Campus Recruitment Interviewing

The campus interview is a screening interview.  It is not designed for final decision-making.  Law schools schedule interviews to last around 20 minutes, and in that brief period of time some preliminary judgments can be made about a candidate: What can she do?  What knowledge, skill and intellectual capacity does she possess?  What kind of environment will suit her best?

The same set of skills required for a basic selection interview are necessary for campus recruitment, although there are nuances.  As in selection interviewing for a specific position, on-campus interviews require preparation.  An understanding of the firm’s corporate culture and what type of person will flourish or fail in that setting is essential.  Intangible personality traits such as “motivated” or “high energy level” must be translated into recognizable behaviors.  A consistently organized interview structure will assure that patterns of behavior, desired or otherwise, become apparent even within a shortened time frame.

How can you evaluate on-the-job behaviors in a candidate with no previous work experience?  Many interviewers think, “this person hasn’t actually done anything so there’s no point in doing an interview.  He seems bright and attentive and has done well at school – I’ll just take him on board.”  There are two problems with this approach.  One is the heavy reliance on grades.  Grades are a notoriously inaccurate predictor of how someone is going to behave on a job.  That doesn’t mean you should hire someone whose grades were all failing, but there is no evidence to support the idea that someone with a 3.8 average is going to be better than someone with a 3.2 average.

The second problem is the assumption that the candidate hasn’t done anything.  It’s a rare person who has never done anything for money, even if it was mowing lawns or working in a fast-food restaurant.  That person behaved in an environment and he used his brain.

Use effective interview questions.  When a desired behavior is perceived, identify and validate a pattern and test for truthfulness with the follow-up questions that address why, who, when, where and which.  Have a reasonable number of varying questions prepared.  This prevents candidates scheduled later in the round of interviews from being coached by earlier candidates who were asked the same questions by rote.

Think of campus interviews as a public relations campaigns as well as search for the best and the brightest.  Hundreds of people may be interviewed by different members of any given firm.  Those hundreds will likely discuss their impressions of the firm with others, who may also pass along those perceptions.  Over the course of several recruiting seasons, thousands of potential candidates and clients may have formed an opinion of the firm based on nothing more than campus interviews.  It is important that each student leave the interview feeling that he or she has been treated fairly and courteously.


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