Recently over at r/lawyers on Reddit, someone asked how to prepare for a day-long interview at a large company. A long time LawyerSmack member and in-house lawyer responded with a really thoughtful write-up. It’s too good to not get a wider audience, so I’m re-posting it here with his permission. So if you’ve ever asked your “How do I prepare for a day long in house interview?” – here’s an answer from someone who’s been there, done that.
I’ve done this song and dance a couple times and I agree with everyone else – you are certainly not in for sure. I had a company fly me out, put me up in a hotel, have a driver come pick me up, did a day and a half of interviewing followed by a half day tour to look at housing options, and ended up not getting the job. In my defense, another candidate underbid me, so there is that.
Having said that, yes, it does mean good things. It certainly means you are on a very short list of candidates.
In general, all day corporate interviews usually are all-day because they want you to meet a lot of different people. I would bet that in addition to the standard interview crew (co-workers, supervisor, and a couple others up in the management chain) you might end up talking to a different business unit that you will service. For example, if you were interviewing as a contract manager it is likely that the procurement team would get a chance to talk to you since they would likely have frequent contact, or if its a compliance position, you might talk with some of the product managers, since they will likely interface with you frequently.
My advice when interviewing with lots of different people at different levels is to basically just do you normal interview thing – don’t try too hard to anticipate what one group might prefer over another. In any case, most people in the corporate setting are terrible at conducting interviews, so they will probably hand you what you need. A great way to deal with someone from a different department is to straight up ask them how they will interact with your position, or to ask them to describe what they do, that sort of thing.
Be Ready For A Practical Evaluation and “Fit Test”
The other thing that people here have mentioned that I agree with is that you are likely to receive some sort of test or practical evaluation. Its hard to predict what type you will get, since you didn’t say much about the job, but I’ve been handed an IQ test, a law school exam, a general industry specific knowledge exam, and of course I have been asked to describe how I would handle a hypothetical situation. If the company is big enough, google or glassdoor search it and people might have some insight. I think the hardest part about being handed a test during an interview is that sometimes they will ask you to assess yourself without letting you know how you did, and that can be really awkward.
Don’t forget that you can always take the politician route – if they ask how you think you did, don’t throw back a score, instead talk about a part that caught you off guard or something that you were particularly confident about. Also, if you think you underperformed on the test, rather than making excuses or indicating that you don’t perform well under pressure by saying you are bad at test, you can instead tell them something about your approach to work. Saying “I’m worried I didn’t perform well on the test, because in the past when I have dealt with these kinds of situations I like to do a quick brainstorm and then identify the most likely course from that. Getting all the ideas out quickly helps me to focus and make sure I’m not missing anything once I get started,” is much better than saying “Uh sorry I’m bad at tests.”
I agree that with lengthy corporate interviews it is a lot of “fit” test. With in house attorneys (I know you said you are legal adjacent) a lot of times many people will have the legal skills, so it becomes a question of who has the right personality, as in someone that 1) they want to work with everyday and 2) someone that will fit will with the other business units that call on the legal group. Generally, its humble and hardworking, but a couple other things that are popular right are things like being able to work without administrative support and within the dreaded “open office” environment. Try not to give the impression that you will need a lot of support or specialized materials to do your job, that you could just have a table in the hallway and you would be satisfied.
Along with that, they know you are an attorney and this is a “legal adjacent” job. You have a huge red flag in your file already as someone looking to get their foot in the door and transition into something with the title of attorney as soon as possible. Be prepared to address that and make sure you have a convincing answer. If they are spending the time to interview you for a full day, they don’t want you to leave in 3 months or find that after 6 months you are complaining because they won’t move you into the legal department. Especially if this is a role that is usually filled by non-attorneys, be ready for this one.
Also, keep in mind that this isn’t like being at a law firm where everyone is an attorney. Some people are intimidated by attorneys, some people think attorneys are all geniuses, and some people will have a real chip on their shoulder about it. Don’t be surprised if someone says “Oh wow, are you going to arrest me?” or asks if you have ever seen that show Law and Order. Just practice laughing and smiling and be gracious – someone else said meeting your significant other’s family for the first time – and keep things moving.
Keep Your Stamina Up and Dress the Part
The only other thing I’ll say about full day interviews is that 1) they are exhausting and 2) it creates some interactions that don’t normally happen during interviews. The exhaustion isn’t too tough, it will probably hit when you get home that evening, but just be ready to be “on” all day – you will always have someone with you so you can’t take five minutes to check your clash of clans feed during the day. The second part is a little tougher – for example, at some point someone will hopefully ask if you need the restroom and you will have to say “Yes” and then do your thing while they wait outside to continue on with the day. Just be as normal as you can about it, and hopefully your supervisor doesn’t follow you in to continue chatting.
You will have to eat at least one meal with them. Use your best manners, clean up after yourself, be nice to the waiter if you end up in a restaurant, and use the bathroom after to wash your hands and make sure you face/mouth are clean. I’d suggest keeping gum in your pocket to freshen your breath a bit after meals or coffee during the day (obviously just do a couple quick chews and don’t chew it when you are talking to someone).
Dress formally – full suit – and don’t forget to stop by the bathroom to re-tuck your shirt from time to time. If the company is big enough, you might have an HR rep with you all day. These people do nothing but interview and assist candidates like yourself, so don’t fuck it up by doing something dumb in front of them. Having said that, these people also often have KPIs/bonus criteria that center around quickly filling roles, so they may be motivated financially to get you hired. Feel them out and don’t hesitate to say “Any advice before I talk to this person?” before they drop you off to an interview. Hopefully someone has talked to you about the importance of being nice to admins, however in the corporate world they often are less powerful than at firms.
Still, I can’t tell you how many times we have brought attorneys in to interview and I hear from the billing manager “Oh I didn’t like her she left her creamer at the coffee machine” and when it comes down to weighing out two equally qualified people, that stuff matters. I interviewed somewhere and someone walking by said “Nice shoes!” and I responded gratefully and later when the G.C. I was interviewing with called me she said “Oh, one of the account managers said she could picture working with you and said you would fit great with the contract manager” and it turns out it was that random person I saw in the hallway.