Preparing for a Callback Interview

Preparing for a Callback Interview

A typical hiring process consists of a screening, or initial, interview and one or more “callback” interviews.  All of the strategies you used to succeed in your first interview apply to subsequent interviews—but more so.  The callback interview involves more people, more time, more scrutiny and more pressure.  In this Hot Tip, we will discuss what to expect at subsequent interviews, and how to prepare to for a standout performance.   In the next Hot Tip we will cover how to handle situations unique to the callback interview to your best advantage.

The initial interview screens out candidates who clearly don’t have the requisite skill and fit; subsequent interviews dig deeper.  At a callback interview, you are introduced to additional members of the team.  This usually includes attorneys on the hiring committee plus managing partners, peers and subordinates in your department.  Each interviewer will have a slightly different style and perspective.

You will be evaluated on how well you fit into the firm culture and what skills, experience, and opportunities you have to offer the prospective employer.  The assessment continues from the moment you arrive until you leave, many hours later, including while you are walking from one office to the next, speaking with support staff, and while at lunch. At the same time, this is your chance to determine whether the opportunity is a good fit for you, as well.

Callback interviews can take a variety of forms including meeting with a group of attorneys at one time, dining with one or more attorneys, or interviewing with several individual attorneys consecutively.  Interviews with decision-makers in far-flung offices can be via videoconference or telephone.  Each of these settings requires different strategies and techniques, and all are detailed in other Hot Tips on this website.

Those conducting first interviews often are trained in interviewing techniques.  The array of people you see during subsequent meetings may include some less skilled as interviewers or who practice in an unrelated area.  You may have to take the initiative to communicate what you want the interviewer to know about you and your qualifications.

Callback interviews may last from several hours to an entire day.  Ask beforehand how long the interview is expected to take.  It may extend longer than anticipated, so plan accordingly.  Request a list of people you are expected to meet, and research their backgrounds ahead of time.

Bring several copies of your resume, transcript, writing sample, business plan, and other relevant documents– enough for everyone you are meeting and extras, in case others are added to your schedule.  Be prepared to provide references shortly after your callback, if requested.  You can stipulate that they not be contacted without your authorization.

Each meeting represents a fresh beginning.  There is no such thing as a “rubber stamp” interview.  Therefore, don’t coast on the success of earlier interviews.  Review your performance in the previous interview.  Note any questions or situations that caused you difficulty and practice how to handle them better.  Consider what made you shine, and plan to do more of the same. Take another look at the job posting, if there was one. Your responses to all questions should attempt to demonstrate that you possess the attributes the firm is seeking.

Brainstorm fresh information you can bring into a callback interview—new accomplishments, different examples, and more knowledge about the prospective employer.  Keep abreast of developments relevant to the prospective employer by reviewing its website, trade publications and other sources. Consider conducting informational interviews with members of your extended network who may have valuable insights.  Make a list of questions to ask your interviewers during the callback that will demonstrate your knowledge of the prospective employer’s operations and challenges, and fill in any gaps in your understanding of the opportunity.

Be ready to discuss—but do not introduce—your compensation requirements and other deal points, such as willingness to travel or relocate.  Do any market research necessary to prepare to negotiate if an interviewer raises the subject.  The best time to discuss these topics is when the prospective employer has indicated that they are ready to make you an offer.  However, you do not want to be caught unawares if they bring it up beforehand.

Moreover, you must be physically prepared to maintain focus and energy throughout the possibly lengthy callback interview.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before and eat a decent breakfast.  Don’t take the red eye and head right to your interview.  If you are tired you might let your guard down or misspeak.  Dress professionally but comfortably as you may be moving around their offices and walking to and from lunch.  Don’t wear something that will wrinkle or wilt by the end of a long day.  You might want to toss a small snack into your briefcase or purse in case there is no lunch break.

Depending upon the recruiting practices of the prospective employer, their ability to schedule you with all of the appropriate interviewers, and the number of candidates under consideration, you may be asked back for several callback interviews.  You also may be asked to come back for further interviews if there is some question regarding your cultural fit or skill set, or if there is a difference of opinion among the various interviewers.  It is typical for finalists to be asked back one more time so that the prospective employer can evaluate all such candidates on a level playing field before a final decision is made.  With some thought and advance preparation before each subsequent interview, you increase your chances of being the candidate selected to receive an offer.

Valerie Fontaine
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