3 minute read

Going In-House

The Importance Of Homework

Initial research is important. It helps you decide whether to leap into the in-house market, it allows you to narrow down the list of companies that may hire you, and it helps you convince the employer of your genuine interest. This is where working with a headhunter comes in handy, as he or she can point you to the right sources, tell you about the employer's background, and help you develop an interest. But working with a headhunter does not mean getting your research done for you.

Keith, a cum laude graduate of a Top 10 school, sat casually in his chair while his headhunter tried to help him prep for his in-house interview. “Keith,” asked the headhunter, “Why do you want to work for this company?” Unprepared and somewhat puzzled, Keith slumped in his chair and said, “You tell me.”

If you do what Keith did, you will never find a job at a reputable in-house company. Although being a top-tier graduate may get you an offer from a top-tier firm, even given a certain level of arrogance or unpreparedness on your part, much more is required to secure a great in-house position. Good grades alone will not cut it—you must be prepared to explain why you are interested in working there and convince your interviewers that your interest is genuine.

Researching companies can be more difficult than researching firms because there is usually less information available online. So be prepared to spend significantly more time preparing for in-house interviews. Never use a lack of information as an excuse not to be prepared! The only successful way to an in-house position is through in-depth research, extensive preparation, and ability to demonstrate enthusiasm. To help save time, determine early on which industries to focus on. At the very least, you must know what the company does, who your interviewers are, what their seniority levels and backgrounds are, and what your duties will likely entail.

For her in-house interview, Samantha investigated all the information she could find about the company, both through online resources and the word of mouth. When her interviewer started telling her about the company structure, she gently interrupted him by saying, “Yes, and your company also does X, Y, and Z; it is involved into developing this new idea, and it is considering growing in this new area.” The interviewer was dazzled by Samantha's level of preparation. Her in-depth knowledge and commendable enthusiasm earned her an offer.

Begin your preparation by reviewing How to Do Your Homework and consulting the sources discussed there. Additionally, rely on your headhunter. A good headhunter will make him- or herself available for mock interviews and will serve as an invaluable resource. Ideally, you should spend 30 to 60 minutes preparing with your headhunter for your in-house interview and review all the materials he or she gives you. If you have any contacts at the company or know people who have connections there, ask them for feedback as well. Finally, if you are interviewing with a public company, read their public filings to help you gain a better understanding of how it operates. You may be surprised to discover from public filings that the company is not doing so well.

Shawn found out from his research that the company he was interested in was actually doing poorly. “You better have a hell of a good reason to want to work there,” he said. “Plus, the interviewers will want to know why you want to join a company that may be going down. They will wonder if you are not intelligent enough or simply too lazy to investigate.”

Review the job description if there is one, but do not be surprised if your understanding of what the job entails turns out to be wrong. In-house attorneys often make a decision to hire someone before they actually figure out what that person's duties will be. After noticing changes in the market and meeting with candidates with diverse backgrounds, they may reexamine and redefine the job duties. Be flexible, and do not try to preemptively address the fact that you may lack certain experience. Let your interviewers be the judges of that. Nine out of 10 times, they will hire someone with a great personality over a slightly more qualified candidate. Moreover, they may view your lack of a particular experience as an opportunity to mentor you and to help you grow.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsGoing In-House - Unique Aspects Of In-house Positions, The Interview Process, The Importance Of Homework, Personality Fit