The OCI recruit is different from any interview process that you’ve experienced before. You only have about 17 minutes to impress a firm in hopes of getting an invite to an in-firm interview. You can think of it as a career speed dating event. Here are 10 tips for succeeding in Canadian OCIs.
1. First year grades are important
Grades aren’t everything, but they do matter. Presenting yourself as a well-rounded candidate involves good grades, interpersonal skills, extracurricular involvement and professional work experience. So while grades aren’t the end all and be all, they are an important piece of the OCI puzzle. Don’t sweat it if you get a C in 1L (easier said than done), but give it your best.
2. Get involved in 1L
Find one thing in first year that you can stay committed to throughout the entire year. Whether it’s your school’s Pro Bono Students Chapter, your local legal aid office, or another on-campus club. Extracurriculars will help you build skills and give you an experience to speak to in your cover letter. Plus, it’s generally just a good idea to be involved in your community!
3. Research firms
Spend time researching law firms and figure out which ones are right for you and provide the career opportunities you desire. For example, if your interest is in family law, doing your research will prevent you from wasting time applying to a law firm focused on general corporate law. Most major law firms have a profile on NALP that contains everything from practice areas, recruitment and hiring, to compensation and benefits. It also includes the information for the firm’s primary contact that you should be addressing your cover letter to. I would strongly recommended doing your research there before the OCI recruit starts.
4. Don’t underestimate your cover letter
One of the key components of the OCI recruit is a strong cover letter. Since you only have a short amount of face-to-face time during OCIs, a cover letter gives you a chance to tell your story, elaborate on your skills and explain why you would be a good fit at a particular law firm. Its value is equivalent to the personal statement that helped you get accepted to law school.
5. Ask upper-years for advice
Reach out to upper years law students at your school who were successful in the OCI recruit. They’ve been in your shoes and know how stressful and overwhelming the process can feel. Ask them to share their OCI recruit experience and share any advice so you know what to expect.
6. Do mock interviews
Every school has their own mock interview program led by successful upper-year students. Mock interviews are simulated interviews with an upper-year student, giving you the opportunity to refine your interview skills and make mistakes before the real thing. For example, in my first mock interview, the interviewer asked “tell me about yourself?”. While this sounds like an easy question, I didn’t know where to start and ended up stumbling over my words. Fortunately, I learned from this and was ready for it when it came time to the real OCI recruit.
7. Don’t memorize your answers
OCIs are very conversational. It’s important to avoid reciting a memorized response to questions. Your interviewers are people too, so be natural and give genuine answers. You’ll be asked questions about things in your cover letter but it’s going to feel very much like a conversation. They also won’t be quizzing you on the law, so don’t feel like you should study for OCIs. Note: this is different for public law interviews (for example, interviews with the DOJ or PPSC).
8. Don’t listen to the noise
The OCI recruit can be one of the most toxic times in law school – but only if you let it. You’ll hear people comparing OCI results and talking about their interviews. It’s a stressful time for everyone and it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Don’t gossip, be courteous to your peers, do your best, and everything will turn out exactly as it should.
9. Ask meaningful questions in your interviews
At the end of every interview you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t ask something readily available on the firm’s website. Ask something meaningful and interesting. For example, don’t be afraid to ask the lawyer interviewing about their practice area, and what they like about it. In one of my interviews, a lawyer interviewing me specialized in securities law, a field I knew very little about, so I asked him what led him to that area and what he likes about it.
10. Be polite
Be confident during the OCI recruit but don’t cross the line into arrogant territory. Have good manners at all time, thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity to be interviewed, make good eye contact, and shake their hand (but not until COVID-19 is over).
Hopefully these tips help you turn OCIs into in-firm interviews which we’ll explain in another article soon. Good luck!