The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) program is a rite of passage that many recent alumni associate with hours spent rubbing shoulders with classmates and recruiters in the Lauder Institute’s cozy interviewing suites on Locust Walk. This year, while the COVID-19 crisis has rendered any literal shoulder-rubbing inadvisable, the Career Planning and Professionalism (CP&P) office is working overtime to make sure the Law School’s first fully-virtual OCI program — postponed from the summer of 2020 to January of 2021 — is a seamless experience for both students and potential employers.
Joanna Craig, the Law School’s new Director of Private Sector Recruiting, said that this year’s OCI will be taking place on Flo Recruit, an online platform that “simulates the OCI interview experience while providing easy access to interview schedules and allowing students to upload materials they would have brought with them to in-person interviews.” CP&P will also be providing virtual “spaces” for law firm hospitality tables “so that students can say hello, ask questions, or express their interest in firms if they were unable to secure an interview,” said Craig.
As always, counselors will be available to support students throughout OCI. This year, they will provide that support virtually, with drop-in Zoom rooms, an OCI hotline, and additional counselor appointments.
“We are tailoring our tools and resources, anticipating the changing needs of students and employers,” Craig said.
Counselors are also doing everything they can to keep technical difficulties to a minimum. Craig said that CP&P has “launched a virtual mock interview program and will be providing additional Flo Recruit training to students and employers during the coming weeks.”
Members of the class of 2022 said they felt well-supported by their counselors during this difficult time.
“CP&P has been great about offering virtual meetings, resume review, and resources to help with the transition to a virtual OCI,” said Amy Koss ’22. “They’re doing a great job keeping the events calendar up to date.”
Quinn Dunkak ’22, who is considering public sector jobs, agreed, noting that CP&P recommendations have helped him steer his research in a time when there are fewer opportunities to get a clear sense of different employers, their missions, and office cultures.
Students said that finding the right time and context for networking has been the biggest challenge this year. Gone are the evening cocktail receptions of years past. This year, firms are hosting virtual information sessions attended by hundreds of job hopefuls from across the country. To compensate for the lack of personal contact, students are relying more on the networks they have already established.
“I’ve been trying to speak to as many 3Ls from Penn as possible about their first-hand experiences with certain firms,” said Koss.
While no one would have chosen to be going through the OCI process during a pandemic, “there are definitely benefits to virtual interviewing,” said Craig. “For employers, the screening process can be managed much more efficiently in a virtual setting, allowing firms to see more candidates, while still reducing time commitments and expenses. Employers can also recruit a more diverse group of attorneys to get involved in interviewing because it will be easier for them to attend interviews remotely.”
The class of 2022 is optimistic about the new format.
“I like the virtual screener,” said Dunkak. “I’ve had no problem connecting with interviewers in this setting. And one upside of virtual OCI is that I can have some notes prepared and look at them during the interview without making it seem too obvious.”
“Students will not need to worry about physically traveling from one interview from the next,” said Craig, “and being in a familiar setting may help settle some students’ nerves.” Pointing out a silver lining that women who might otherwise wear heels will surely appreciate, she added, “while students still need to be in business attire, they will not need to worry about having appropriate footwear.”
Koss said that, while trying to stand out “among a sea of other students will be challenging, I’m confident that firms will be able to get a good sense of my personality and what I can bring to the table during a virtual interview. I’m excited to begin the virtual OCI process!”
The CP&P office works closely with our students and alumni to think strategically and set attainable goals for successful career development. Learn more about CP&P programming and resources.