Turning a Callback into an Offer
The “Callback” Invitation
A callback is an interview that takes place at the employer’s office usually after the employer has conducted a shorter, screening interview and thinks that you would be a good addition to their organization. In a typical callback, you will meet with four to six attorneys and perhaps be taken out to lunch or dinner.
You should respond to callback invitations as soon as you know whether you wish to accept or decline. Keep the statistics in mind when deciding whether to accept or decline a callback invitation. In the recent past, nearly half of all screening interviews resulted in callback invitations, and over half of all callback interviews resulted in offers. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to accept or decline a callback invitation. If the invitation is from an employer that is low on your list, and you begin receiving numerous invitations from other employers, consider declining the invitation. It is much easier to politely decline now than to wait and cancel after the employer has paid your travel expenses.
Responding promptly is important for a couple of reasons. First, it is common courtesy and the responsible thing to do. Second, your disregard of a callback invitation disadvantages your classmates who may be eager for such an invitation.
It is important for you to take an active role in scheduling your callback interviews soon after you receive them. Bear in mind that they are scheduling students from other law schools at the same time. Employers’ calendars fill rapidly and they may not be able to accommodate you easily if you call at the last minute and ask to visit them in two or three days’ time. We anticipate that callback interviews will occur during the last two weeks of August, and throughout September.
When you call to schedule your callback, take advantage of the recruiter as a resource by asking any questions that you may have, including:
• May I have a copy of your reimbursement policy and reimbursement form?
• How are my travel arrangements made? (By me or the firm’s travel agent?)
• How long will the interview last and what is the structure of the interviews?
• Can I call back closer to the interview day to obtain the names of the attorneys with whom I will meet?
• What should I bring?
Feel free to make reasonable interview requests to the recruiter. For example, you may wish to interview with attorneys from a particular practice group or with a particular affiliation (working parents, GLBT, etc.). However, keep in mind that just as this is a busy time for you, it is also a very busy time for firm recruiters and attorneys and they may not always be able to accommodate your request. If your interview will involve a meal, inform the recruiter of any dietary restrictions.
If you find yourself in the position of needing to reschedule or cancel a callback already arranged, do so as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that by canceling late in the process, the employer will have likely wasted money and other resources that it cannot recoup.
Coordinate Interviews with Additional Employers
The first firm with whom you schedule a callback usually becomes your “lead” firm for your trip. The lead firm will assist with hotel and travel arrangements and will reimburse you. You will provide your lead firm with the names of the other firms that you visit during that trip, and the lead firm will seek reimbursement from them.
Once you have scheduled a callback interview, take advantage of the opportunity to contact other employers to whom you have applied and/or had a screening interview. Inform them that you will be in town and express interest in arranging an interview with them during that time—this type of “piggybacking” is completely appropriate. Just be sure to inform your lead firm of any additional interviews during the trip and leave yourself plenty of time not only to get from one interview to the next, but also to get some down time in between if possible.
Understand “Reasonable Expenses”
In this economic climate, it is more important than ever to demonstrate professionalism in the recruiting process by having a clear understanding of what the employer considers a reasonable expense. Request a copy of the employer’s reimbursement policy. If you are unclear about an expenditure, ask BEFORE you spend. Don’t assume that you are entitled to a night in a hotel—for example, some firms in NYC expect Yale law students to take the train into the city and return home that evening, other firms are willing to have you spend the night on them. In addition, smaller employers may have substantially different ideas about appropriate travel expenses (especially meals and hotels) than larger ones. Do not forget to keep all receipts and submit them promptly after your interview(s) while the information is still fresh in your mind.
Figure out the logistics ahead of time so you don’t need to worry—know exactly where you must go and how long it will take you to get there. Prepare for the interview by reviewing the employer’s materials, talking to students who have worked for the employer, reviewing your resume, writing down a list of questions to ask at the interview, and knowing how you are going to answer their questions. If you obtained the names of the attorneys with whom you will meet, review their bios on the firm’s website and at www.martindale.com. Be sure to bring whatever materials the employer has requested.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of camaraderie with alumni or young associates. This issue often arises during the meal portion of the interview which will likely include younger associates whose demeanor may be quite casual. Keep in mind that even during the meal you are being interviewed. For further interviewing advice, consult CDO’s Fall Interview Program guide; Interviewing Tips brochure; Sample Interview Questions; and Inappropriate Interview Questions and How to Handle Them.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Submit Expenses Promptly
Soon after the interview, while the information is still fresh in your mind and the receipts are still in your wallet, submit a reimbursement form.
Thank You Letters?
There is some disagreement about the importance of sending thank you letters. In some regions of the country (i.e. the Northeast), they are generally not expected. In other locales (i.e. the Southeast), they are more common. The choice is yours. If you do decide to send one, make sure it is perfect—as it is a sample of your written work. It is our view that a short follow up email to persons with whom you met is a good idea if (1) you are extremely interested in the employer and would like to reiterate that interest; (2) you thought that you really connected with the interviewer and would like to remind that interviewer of your similar interests; or (3) the interviewer went out of his/her way for you (e.g., treated you to a lavish meal).
If you decide to write a follow up email or thank you letter, you should do so promptly. You can write to one or more attorneys with whom you met and/or the recruiting coordinator. In your correspondence, you can ask the person to whom you write to pass your thanks along to the other people who assisted in making your day great. If you decide to use email (which is preferable given the time crunch), you should still use a professional business format and tone. See CDO’s Introduction to Career Development guide Appendix B for sample thank you language.
Seek Additional Information
Feel free to contact the employer after the callback to seek additional information about issues that concern you. For certain matters (e.g., your need to have two weeks off in the summer), you may wish to wait until after you have received a job offer at which point the employer may be more likely to accommodate your needs. Many employers, especially those nearby, are happy to have you return to the office for a follow up visit. You may wish to wait until you receive a few offers and then use revisits to assist you in making a final decision. Some employers will coordinate “offer dinners.” If your schedule will not permit, you should feel free to decline politely the invitation. In any event, respond promptly to any invitations.
Make a Timely Decision
You will likely receive a response from an employer within a couple of weeks after the interview. If you haven’t heard by that time, you should feel free to call and inquire about your status and the timing of decisions.
Once you receive an offer, the amount of time you have to decide depends on whether the employer is a member of NALP. Employers who are not members of NALP have the right to require a response to an offer at any time. Upon receipt of an offer from a non-NALP employer, you should inquire as to when the employer expects a response.
For NALP member employers (most larger law firms and some public interest organizations), NALP provides standards for the timing of offers and decisions as reflected in Part V of NALP’s General Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions (available at www.nalp.org under “Principles and Standards” and reprinted in Appendix C of CDO’s Fall Interview Program guide). NALP also provides interpretations of these standards, available through the NALP website.
According to NALP guidelines, offers to 1Ls for summer employment should remain open for at least two weeks after the date of the offer letter. (NALP Principles and Standards Part V.D.3).
The timing of offers from NALP employers to upper-class students is somewhat more complicated. Read carefully the Principles and Standards to determine the timing that applies to your employment situation. Offers to 2Ls who have not previously worked for the employer remain open for 28 days from the date of the offer letter. (NALP Principles and Standards Part V.C.1). Candidates should reaffirm offers within 14 days or risk retraction of the offer by the employer. Offers to 3Ls made by their summer employer on or before September 2 are to remain open until October 1. Candidates should reaffirm offers within 30 days or risk retraction of the offer by the employer. Offers made after September 2 shall remain open for 28 days from the date of the offer letter. (NALP Principles and Standards Part V.B.3).
Whether you are a first-year or upper-class student, if you find yourself under a deadline to respond to an employer, but you are not sure if you want to accept the position, come speak with a counselor in CDO. Many employers, both NALP and non-NALP members, are amenable to providing additional time for you to make a decision. However, keep in mind that asking for more time may be a signal to the employer that they are not your first choice. Ultimately, it is significantly better to ask for more time than to accept and later renege on your offer. Reneging is unprofessional and reflects poorly on you and the Law School. For more advice regarding when and how to accept and decline offers of employment, consult CDO’s Accepting and Declining Employment Offers.
One alternative to seeking an extension is to accept with the employer for part of the summer, while still exploring other options for the other part. Refer to CDO’s To Split or Not to Split, That is the Question, for additional advice about the pros and cons of splitting the summer.
Ultimately, you should strive to make a decision as quickly as you can once you have gathered the information you need. This is especially true in the current economic climate where students generally are making decisions more quickly than in the past. Holding offers for longer than necessary is frustrating to employers and may prohibit another YLS student from receiving an offer. It is also important to keep in mind that not all students receive offers of employment after callback interviews. If you are sensing that you will not receive an offer after your callback interview(s), talk to a CDO counselor who can help you devise a plan for contacting additional employers of interest to you.
Related CDO Brochures
-Updated July 2014