Does a phone or video interview request instead of an in-person interview mean a firm is less serious about my candidacy?
Absolutely not, and in today's hyper competitive legal market, any interview request you receive should be taken very seriously! At the end of the day, law firms are businesses, and in the wake of the recession firms are looking for every avenue they can to cut costs, deliver more efficient service to their clients, and increase revenues to attract new partners and grow their business.
Just as document review, court filing, and many other law firm tasks and activities have trended toward the digital thanks to ever-improving technology, so has the hiring process. In fact, unless an attorney is already located in the same city as the office for which they are interviewing, it is becoming exceedingly rare for an in-person interview to kick of the process. An initial phone screen or video conference with the practice group's managing partner (and sometimes one or two more attorneys) has become the norm, even for top-notch superstar candidates.
Knowing that such interviews are normal will hopefully put you in the mindset to approach phone or video conference interviews
with the same level of seriousness and preparation as you would an in-person interview. You should research the firm, the practice group (their clientele, representative matters, recent news on lateral hiring and growth
- all of which should be on the firm's website), and of course the attorneys with whom you will be interviewing. You also need to be prepared to discuss every aspect of the information on your resume and be able to rattle off answers confidently and quickly, because your attitude and energy will come across on the phone or video screen just as strongly as it does in person.
In fact, I often recommend to my candidates that they dress up for a phone screen as if it were a formal, in-person interview, to sit up straight, be expressive, and do their best to convey their enthusiasm and professionalism to the interviewer. A lot of client interaction these days is over conference calls or via video, and partners want to know that you convey an impression of competence and professionalism in this medium so that they can trust you with handling their own client matters should they choose to hire you.
The interview landscape is constantly changing, but one thing that should never change is your approach to any interview, no matter the format - take it seriously, be well-prepared, and always be as professional as possible. After all, you don't want your first impression to be your last!
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