noticed that there are far more people who want to interview, including people with top credentials. I have noticed a change in the attitudes of interviewees in general. They appear to be trying harder. Several years ago interviewees, particularly law students, often approached interviews with the attitude that the firm should fulfill their needs rather than seeing how they can meet the needs of the firm. I have not seen that attitude in the last year or so.”
Lesson 2: Do your best to stand out with supremely polished application materials, professional attire and excellent references.
“It is a buyer’s market. We have students from Ivy League schools with high GPAs, good experience, etc. vying for the same jobs as students from the U. Regardless of where they are from, students really need to stand out. References can help, but there is a difference between the perfunctory 3 sentence recommendation from a favorite professor and one that extols the superior attributes of a budding superstar.”
“The competition is stiffer now, so I think showing your personality is more important. Whereas before just having decent grades might put you in a group of one or two interviewees, now there are likely to be more in that group, so you need to stand out. It also makes things that might not have been that big of a deal, like being professionally dressed, more important.”
Lesson 3: Consider being flexible on the area of law in which you begin your career (keeping in mind it may change later).
“I think more than ever the answer to “what type of law are you interested in” from a mid-to-bigger firm perspective is “I’m really not sure–I’d love to be exposed to as much as possible over the summer.” We have a CPA with significant tax background from another law school who clerked last summer—but there was no corporate work at all. So he befriended, wisely, the litigation partner no associate here wants to work with. He got an offer and will come to do that partner’s work. If you want the firm job, you have to be flexible.”