Major OCI missteps to avoid

By Samuel Farkas,
BARBRI Legal Education Advisor

At some point in every law student’s career, he or she will attempt to dazzle potential employers as the perfect candidate. Below are few common missteps that will get your resume tossed quickly after you exit – and how to avoid them.

“Surely you’ve heard of ME.”

You may have a stellar resume, grades and smile, but no one – most of all future employers – like cockiness. They do, however, want to see confidence. Deliver in the middle with cautious confidence. Remain humble and ready to soak up precious legal knowledge. Present a firm handshake, make eye contact, sit up straight and be assertive in your responses and questions. Showing gratitude for your achievements and accolades while underscoring how receptive you are to learning and growing professionally will help you make the right impression.

“I want to work for you because I need a job and money!”

During OCIs, you’re going to get asked over and over again: Why do you want to work for us? Why would you like to be in [insert city name]? Unless you have had your eye on a firm for a while, you are probably looking for any good employment opportunity. Do you really want to live in the office’s location permanently? If not, do not waste your time interviewing. Sure, you can make up stories of relatives who’ve relocated there. But you’ll do yourself and the employer a disservice. If the actual office where you are interviewing does not practice what you are interested in, keep looking. Pick firms where you would actually like to live, and then narrow out the firms you would actually like to work for.

“My apologies … I was actually raised in a barn.”

If you’re lucky, you may have the opportunity to interview with potential employers over a meal or call-back interview. Even though these may feel informal, maintain your etiquette skills. Most think they have good manners, even if they don’t – because it’s in bad taste to point out bad manners, you’ve probably never been told you chew with your mouth open or hold your fork incorrectly. Do yourself a favor and read an etiquette book or take a friend to dinner for a critique of your manners.

“You know like cellophane… ”

The worst thing you can do in a job interview is to leave no impression at all. Many students try to morph into some expected version of the ideal candidate. This is not a good strategy. Try to stand out in some way. Wear a unique accessory, work in an interesting story or discuss a special hobby. Don’t veer into the bizarre, yet communicate something memorable. Simply allow your true self to shine through, keeping in mind that you need to filter it through a professional lens.

“What firm are you with again?”

The surest way to ruin your chances with a firm is to come unprepared. Knowing the firm name, office locations and practice areas are necessary but not sufficient. Do additional research on your interviewers and read any press the firm has recently received. Talk to former summer associates or clerks to get their experiences. Look at LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubble and other online resources to gather some data.

Be sure to reach out to your BARBRI Legal Education Advisor for additional help and advice on how to perfect your interviewing skills.