Now that applications are over with and you’re getting settled back into school, the next big step in the recruitment process is the actual OCIs. Having been through it ourselves, we know it can be stressful, so we want to share some tips to help get you prepared and put your mind at ease. Your OCIs may seem far away, but in the blink of an eye it will be the night before, and it’s never too early to start getting ready.
Keep in mind there is no formula for success. What works for some may not work for others, so rather than trying to replicate any specific piece of advice, use these tips as a guide. Most importantly, BE YOURSELF. It may seem cheesy, but if you’re honest with yourself and honest with the people interviewing you, you’re much more likely to end up in a place where you genuinely belong.
Even if your OCIs don’t go as planned, things have a way of working themselves out. Some of our own students even had some pretty funny fails during their OCIs and they survived to tell the tale!
Check out the tips (and fails) from our articling students below:
Christina Liao | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Identify what topics you love to talk about - topics that get you excited and passionate - and then try to steer the conversation towards those topics. The opportunity doesn’t always arise though, so don’t force it too hard. For example, I love figure skating. If someone asked me how I liked law school, I would say “[blah blah]... but it could be overwhelming at times so I found it so important to step away and do some physical activity. I really cherished my time on the ice!”
Yonca Umur | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: OCI conversations vary significantly from one booth to the other. Some, like with Goodmans, will be very conversational with a focus on your interests and trying to get a feel for who you are as a person. Others will be more formal, and you may very well find yourself faced with traditional interview questions like “what are your strengths and weaknesses” or “tell me about a challenge you overcame in your professional life.” So it’s important that you be prepared for every kind of interview, and this is best achieved by knowing your materials and your narrative really well, and being able to speak to them naturally (in a way that does not come off as though you prepared and memorized answers).
Steve Inglis | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Take the edge off yourself by asking the interviewer a question such as “how was your summer”?
Fail: I misread my OCI schedule and walked into my Goodmans interview at the wrong time slot. We laughed it off and they were the firm that hired me.
Daniel Seidman | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Be prepared to talk about your resume, but don’t intend to use it as a crutch. You need to be able to have a few talking points on every aspect of it, but some interviewers might not even reference it during the OCI at all. Firms want to be able to get a sense of who you are in a very short timeframe, and the best way for you to come across well is to talk about things that you are passionate about. When the inevitable “tell me about yourself” question comes up, don’t make the mistake of regurgitating your resume. Tell them something personal and genuine, it will go a long way!
Abid Khalid | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Always keep your energy up by eating well and staying hydrated. It can be a long day, but you need to always have energy when meeting the interviewers (and smile!). It makes a strong positive impression and could be the difference between an in-firm and no interview.
Fail: Getting an interviewers area of practice wrong. This sounds bad, but you can brush it off pretty easily while speaking as long as you quickly apologize and keep the conversation going towards their actual area of practice. Just don’t focus on the mistake or make the moment last more than a second or two. They know you are interviewing with many people that day and it can be hard to keep everything straight in your head.
Samanthea Samuels | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Remain confident in yourself and try to enjoy the process. Remember, in the end, you will have to decide where you want to work, so take a moment to reflect and evaluate all the firms you visit and people you meet.
Fail: looking back I probably would’ve focused less on freaking out about little things like thank you emails. I sent one in such a rush that I included the wrong person and firm name! I was sure at the moment that I completely lost my chances, but it all worked out and I ended up working at the firm that I made that mistake at. All that to say: put your best foot forward and remain relaxed. You’ll do great!
Trish Barrett | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: My biggest tip is find a friend/mentor/older person who has been through law firm interviews to sit down and do a 17 minute mock interview. Get them to ask really annoying/tough questions. Try not to be aware of the questions they will be asking. Wear a blazer, and for women wear heels (if they plan to wear heels for OCI interviews). If you’re lucky enough to have several people you can practice with, do that. Don’t stop at all during the 17 minutes to compose yourself – roll through mistakes as that’s what you have to do day of. Mimic the real thing as much as possible. I did some mock interviews in a loud restaurant, for example.
I found the mock interviews super helpful: 1) they provided a sense of stress, noise, environment, outfit day of; 2) allowed for opportunities to hear and practice answers in several ways to several people – fosters variety of answers and was good to get feedback on what some people liked or didn’t like – even if feedback was contradictory; 3) resulted in me feeling extremely relaxed day of since I had effectively been there/done that – calm confidence is the secret ingredient.
Samantha Galway | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Wear something you’re comfortable in—the last thing you want to me worrying about is your clothes.
Don’t worry if you make a joke and it doesn’t land. The important thing is to be yourself and have the firm accept you based on who you are, humor and all.
Sheena Singh | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Have a story for everything on your resume! Knowing which story I was going to tell about a particular experience meant I didn’t fumble or hesitate as much as I otherwise would have.
Alexandra Murray | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Keep a quick reference sheet with you for each firm you are interviewing with. My sheet included the firm name, the name of the interviewers, a few firm-specific details & a couple of questions I wanted to ask at the end. Between interviews, you can quickly review important information about the firm who you’re interviewing with next.
Fail: Some of the firms at OCIs have two booths for the same firm. For one of the interviews, I went into the wrong booth for that firm and just said “sorry I think I’m in the wrong booth!” and ran out. At the time it was embarrassing and felt like a big deal but later, the firm ended up offering me an in-firm interview.
Anna Condon | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Be conversational, inquisitive, and friendly! As much as you might feel nervous, most OCIs are not much more than an informal chat. Be prepared to discuss something from the “interests” section of your resume.
Fail: There were subway issues the morning of OCIs. Some candidates arrived so late they missed an entire interview (or two). It is NOT the end of the world. We’ve all been there before. Give yourself a buffer period in case of transit delays or traffic. If life still gives you lemons, try your best to relax and not let it throw you off for the rest of the day.
Jonathan Farine | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: How the interviewer feels is more important that what they think. If you’re in the door you’ve already impressed them with your competency, work ethic, and previous experience. You don’t need to pitch yourself as a potential superstar summer student/associate, just try to have an organic, positive conversation and connect with the interviewer in some genuine way.
When you leave an office write a couple points about the conversation on the back of the lawyers card (e.g. my interviewer was considering climbing Kilimanjaro). That way when you have to write the thank emails you can keep them short (2 sentences max) and power them out at the end of a long day, but they are still genuine and will anchor whatever unique conversation you had in the lawyers memory.
Wear comfortable shoes, nothing kills your mood more than blisters and bruised feet on interview day.
Wesley Dutcher-Walls | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Try to prepare questions for the interviewers that you don’t already know the answers to, and on things that can’t be learned from the website. If it means that the questions you ask are a bit more subjective, that is totally alright. Firms know that they can be a bit hard to tell apart based simply on their websites, so find ways to draw upon the views of the people you’re actually speaking to. It’s totally ok to begin a question with something like “what would you say to a student who…” or “in your experience is it possible to… .” The interviewers are there as people with their own experiences, careers, and opinions, and not just as generic representatives of a given firm. Use that to your advantage!
Fail: Heading into an OCI on Day 1, I had expected to be interviewed by two women because of the interviewer list the firm had sent in advance. When I walked through the curtain into the booth, there were two men sitting there. I actually backed up out of the booth to check the sign and see if I had gone into the wrong one before re-entering and apologizing. Not a strong start. It didn’t matter in the end because I ultimately decided not to move forward with that firm, but it’s a cautionary tale: be prepared for last-minute changes! Don’t spend too much time thinking of questions or talking points for a specific person based on their practice area – they might always get pulled into something and have to skip the interviews. It’s better to think of questions you’d feel comfortable asking anyone at a given firm.
Pearl Lee | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Try to think of anecdotes for every point or past job experience in your resume. Rather than naming the character traits or strengths that you exemplified in a situation, having a short interesting/amusing story helps the interviewers understand you better as a person
Hassan Rasmi | Articling Student 2018/19
Tip: Don’t listen to all the rules. It’s okay if you have a reason to be late; it’s okay if you forget someone’s area of practice; it’s okay if you’re put on a “waitlist”; it’s okay if you make a mistake about someone’s history; it’s okay if you don’t have your top choice first thing on Monday; it’s also okay if you don’t have your top choice on Monday at all; and it’s certainly okay if you say no to a firm you don’t like before call day.
It doesn’t matter, and it surely didn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters is for you to make sure that you are hired somewhere you are comfortable. Somewhere that appreciates how you made it to where you are. And, if you don’t get hired, so what? You’ve been applying to schools and firms for the biggest chunk of your career. Do it another time. But work somewhere that makes you happy.