Considerations for a Virtual Interview

by the Summer Associate Hub Team

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, almost all OCI and pre-OCI “screener” interviews at BigLaw firms have been conducted virtually.  The screener is your opportunity to make a good impression, showcase your enthusiasm for the firm, and demonstrate why you are a good fit. Here are a few key things to keep in mind for virtual screener interviews:
  1. Clear your space – Make sure that the background that is within your camera’s view is clean and looks professional. You should feel comfortable showing up in your authentic space, but remember it is an interview, so it should be polished.  There are true stories of students who were rejected from BigLaw firms because their space was messy with dirty laundry, an unmade bed, etc. 
  2. Look the part – Even though virtual meeting can feel less formal, it’s important to dress as though you  would in person. Wear the same formal business attire you would for an in-person meeting.
  3. Lighting – There’s nothing worse than hopping on an important virtual meeting and realizing that your lighting is too dim or bright. We suggest that you run a few tests with the meeting software to make sure you are in a well-lit place.  If you can’t adjust your physical space for more light, some videoconferencing software, like Zoom, have features to increase brightness.
  4. Eye contact – On a virtual call, you are limited with your body language and non-verbal communication. That’s why maintaining good eye contact is so important.  Be sure to look at the camera (not yourself!) when you’re speaking and listening to the interviewer.  A good tip is to adjust the virtual interview window near your webcam (for example, at the top of your screen) so that you can look at the interviewer/yourself while also making eye contact.
  5. Note: If your default webcam is not set up in a way that allows for eye contact while looking at the interviewer, then: 1) do your best to adjust your set up to avoid this, such as using your computer’s native webcam and 2) if that is not possible, mention it to the interviewer to avoid the awkwardness, such as: “My webcam is on another monitor, so it may look like I’m not making eye contact, but I’m looking at you on another screen.”  (As noted above, it is best to avoid this, though.)
  6. Test your tech – To avoid any tech issues,  make sure you test out the meeting software, ensure your camera and microphone are enabled and that you have the latest version of the meeting software.  Doing this check before the interview will reduce the chance of awkward hiccups during your conversation.  Many law schools and law firms use specific video conferencing software specific to legal recruiting, which you may not have used before – is it essential that you test it beforehand.
  7. Be on time – As with an in-person interview,  punctuality is key, make sure you are logged into the meeting on time and ready to go.
  8. Wait, what if the interview cuts out?! – Virtual interviews are convenient, but technology isn’t perfect (especially during times when you need it to be, it seems).  So, it is possible that your virtual interview is interrupted for a variety of reasons: your internet cuts out, the interviewer’s internet cuts out, there is a power outage, the videoconferencing software goes down, etc.  
  9. What do you do?  
    This can be stressful, but don’t panic.  Your career isn’t over and neither is the interview.  Wait 1-2 minutes for the connection to be reinstated.  If that does not happen, keep in mind that all attorneys’ information is public – quickly Google the attorney to find them on the firm’s site, and grab their email and phone number.  Consider calling the interviewer: “Hi, this is X — looks like our connection was interrupted.  I figured we could resume by phone if that works for you.”  If no answer, leave a voicemail and email the attorney immediately, along the lines of: “Hi X, I just tried your office line and left a voicemail.  Looks like we got disconnected – I’m happy to resume by phone, you can reach me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.  Or, if you prefer, here is a Zoom link to continue: [and you can insert a Zoom link from your account].”
    If no luck, you can reach out to the firm’s recruiting team afterwards to mention that you enjoyed speaking with the attorney but lost connection, and ask if it would be possible to reschedule the remainder of the interview.
    These are just ideas of how to handle the situation – keep in mind that waiting around for the attorney to get in touch with you is likely not the best course of action.
    Best of luck!

Summer Associate Hub Team

This content is based on our own experiences as former law students and BigLaw attorneys, and countless conversations with firm recruiting teams, law students, law school career advisors, legal career coaches, and hiring partners.  

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