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Resuming the search for summer associates

It’s that season again: the days start to get depressingly shorter. The school buses are back picking up the neighborhood kids on the corner of your block. You get excited that the crisper, chillier air will bring out long-lost outfits that require additional layers. (I understand that I could be alone on that one.)

It also means law firm interviews from the on-campus recruiting process have begun. Resumes are flooding my inbox accompanied by a request to interview a bright-eyed, impeccably suited and eager candidate for a slot in our summer associate program. Each individual is, more often than not, studying at a top-ranked law school with a few summers of experience under his or her belt.

There is no denying that most, if not all, the candidates are worthy. The bigger question is, how do you distinguish one candidate from the other when you are reviewing so many resumes that look the same?

My method has been to just talk to them about topics in a different manner than they have been “coached” by their career services office. I speak minimally about their work experience or their school experience and go straight to the weirdest thing on their resume. You’ve hiked three peaks on the East Coast? We will discuss that. You have competed in an archery circuit? Sure, tell me about that.

I have found it much more useful to determine whether I would want to work with someone when they can reflect passion about a hobby than their educational background. If you constantly try to revert the subject back to a rehearsed item on your resume, rather than naturally going with the conversation, I make note.

What are other people’s tactics, strategies, and techniques for effectively interviewing a candidate?