Back when I was applying to law schools, Harvard started an on-the-phone interview program. Getting the call wasn’t an auto-admit, but the presumption seemed to be that you were going to get in. Being a student at BC, my friends found it hilarious to call me from 617 numbers and pretend to be Toby Stock, the admissions dean who was making those calls.
Believe me, I know how nerve-wracking that interview can be. Luckily, I didn’t say, “Nice try!” and hang up when Toby actually gave me a call.
Since it ran the interview process as a pilot program six years ago, Harvard Law School has continued to find its class in part by talking with the candidates over the phone. Recently, HLS announced it is expanding the program to include videoconferencing.
So what should all you Harvard hopefuls think?
First, be glad that it’s videoconferencing. Yes, this means you’ll have to put on clothes (well, a shirt at least). And shave. But it also means you’ll have a set time for the interview. They can’t expect to catch you randomly on Skype, so you’ll know when it’s coming. Unlike the past few years, where HLS could call you at any time. Believe me, it’s much better to have fair warning of when this is happening.
Second, note that they’re offering these interviews to more students than before. While a phone call used to be a good hint that you were being strongly considered, I expect the correlation between interview and offer will be a little looser this year. So get excited if you’re on the interview list, but also get prepared.
So what can I tell you about the interview process?
From talking with Toby (both on the phone and at the school afterwards), they’re not looking for anything specifically. Mostly, they want to get a sense of the person behind the numbers/essays.
My interview went into great detail about my love of classic sci-fi. My resume reflected my love of the genre in an “Interests” section, and my senior thesis was a creative writing project (a book of short stories). We quickly found out that one of my favorite authors was also a favorite of the interviewer.
That’s the type of connection they’re looking for; they want to know you’re an interesting person who isn’t summed up by your LSAT score and ECs. This is why it’s important to get a complete picture of yourself into your law school application packet; the more well-rounded you appear, the more the admissions panel will view you as a person.
So what should you do to prepare?
First, go back over your law school personal statement and résumé. Be prepared to talk about anything on there. If there’s something unique/obscure/interesting on it, expect to be asked about it. And if you don’t have anything that falls into one of those categories, see if you can come up with something to put on there for interview fodder.
Second, make sure to research the law school. You should have some intelligent questions about specific programs offered (whether you’re interviewing at HLS or any other law school). Feel free to ask about student life, as well, because that should be a concern of yours.
Third, look into the background of the interviewer, if possible. If you can find an interest the two of you share, you’re golden.
Finally, relax. While they’re interviewing more people than ever before (and, therefore, admitting a lower percentage of people they interview), the interview process will still be reserved for those they’re considering for their class. They receive a ton of applications every year, and it’s just not possible to interview everyone. View the interview as a presumptive admit, as long as you can hold the person’s interest for 20 minutes; don’t view it as your last chance to mess it up. Confidence is key in these things, and you should be confident if you get this far in the process.