How to get double digit interviews (hint: it has nothing to do with grades)

1L Jennie Christensen has had 16 interviews for summer positions and has absolutely dominated her 1L summer job search, become a very fluent networker, and built relationships with many professionals. What has impressed me so much about Jennie’s job search is that she never hesitates to reach out to the CDO. She has worked with just about every counselor in our office and met with several of us multiple times. She frequently emails CDO counselors, with questions big and small and never apologizes for reaching out because she knows we are here to help her. We have helped her with resume and cover letters, networking questions, application questions, and general job search strategy, and she has taken our advice and run with it, going way above and beyond.

This week, she let me on on her strategy for job search success and networking.

KMB: Congratulations on your 16 job interviews. That is quite impressive. Can you let me in on your strategy for landing these interviews?

JC: At the outset, I will let you know that the 16 interviews came from, in some cases, multiple rounds of interviews at the same company/org. Also note that, other than substantial outreach to students and alumni on LinkedIn, I only had a strong personal connection at one location (an in-house company called CBRE where I also received an interview).

I applied to:

– 36 firms (invited to interview at 4 firms thus far)

– 47 in-house (invited to interview at 6 companies thus far)

– 22 public interest (invited to interview at 4 orgs thus far)

Looking at the ratio of #places applied to #interviews received, I actually had the most success with LinkedIn applications (surprising, I know).

KMB: That is a lot of interviewing and you must have learned a lot in the process. What is your biggest takeaway?

JC: My biggest takeaway/tip from all of these interview is as follows:

I’ve truly had the best interview experiences when I asked thoughtful and relevant questions throughout the interview (ie more like a normal conversation) rather than waiting until the very end or for the interviewer to say “what questions do you have for us?”

I think it’s showed a general comfort level in the environment, a comfort level in talking with management, and an intellectual curiosity that interviewers really appreciate. It also seems to make the interview experience more enjoyable and relaxed on both ends.

It sounds somewhat intuitive but I don’t think most people actually do that in practice.

KMB: Where did you focus your job applications? If my memory serves me right, you applied in multiple cities.

JC: Probably about 40% Chicago, 40% other major cities (NY, DC, SF, etc), and 20% smaller cities – but only when the job looked cool enough that I’d be willing to live in a less-exciting city for a summer.

KMB: What was your time frame in terms of your job search? Did you apply for a lot of jobs before finals?

JC: Prior to finals, I really just focused on outreach to students, alumni, and people on LinkedIn who I thought had really cool jobs. Here are some screenshots of some of the messages/templates I used depending on if they were an alum or a stranger.

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I wanted to learn more about the types of jobs that other people have and the types of experiences that past students have had before actually diving into the application process. I may have applied to a few places before finals, but I was mostly focused on outreach. I kept track of everyone I had talked to along with the big takeaways from the discussion in an excel sheet. Sometimes I also asked for the names of other people at the firm that I could reach out to – in which case that info also made it into the excel sheet.

It was a decent amount of work – I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But I also got a lot out of it. Along with learning about people’s work and getting a sense of the type of places I wanted to apply to during break, it also gave me great conversational reference points for later interview questions (eg “I was talking with X at the firm and he indicated X – what are your thoughts on that?”)

KMB: That is a great strategy! How many jobs did you end up applying for?

JC: I put in the most work over break. I had chatted with a 3L who said he applied to 50 Internships during his first summer, which initially sounded excessive to me, but I got a little competitive and decided I would apply to 55 internships over the course of the first week of break. I would do about 8-10 a day and it definitely took 4-7 hrs a day. I went to cafes usually and had Netflix going in the background (not recommended, but certainly made the process more enjoyable). I had multiple templates depending on the type of job (public interest, firm, etc) but then tailored them more specifically to the actual organizat.ion

But then once I hit 55, I was pretty hooked and ended up applying to about 80 by the time break was over. It probably made a difference that I was bored at home and most of my friends now live in different cities – I can’t confidently say that I would have put in the same amount of time if I had fun alternatives available.

After that point, and once I got back to school, I only applied to about 1 or 2 a week, and only if the job was particularly interesting to me. I definitely slowed down the applications upon returning to school, but I also started getting interview invitations so the work continued, just in a different form.

Since returning to school, I’ve had about 2 interviews a week. It’s been chaotic but I’ve become so comfortable with them and gotten a good sense of what answers and questions receive great responses from interviewers – so it’s actually become a fun process and I get really excited for the interviews now. That excitement makes the interview more fun for both the interviewer and myself, thereby creating a positive cycle.

KMB: How do you balance your job search with school work?

JC: If I’m being super honest, I have probably put less time into reading/schoolwork lately. In my mind, I think I’m getting more real life value out of the application processes and interviews and I’m now much more confident in my own interviewing abilities. That said, this decision of time allocation is something that each student should probably make for themselves depending on their own assessment of “bang for buck”. For me, this is just a better investment of my time but that might not be true for everyone, particularly if stellar grades are more important to them.

Most people think I’m crazy when I say I love interviews but I get to spend 30+ mins speaking to people who would usually be difficult to connect with and I also get a pleasant adrenalin rush 🙂

Jennie compiled a list of every single question she has been asked in her interviews as well as a list of questions she asked that got a positive response. She is generously sharing her list, which I have included below:

  • Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
  • What led you to apply here? Why do you want to work here?
  • Have you researched the company/organization?
  • What interests you about this role?
  • Tell me more about X on your resume. What did you like about it?
  • What classes have you taken so far? Which class has been your favorite?
  • [Pointed to an education abroad experience] Cool, tell me more about that experience. What was your time like in X city? Was the program arranged through your university? Did you live with other American students or were they international students?
  • Do you know what type of work you want to do after completing your JD? What are your career goals?
  • How do you prefer to conduct research for cases – Westlaw vs. Lexis? Expain your preference.
  • Tell me about a time that you asked for feedback from a supervisor and how did it change your work/behavior moving forward?
  • Why do you care about X industry [industry relevant to the firm]. How is it relevant in your life?
  • Have you talked to anyone about the internship program? Do you know any of the past interns?
  • Do you know about our corporate values? Which one is your favorite and why?
  • What do you do if you’re assigned a project that you don’t fully understand?
  • If you suddenly realize that you have too much work to handle and the quality of your work might be jeopardized, how would you handle that situation?
  • Who is someone you admire and why?
  • Why should I hire you over other candidates?
  • What makes you a qualified fit for the job?
  • What are some of your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • When is a time when something didn’t work out and how did you respond to it?
  • How does your background/qualifications align with this position?
  • Do you have experience working with teams?
  • Do you have any leadership experiences that we should know about?
  • How do you handle multiple projects at the same time?
  • What do you like about a past position? What made that position so satisfying?
  • Describe a situation in the work place in which you faced a moral/ethical dilemma. How did you respond to that situation?
  • Describe a time you made a mistake and how you handled it.
  • Describe one of your most significant accomplishments.
  • Tell us about a situation where you had to work with limited information but made a decision on the spot? How can you make the right decisions with limited information?
  • Tell us about a difficult situation and how you handled it.

My Questions for the Company/Organization: These are all questions that received positive feedback (i.e., “wow, great question”) and thoughtful responses.

  • What have you personally gained from working at X that you don’t think you would have gained working elsewhere?
  • What is something about the company culture or operations that you would like to see improved or modified in the next 5 years?
  • If you were a 1L intern joining X team, alongside producing quality work, what would your top goals be?
  • If any of you worked at different companies prior to coming here, you don’t have to say the name of the company, but what are the biggest cultural differences between that company and this company/org?
  • What do you wish you had known about the firm before you joined it?

As I said at the beginning of this post, Jennie has been very good about reaching out to the CDO for help in her job search. If you need guidance in any aspect of your job search, no matter how big or small, I strongly encourage you to follow Jennie’s lead and touch base with us. We are here to help you.

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