interviewing

DISCO’s Boston CF 2011 is up

Each year, DISCO holds a massive Career Forum in Boston for English/Japanese bilinguals (in addition to other job fairs in LA, London, and Tokyo).

A run-down on what DISCO can mean for JET alums turned JD students has already been covered by JETs with J.D.s, and is available here.

The Boston career forum is truly massive, and a good opportunity for anyone considering going in-house, or getting in-house experience. Even if you’re a rising 2L trying to figure out what you can do your 2L summer (and are worried you won’t be able to secure the coveted McLaw Summer Associate position), Boston may present opportunities for you this November, and DISCO has recently opened the page for this fall’s CF for applications. The number of participating companies should grow over time, so keep an eye out for companies looking for a J.D. candidate.

Building a resume on CFN can take some time, so starting early would be advisable.

The page with this fall’s Boston Career Forum can be found here.

 

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Disco’s Career Forum, for JETs with J.D.s

Disco Stu likes DISCO jobs

Every year, Boston welcomes the largest Japanese-English bilingual job fair known to man. The job fair is run by DISCO International, and is otherwise known as the Boston Career Forum. Career forums are also held in Tokyo, London, and Los Angeles throughout the year– but Boston is easily conceded as the largest of these.

This forum is something I wish I had known about earlier as a law student, because a large number of Japanese and multinational employers show up (this year, 132 of them did), and some of them are actually looking to fill vacancies in their legal department, or for whatever other reason are willing to look at J.D. candidates and J.D. holders. The distinct advantage about this career fair, moreover, is that for perhaps the only time in your law school career, you’re not competing with a horde of fellow students en masse, but only those students who have the requisite language skill (not so many), and only those who have been willing to make the journey (even fewer).

While I was skeptical as to whether this large job forum would help me at all (as it seemed largely aimed at undergrads, MBA’s, and engineers) I was able to walk away from Boston having had a number of interviews and a couple positive leads on the job search. Below, I will briefly relay my experience, suggestions, and advice for any JET pursuing a J.D. who might be considering a trip to Boston next fall.

Preliminary Matters

(1) If you want to work for a law firm and a law firm only – the remainder of this post is largely useless to you. Your time would be better spent looking at these vintage (and hilarious) Tokyo subway posters.

(2) If you are below Conversational level Japanese (generally, JLPT 3級 = Conversational), DISCO won’t let you in. So you’ll either have to lie or improve your Japanese ability. I advise the latter.

Preparation

I heard of DISCO and the Boston Career Forum from another JET alum who went to law school and found his first post-graduation job in-house, with a Japanese company, through DISCO. When I first heard about DISCO from this alum (in July), I immediately went to their site and found that information about the Boston Career Forum, and prospective employers, was already posted and some employers were already accepting application submissions. Currently, DISCO does not have information up about its 2011 Career Forums, but it is only a matter of time.

Regardless, I would advise setting up a profile on DISCO’s site sooner rather than later. In setting up a profile, you are given the option of setting up an English and a Japanese resume. I suggest you do both– as some employers will accept the Japanese one only, and others the English one only. Depending on your Japanese ability, this can take next to no time at all, or can be quite time consuming, and you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to proofread both before you start applying for positions.

Applying to Interviews Before the Career Forum

All your applications for the Career Forum will require one of the resumes you set up through DISCO. That’s usually the easy part of applying to an employer. In addition to the resume, employers can also ask supplemental questions – to be filled out in only English, only Japanese, or either. These questions also tend to impose character limitations. Again, you’ll want time to plan ahead and draft well-written, grammatically correct answers to these questions – which is why I advise you start preparation early.

These supplemental questions also allow employers to vet applicants according to their language ability. DISCO requires you to rank your language ability along traditional JLPT categorizations (Elementary, Conversational, Business, Native), but if your answers to the supplemental make you look like you’re struggling at 4級, and you’re posturing yourself as a Native-speaker, don’t expect too much.

Some employers throw additional hurdles into the application process. This is particularly true of the accounting firms and investment banks. Accounting firms will generally require you fill out an application off of their home site in addition to the one you do for the Career Forum. Investment Banks usually request likewise, and may throw a timed mathematical reasoning test into the mix.

As the Career Forum gets closer, more employers will join in. Even up to the last few days before the Career Forum, new employers were appearing on the list, and accepting applications for interviews. So again, if you plan on going, you should check early and often.

By the date of the Career Forum, I had lined up four interviews in advance, with one (1) investment bank, one (1) accounting firm, and two (2) Japanese multinational companies. All of them were interviewing for their Tokyo offices.

EDITED TO ADD (01/24/2011): Acquiring interviews prior to going to Boston provides you two other advantages: (1) Arranging interviews in advance makes you more likely to receive a travel scholarship from CFN; (2) Arranging interviews in advance may allow you to access travel funds from your law school to be used for traveling to interviews.

Applying for Interviews AT the Career Forum

Submitting for interviews while you are at the Career Forum is also a realistic possibility. While I was in Boston, I was able to gain interviews with a few other employers, including another accounting firm.

Resumes

No employer will tell you this, but they are typically open to receiving both English and Japanese resumes. From my experience, I highly advise bringing copies of a Japanese resume with you in tow. Many of my interviewers looked a bit nervous to be interviewing me with the English resume they received from DISCO. When I pulled out the Japanese resume I prepared ahead of time, there was a visible (albeit concealed) sigh of relief and I became a small hero in their eyes – always a good way to start the interview.

Note that Japanese resumes tend to have a different format than Western resumes, and involve a lot less “grandstanding” of your accomplishments. Samples are here. A template is available here.

Interviews

Much like JET, my interview experiences were ESID. One was with a guy who spoke fluent English and ultimately gave an impression of being a bit more high-pressure than most law firm interviews. The remainders were conducted in a mix of Japanese and English. Some were basic resume review, others were more conversational.

For some interviews I had to fill out additional paperwork before going in, for others I did not.

For a good number of my interviews, JET was treated as an overall positive on my resume. Others didn’t mention it. At the very least, I can say it wasn’t greeted with a head tilted to the side and air-sucking through the teeth.

Like any other interview, I highly suggest going in with a game plan to handle the variations the interview process can take. Enlisting the help of a Japanese confidante or teacher would be a good idea as well.

Post-Career Forum Contact

To e-mail thank you notes or not? Assuming your interview was positive, a friend of mine suggests the following:

My short answer is that I would send a thank you e-mail or thank you letter as you would with any other person who would interview you, expressing your great interest in learning more about [the Company]. If you have Japanese writing skills, or thought that the interviewer might have doubts about your ability to function in a written Japanese environment, you might take the opportunity to showcase those skills.

For the good interviews I had, I did likewise. I do not feel they necessarily helped or hindered my application in any sense, but those thank you’s at least indicate you are still open and ready to converse.

Again, like the interviews, the process in discussing employment with companies after Boston was very ESID. For some employers, I heard responses quite quickly. For others, I am still in ongoing conversations with them, and this is three months after the initial interview. For legal departments in Japanese companies, a colleague of mine offers the following amount of lead time before you get a response:

I’d give [them] 4 weeks to get back to you. From my experience with Japanese companies, the guy you talked to would report in writing/orally through his chain in the HR department, then the HR department would report in writing to the other departments. The other department might take a week or so to respond to HR. (I can imagine that the legal department might not have expected to receive an application from someone like you. It might take a little bit of time for the legal department to warm up to you.)

Again, while four weeks might be a good standard to have, ESID. It takes one guy sitting around not-hankoing things to gum up the process.

Post-Career Forum Surprises

Finally, a couple of months after the Boston Career Forum, I received an email from a Company interested in knowing whether they would still like me to talk to their legal and compliance departments, respectively, about the possibility of joining them in Tokyo. So, even for those companies you apply to and never hear from, possibilities exist that they may contact you long after the fact.

A Final Note

DISCO also posts general job postings for bilinguals throughout the year. I have had some luck with these as well, though they are generally not aimed at J.D.s.

In short, if you’re looking to navigate the Apocalyptic War-Zone that is legal employment in a post-financial crisis world – DISCO offers you a welcome platform from which to market your legal and language abilities – in a much less crowded field of competitors.

Quick Interview Resource

Most interview advice is pretty predictable: (1) Don’t show up naked; (2) Don’t mention that you think your last employer smelled like poo; (3) Don’t punch your interviewer in the face.

Then, sometimes, interview advice can actually be pretty useful. While this isn’t advice for legal interviews specifically, this short presentation by Goldman Sachs covers some of the basics, but also breaks things down into interview styles, and interview preparation – something many good resources don’t do.

The link, again, is here. Enjoy!

Interview Advice from the Top 14

tie-690084It’s a tough market out there, everyone knows. And, with a tough market comes a tougher job interview. With On-Campus interviews looming — it’s time to see what the Top Fourteen law schools have out there for interview enhancement:

With a significant percentage of law clerks whose work gets questioned or reversed, Yale Law school has a sizable list of sample interview questions for you to consider.

Harvard Law School emphasizes certain characteristics in finding a public service job — the advice seems to be applicable to any kind of interview, however.

Stanford may want to unseat Harvard and Yale, but they don’t have much available online for interviewing.

Columbia gives us a link to 50 Worst of the Worst (and Most Common) Interview Mistakes. This includes helpful advice such as don’t light up a cigarette or bring your mom to the interview.  Wow.

University of Chicago keeps all of its resources behind a login. Boo.

NYU provides a list of resources you can consult in your search for legal employment.

UC Berkeley keeps everything behind a password wall as well.

UPenn Law too.

University of Michigan has resources in interview preparation, questions to ask, and what to do if you get a call-back available.

The University of Virginia follows the pattern of keeping their interview tips blocked to the public.

Duke has a fairly lengthy page of interview advice here.

Northwestern keeps most of its stuff blocked, but does have some interesting info available on various legal markets across the country, certainly helpful.

Cornell has some brief interview advice available.

Georgetown has taken the password protection route, too.

Enjoy. After all, if you interview well, you not only get to walk away with a job, but you can say the current unemployment rate isn’t in part a result of your lousy interviewing skills.

Advice for Legal Interviews: Be Psychic

Okay, well maybe you don’t have to channel Miss Cleo to get legal employment these days.  But, in addition to the healthy dose of luck you’ll need, the legal career services world has created a brand new buzzword concept through which all prospective employees can be vetted: emotional intelligence.

What is emotional intelligence, you ask?  Emotional intelligence, or as those trying to sound more professional than they really are might call it, “EI,” is the demonstrated ability to show, and practice, professional competence by providing good answers to hypothetical questions and connecting with interviewers. The idea behind the concept is that you are being hired not just for your legal acumen and ability to detect italicized commas in a document of hundreds of pages — you’re being hired to develop and maintain clients. What does this all boil down to?  Don’t be a jackass.

It’s hard to imagine why a new buzzword for an obvious concept like emotional intelligence even merits creation, but oddly enough, a JET alum probably possesses more of it than most law students, especially the rural JET alum.  There’s something about being the sole foreigner in a town that breeds the sort of thick skin capable of dealing with clients regardless of whether those clients are truly deserving of your empathy and advocacy, or whether they, let’s just say, suffer from a severe lack of emotional intelligence. Rural JET life is, in many ways, a true test of your personal “EI.”  It may be true that in  a legal interview you are outgunned by the experience of your interviewer, but at least you’re outgunned in your own language.  On JET, your schools and your community are akin to clients.  Their taxes are your salary at the end of the day, and they’re happiness with your presence is the ultimate determiner of where you end up on the scale of Immortal Super JET Hero, or in Utter Misery.

Of course, completely unaddressed in the article is the fact that law school may actually degrade emotional intelligence.  Three years of having your fate decided by ultimately petty distinctions (LSAT score, narrow grading curves, law journal write-on scores, the list goes on) can turn even the most most emotionally balanced and likable person into a petty, cut-throat monster. Not surprisingly, lawyers lead the professional world in depression and drug abuse. If “emotional intelligence” is going to be a significant factor in legal employment going forward, it might be worth it for law schools to consider whether their curriculum amounts to too much of an emotional lobotomy to ensure their students’ some degree of employment prospects.

Legal Interviewing: Aim to Talk 80% of the Time

A recent ABA Journal printed the advice of a legal recruiter out of New Jersey, remarking that the law student sitting in for an on-campus interview should seek to speak for approximately 80% of the time.  The rest of the article gives fairly common interview advice (research the firm you are interviewing for, have all of your materials with you including resume, transcript, and writing sample).  The “80/20 Rule” may not be set in stone, but I think is a factor for something else: to make yourself memorable (in a good way) during the interview.  And you definitely cannot do that if you don’t contribute enough.

The article is available here.