I've discussed in previous posts how the interview process has lately become a drawn-out affair, often involving multiple rounds including a phone or video conference screen, in-person interview sessions, and sometimes additional phone or video interviews with additional members of the practice group and/or hiring committee who are located in different firm offices across the country or internationally. This is particularly true when you are interviewing at a firm where the practice group in which you would be working does a lot of cross-collaborative work involving attorneys from multiple offices (corporate is the most typical example of this, but we are seeing a lot of it in IP as well, specifically in patent prosecution).
The upshot of this is that a candidate is able to gain a lot of valuable information throughout the process, not just about the particular office that they are looking to join, but about the larger practice group and the firm and the firm’s culture as a whole. The downside of this is that sometimes the process can seem to be moving at a relatively glacial pace, and it can be difficult to maintain the momentum towards an offer and hiring decision when interviews are set weeks apart.
Another thing that can serve to protract and complicate the process is that a lot of firms are constrained in their hiring budgets in terms of reimbursing candidates for travel expenses if the candidate is interviewing for a position in an office in a different city than where they are currently located. In this scenario, firms will often decide to wait to schedule an interview around a candidate’s existing or future plans to be in the city where they are interviewing, either for a visit to friends and family, or for interviews with another firm. Either way, a candidate can find him or herself at a distinct disadvantage relative to more local candidates.
In these instances, and particularly when a candidate is on a constrained time frame in terms of their job search, I almost always recommend that the candidate schedule a prospective trip to the city where they have a pending interview request, or even if they don’t have an existing request. Make it for a couple of days, and then notify the firm that you will be in town on those dates. Almost always, firms are able to put together an interview itinerary if they have already expressed interest in an in-person follow up interview. Additionally, you can let firms where you have applied but not heard back know that you will be in town for a limited time, and can make yourself available for an in-person interview. Firms who may have been on the fence about your candidacy because of the geographic distance (and expense) of interviewing you can develop a very sudden interest when you are available to meet with them on an opportunistic basis.
It would be nice if we were still in the boom times of the mid-aughts where firms would not only pay for all travel expenses, but sometimes offer signing bonuses, generous relocation packages, and other perks because the sky was the limit on hiring and prospective future business. But we are in a much different market now, and as much as I hate to advise candidates to put their own money forth to book an interview trip, particularly a prospective trip, spending the few hundred dollars on such a move can pay huge dividends in the form of additional interviews and offers that might not otherwise be available.
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