Category Archives: Interviews

Interview #17 – I should have known better

I did know better. I foreshadowed it in the previous post when I said this could be the most expensive rejection of my career. Well, this was the most expensive rejection of my career.

I was called back for a second interview. I was psyched. The firm was awesome, it had money, the first partner and the firm administrator were very interested in me and apparently this second interview was only supposed to be a ‘character’ interview to make sure I worked well with other people on the team. It wasn’t.

Interview 2 involved being interviewed in succession one on one by two more partners. The first was the named partner. In the Law firm of X&Y, he was Y. The first partner I had talked to fell into the list of names on the door that you typically don’t write down on your cover letter. (i.e. the Law Firm of X,Y,Z,Q,P,T &F) The last partner was not even listed in the litany of names on the door.

So.. down to the actual interview.

So I got an email mere hours after the first interview with the specifics of the second interview. I booked a plane ticket, hotel, and rental car. I was stoked. The first partner had all but told me the job was mine, he just wanted to make sure I played well with the other kids in the sandbox.

I showed up and the firm administrator was effusive and happy to see me. We chatted for awhile before the named partner walked into the conference room. The administrator left us alone and we started talking. I wish I could say that something weird happened in this interview. Nothing did. It was a nice interview, I got along great with the guy (seemingly). We talked on a wide array of subjects ranging from from hobbies to jury selection in various jurisdictions. I will say that the partner had a strangely distracting tic, in that every time he would start talking about something from the past, his eyes starting darting left-right-left-right; almost as if he was reading the synopsis of his past events back to me from a giant scrolling marquee located right behind my head.

There was one potentially bad sign. He read thru the places I had worked at and cherry picked the large firm names to briefly touch on. Though he didn’t really care what I had done for them (contract work) — more that I had just worked for them in some capacity, which seemed odd. I should point out, he hailed from 2 ivy league universities so there may have been a name-game issue here. At the end of the interview, he stood up and said “I won’t hold it against you that you went to Ohio State.” (this seems to be a tag line for “you didn’t get the job”) I’m not sure if this had anything to do with sports, because at no point in the interview were sports of any kind mentioned… so… yeah.

The named partner left the conference room and turned left, while the next partner walked in from the right side of the hallway. This was a partner without his name included in the firm name. He was the appellate attorney for the firm, and damn was he socially awkward. Considering I was socially awkward for a large part of my life, I felt like I was talking to one of my people. We got along fine. He was much more interested in the brass tacks of what I could legitimately do from day 1 if hired. He went thru each employer and asked what I did for them, what portable skills I had. He asked me 3 separate times if the work in my writing sample was my own (I kept telling him, yes… all of it… why do you keep asking). He basically told me he was massively overworked and was looking for someone who knew how to do even part of the appellate process so it wasn’t all falling on him. I was more than happy to explain that I really enjoyed it and that I had done quite a few and would be willing to work with him on any and all cases.

The interview with the last partner was done and he shuffled the papers and said the 3 partners I talked to would get together and discuss me and get back with me soon. Each interview with a partner lasted about an hour or a bit more. The firm administrator then entered as the partner left. She was silent. Which was odd. She seemed very uncomfortable, and brought me out to the bank of elevators without saying anything. Ominous. I said thank you etc. etc. and that I hoped I would be seeing her again soon. “Yes, thank you for coming.”

Crap. Something was wrong. But this could only mean one thing. The named partner had walked out of the conference room, looked at the administrator and said “No.” The third partner had not had a chance to talk to anyone. The first partner wouldn’t have invited me back as enthusiastically as he did if he was against hiring me. The firm administrator really liked me.

But the “my name is the main one on the door” ‘DENNY CRANE’… had overruled everyone moments after leaving the conference room. And had left the third partner to go waste an hour of his time grilling me, when he had already decided not to proceed.

I have no idea what the misstep, if any, there was in the interview. But this has gone down as the most expensive rejection in my career. Even though I knew I shouldn’t… I let my excitement get the better of me and I have no one but myself to blame for flying out to talk to someone, twice, on my hopes and dreams alone. An expensive lesson not soon to be forgotten by either me or my credit card I suppose.

 

Update

Interview #17

I have good feelings about this one. I will say, it is damned expensive to apply to a job out of state and show up for the interviews when they show interest.

So as stated in the previous post, I am done and leaving the city I had been living in. It was a pit, and the legal community was jealously closed to anyone not already ‘in’, and rabidly protectionist. All you have to do is read thru a handful of my accounts dealing with them to understand. So, before I show up in a new city, I took all of my accumulated job finding skills and went to work. I sent out directed letters, unsolicited cold-calls, applications, resumes… everything. I was setting up lunches with people to feel out the area and network so someone could hopefully pass me off to a friend of a friend who would hire me. I was doing everything but hooking on the streetcorners to find a legal position. (I wonder if that would work…)

A random cold-call resume I sent to a firm came back hot. The concept of a cold resume is that you send it to the company / firm and hope that your timing is just right wherein they were considering hiring someone, but they haven’t yet posted the job. If you have incredibly lucky timing, they may very well choose to forgo the job search and dealing with the slew of resumes and applications if you happen to mostly fit what they are looking for.  Out of the myriad of resumes I sent out, I got some mild interest back from a few places, but one mid-sized firm seemed very interested.

They did liability work. And it appeared they were doing quite well for themselves. I got an interview with the managing partner and lead administrator. So I flew across the country to go talk face to face with someone on the off chance they might hire me.

The interview went great. The partner thought my diverse background was fantastic and a perfect fit for the firm. The firm administrator was incredibly nice and we talked about everything under the sun. It was the most comfortable interview I’ve ever had, the three of us just seemed to click. The partner told me right there that he wanted me back for the next interview, but that it was really just a formality to make sure that I could get along with the rest of the team I would be working with. The only moment where I made a mistake was when they asked me what my salary requirement was. I told them and when I said the number, there was the briefest of smiles that played across the partners face. I had quite obviously undervalued myself in his opinion.

We had a very interesting conversation regarding the legal industry. The partner made a statement roughly along the lines that a great number of people drop out of the legal industry over time, and to a certain extent, when you are trying to break into the industry it is like a game of ‘last-man-standing’. The real question is what did you do with your time while you were waiting to be the last man standing. Not really the most comforting concept that to actually be able to work in law, you have to wait for everyone around you to give up and drop out.

For the first time in forever I am honestly excited. I got invited back for a second interview. This is likely going to turn out to be the most expensive rejection I have ever gotten, or potentially I may have hit the elusive job jackpot.

Interview #16

I hesitate to include this one, mostly because it is not nearly so interesting as the others. But I guess they can’t all be rambling and insane. This one was a result of the continued effort to send my resume to every corporate recruiter I could find online. It went thru LinkedIn (Facebook for professionals) and in theory I was applying for an attorney job. This company also had a random legal position and called the job title ‘associate’ but in its own wonderfully backwards logic, it didn’t mean a legal associate attorney … no, no. That would make sense. Instead they wanted a legal associate in more the sense of someone who would do legal style work; and I guess associate with the attorneys. I don’t know. Anyway, I get the call while driving down the road. I talk to the recruiter for half an hour and I hit all the standard buzzwords they are looking for. I honestly have no idea what the company does and when asked I admit that I am not in front of my computer so I don’t have the information at hand about my applications. Then they tell me they are not looking to hire me as an attorney. Huh? But I applied to be an attorney… Well, apparently they want attorneys, but for the associate positions. Which have the potential of someday moving on up to the ‘real’ attorney positions.

What am I going to say. I’m in my car, screw it, I’ll figure this out when I get home. So the recruiter sets up an online video conference with the next level of HR a few days hence. I get home and later that evening decide to do my due diligence on the company before the interview.

Crap. The company is only about 250 people. There are way more than 250 negative reviews about working there, and most of them end with “I quit this horrible gulag”. The churn rate of this company was staggering. The stories told by the reviewers involved managers having tantrums and screaming on a near daily basis. Not one review… no… dozens and dozens. The company fires the bottom performing 10% on a quarterly basis. So every four months, they fire 25 people. I already had decided I didn’t want to work there by the time I got to the news articles talking about Federal investigations, not to mention lawsuits against customers and former employees.

But, of course, I still had the video conference interview. And its always good to keep your skills honed. Plus you never know when you’ll get a good story out of the interview. So ignoring the fact that there was no chance I was going to accept an offer to work there, I logged on to the video conference. I was greeted by a pixie-ish brunette with blonde highlights who said she was just getting the conference setup for the senior HR person. She gets up from in front of the webcam and is replaced by the human incarnation of Roz from Monsters Inc. I mean it was uncanny… it even sounded like her. There was a brief twinge in the back of my mind saying I should take a screenshot but I fought down the smile I could feel starting and soldiered on. It was possibly the shortest ‘interview’ I’ve ever had. It probably would be generous to say it lasted 5 minutes. The senior HR coordinator got on and asked me all of 3 questions before pulling the cord. Somewhere in these questions she seemed to decide I wasn’t a good fit. The questions were:

1. “Did you research the company” – obviously a tricky question, because unless you were quite dense, if you did even a modicum of research you found out what a steaming pile of shit the company was, so I eloquently sidestepped it by saying yes and saying I checked out its historical salary information. Because I wasn’t going to bring up the potential federal probe… seems like it would be a hard conversation starter for an interview.

2. “What does the company do” – once again, pretty easy. There is a whole wikipedia page surrounding what this company and others like it do.

3. “what is your ideal job” – ahh, back to the old standard HR retarded questions. I of course spilled forth a wonderful yarn about a collaborative team based position in which I got to think independently about novel situations and yet I could rely on my team to field opposing viewpoints to what I may be thinking. bullshit bullshit bullshit. My dream job involves being the taste tester for new Ben & Jerrys Ice cream flavors, but I don’t think that plays quite as well with sub-human intelligence HR zombies.

It was at this point that HR lady became more engrossed with something offscreen and she decided she’d heard enough. “Yada yada, pass it on up to senior whomever something something .. we’ll get back to you.” And it was over. They never explained what the job actually was, or what it pays; and I never got to find out why they were apparently interviewing me for a lesser position than I applied to. There’s not a chance I’d take the job, sometime in the not too distant future the company is likely going to be raided by the FBI and upper management will try to claim that some lackey farther down the food chain is the more correct scape goat. Considering the position the first HR phone call mentioned paid about as much as working at Costco… well… I’d rather go work retail than having that on my resume.

Interview #15

Sometimes I think I have bad luck. Othertimes, I know it. The only other possibility is that I severely pissed off a very vengeful deity somewhere (always possible).

This one started out so well. I applied to a position with a medium sized firm that was split in to 2 or 3 practice groups who were relatively segregated from each other. From the description I got, it was as if this one firm was composed of a few smaller firms who really had very little idea as to what the others groups did. I was interviewing for what turned out to be an IP license / transactional associate. It seemed right up my alley.

I was located in another city from the firm, so the first interview I had was with a partner over Skype (maybe.. they self-identified as head of the practice group and led me to believe they were a partner, but maybe not). Anyway, the interview was a little stilted mainly because they started off as every other interview you’ve ever had asking the generic questions “Tell me about yourself” etc. But, fairly quickly they got bored with this and actually tossed the paper they were reading these questions from on their desk. Now it got a bit more interesting. They said they would rather know how I problem solved an actual case, so they picked up a file and told me they had just gotten this case this week and wanted to know where I would start researching and what my thoughts were, as they had not yet had the ability to start working on it yet. The main problem was, with A/C privilege the description of events was hovering right around the ridiculously generic, and each time I would start trying to form some sort of plan of attack, it would turn out the facts were not what I had thought because I wasn’t being told the whole story.

The interview ended and I sat sorta staring at my computer and turning over both the interview and the case. It hadn’t gone horribly well, but it hadn’t been really bad either. Just very stilted as I would propose one thing and they would say “weeellll… we can’t because of this (which I didn’t tell you).” The longer I stared at my computer the more dissatisfied I became with how I had answered the questions. After mulling it over for a half-hour, I realized exactly what the contours must be of the case they had been skirting around the whole interview. It had dealt with open source ‘viral’ licensing and integration into larger database software. But most of the IP was a red-herring, and the case was actually a contract issue. The whole thing crystallized in my mind and I started furiously writing out an email to the attorney. In a rather long email I explained what I thought their case was about and how it was actually a contract issue and not a copyright issue as they had framed it to me.

I heard nothing back for 3 days and I pretty much assumed I must have blown it, either with the not so great interview or maybe I had made some assumption of the case and ended up way off base. On the third day, I get back an email saying, “Based on this email, you’ve got yourself a second interview.”

The second interview was with 2 other members of the practice group. I found out that apparently I had hit a bullseye in my analysis of the case and I had made some friends by doing so. This interview was purely a social one. Almost no law was spoken about, and it was more to see how I interacted with the other people I might be working with. I was absolutely sure I had this job nailed down.

A month went by. I didn’t think too much of it. The holidays were in the middle, lots of stuff gets put on hold while people are on vacation. I get that. But still, just to follow up I sent an email to try to make sure I was kept in mind. The response was that I was still being considered, but basically this stuff moved slowly so be patient.

Another month goes by. Now I’ve sorta given up most hope of this turning into a position. But, since I haven’t heard anything definitively negative either, I drop another email. I get back a one line message from the partner. “Call me”. Intriguing.

So, the short version of the phone call goes like this. (I am paraphrasing and adding expletives where needed.):

“I quit the firm. Those fuckers were cheating me out of my money. But I took my secretary with me and I am opening my own damned firm. We wont have an office till next month-ish, and I’m sorta short on cash at the moment. We should talk about you working for me, but you have to know I’m operating on a shoestring so you’ll have to expect to be paid in accordance with working for a broke solo attorney. I’m sure business will pick up in no time, once we actually open. Oh yeah, and I can’t afford to ask you to work for me until you get this other certification, so let me know when you have that nailed down. I can use someone like you to back me up.”

It also came out that they weren’t a partner. I’m still not sure where in the PLLC they fell, but it was apparently much lower than I was led to believe. I’m also not sure if anyone else there has seen my resume. Just for fun I dropped the firm a note asking if they were still interested in hiring me considering… everything… Honestly, I did it just to see what their response will be.

Update: So the firm got back to me. They said that the member I had talked to “mislead” me and that their departure was unexpected but not unwelcome, and more things kept coming to light after they left. The real partners told me they weren’t looking to hire me but really wanted to talk to me in person. (I am still unsure why considering they specifically said they don’t want to hire me). It also seems odd that they feel I was misled considering I had talked to 3 attorneys there and there were several mentions of conversations relating to hiring with the partners, and oh yeah… the whole job posting. But I digress. Short version is, they weren’t looking anymore.

An early legal-ish interview story

Quite awhile ago I interviewed for a quasi-legal job at one of the multitude of Bank of America’s offices. This was shortly after I was out of law school and I still assumed that a great legal job was right around the corner. But I was starting to have suspicions already that all was not quite what I thought it was in the job market since I was now desperately broke and no one was hiring me. So I decided I should try to come up with a back channel to be hired into an attorney position somewhere. I had heard an apocryphal story of some distant friend of a friend who was an attorney and got hired as a paralegal and soon was promoted to be a real boy an actual attorney with the firm. To be considered a paralegal, you need to have gotten a paralegal certificate (which can be ordered thru the mail from late night infomercials, though I will admit there are a fair number who get them from more legitimate sources – usually community colleges.) And preferably a GED, though not necessarily required. That’s right… I was trying to game the system by applying for a position that was open to high school drop outs.

So with this thought in mind, I noted paralegal positions in my area and applied to a few. One got back to me. Bank of America was running a mass mill review of mortgages they held (*cough* I wonder why…). Anyway, I show up to the interview and find out it is an abandoned shopping mall. Sidenote – why is it that no one else I know has interview stories which include statements like “the law firm was in an industrial park” or “an abandoned shopping mall”… I can’t be the only one. I walk down the eerily empty mall to the BoA office, which is now occupying what looked to have previously been a Macys or some similarly sized department store. The front of the store is now walled off completely with one corner converted into a reception area behind a small wall of security glass and buzzed doors. Apparently today was not just interview day for me, but also for about 300 other people as well. The waiting room was stacked with about 10-12 people waiting, and a new person arrived every 15 minutes or so. There were multiple interview rooms churning through people so you might think this was a well oiled machine; nothing could be farther from the truth.

I will say that while I waited, we were provided entertainment in the form of watching the current employees attempt to use the revolving security door. It was fantastically broken and yet it was the only door they were supposed to be using, so rather than use the regular door 3 feet to the right, they were all trying to use the revolving door. It involved swiping their ID card and the door would start revolving. Ideally it was supposed to revolve sufficiently so you could get to the other side. It didn’t. I watched at least half a dozen people get locked in between the rotation and that was when it worked at all. It seemed that the door was very successful at keeping the employees locked inside the office. An hour and 15 minutes into waiting in the small room that was getting progressively more crowded I decided it was time to call it. I should have left 45 minutes prior, but being broke can help you to put up with a lot. So finally after the umpteenth person pounding on the rotating door to be let out, I stand up and hand my ‘Visitor’ security badge to the secretary who had obviously graduated from the DMV Charm School, and as I turned to leave, I kid you not, the door on the far wall opens and a woman calls my name. I had a moment where I considered remaining silent and continuing to walk, but I was here so I might as well do the interview regardless of my thoughts at that moment.

The office inside was exactly what you would imagine a department store would look like if you emptied it of all the clothes, and instead filled it with half-cubicles from wall to wall. It was like staring at what Dante may have thought up if he had a slightly more sadistic concept of purgatory done up in beige, lit with flickering fluorescent lighting, and scented with a miasma of depression. As the woman is taking me back to a small office we pass by a set of escalators set in the middle of the huge open room which apparently led up to an identical floor above us. I laugh slightly and ask “Was this place previously a department store?” The woman looks back at me and confirms the guess that it used to be a Macys / Sears / etc, and then asks “Why do you ask?” I reply,”well the escalators in the middle of the office sort of give it away.” She then confounds me and says “Oh no. We put those in here.” Protip: If your office has a weird feature in it. Don’t become so complacent that you think it is normal and lose sight of the fact that normal people will find it odd upon witnessing its weirdness, acknowledge that it is weird, but then say ‘hey it works’… and move on.

So I end up in a small office across a largish oval table from two women. One identifies herself as one of BoA’s attorneys who is part of a group that titularly oversees the mortgage mill. The other is identified as someone from HR, she never spoke the entire interview. So the attorney starts talking to me about the job and about how I am a new attorney applying for this legal-ish position and how they (supposedly) have quite a few JDs working on the project (note she said JDs, not attorneys). She told me that she used to be an in-house Counsel for a small chain of gas station convenience stores. I thought that decidedly odd at the time, yet now I would gladly shank my grandmother for such a job. I found out rather quickly that my idea of a back way into the legal department was DoA at BoA because apparently this was likely the first and last time I would see an attorney for BoA as their offices were not in the same building and I would never really have opportunity to schmooze with them to try to get hired. She went thru some of what would be required for the job and then she came to a bit of a sticky point. Apparently there was the very real potential that they would want me to negotiate with homeowners and / or attorneys relating to various issues, specifically as in mediation. This struck me as odd, and decidedly an action that an attorney would do and not a paralegal. So I brought up the point that as a barred attorney I thought it would be a bit confusing and potentially bordering on malpractice to enter negotiations with another attorney or a pro-se party in a legal proceeding such as a mediation or arbitration relating to legal documents operating as a non-attorney, when I was in fact an attorney. Not to mention confusing to the adverse party that they would be dealing with an attorney who was not operating as an attorney, but working for attorneys but with no actual authority. I voiced this concern to the attorney and asked if there was either provided coverage or indemnity for such an issue. The attorney laughed (yes she laughed at a question one attorney posed to another about potential malpractice) and looked over to the HR person and said “Oh new attorneys are so concerned over losing their license.” (WTF?!) She claimed there was no problem and not to worry about it, but no they didn’t offer any coverage. Now, I am pretty sure every law school teaches that you are an attorney 24/7 and that yes… yes you can be held accountable even if you do something malpractice worthy in an unrelated job. She must have been a bang-up in-house Counsel. But hey, now you know something about the ethics of BoA attorneys. (maybe that explains some of their current issues…)

Anyway, being new to the whole legal interviewing thing and not realizing I was up against people who may or may not have graduated high school, I had brought a writing sample I had written which was filed into a Federal Circuit Court in the not so distant past. She took it and leafed thru it as you would if you had drawn a stick-figure flipbook on the side corner before returning it to the center of the table and saying dismissively “well its nice that you helped work on this…” at which point I cut her off mid-sentence and forcefully poked my finger into the brief and said “I did not help work on this, I WROTE this.” The interview literally ground to a halt. I could have sworn the only thing that could have dropped the temperature in the room faster than what I had just done is if I had slapped her across the face. The interview had been going badly already, the attorney kept stumbling over information in my resume as if she had never heard of any IP related terms and somehow she seemed to have little command over motion practice and what it constituted (what the hell did she do as an in-house? Transactional and nothing else?). This was pretty much the near official end of the interview. She backed off realizing she had effectively just lobbed a rather dismissive insult at me and I had instantly grounded it. She wound the interview down to the obligatory goodbyes and I walked out of the office and I was left wandering out of the abandoned shopping mall.

I don’t really recall hearing back from them, but I am pretty sure neither of us would have said yes to me working there regardless.

Interview 14 – Round 2… FIGHT!!!

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

‘I want a clean cup,’ interrupted the Hatter: ‘let’s all move one place on.’            — Alice in Wonderland

 

The unexpected happened. And I couldn’t possibly pass it up, if for no other reason than just for the story.

The Gaming Commission offered me a second interview. That’s right. They wanted me to come back and run through more interviews AND do the written and oral defense portion. How could I say no? Truly, I considered it. They were insane last time and truly seemed to hate me, so why would I subject myself to more? But, since I am fabulously unemployed I of course said yes and I set out on the 4 hour trip back to their office for Round 2.

I got the phone call on Wednesday telling me they wanted me to come back for the second interview the following Wednesday. I was told that I should read thru the state gaming act, familiarize myself with the gaming regulations, and watch a video of their proceedings. I was heading out on a flight the next morning and I was going to be gone until Tuesday morning, I initially thought it would be something to read on the plane. The gaming act was north of 170 pages. The regulations were over 790 pages. The various videos ran the gamut to upwards of 6 hours. I poked around and read thru the pertinent parts of the gaming act, took a look at the page length of the regulations and ignored it, and I had to rip the stream of the video because they only offered streaming video which consistently died before the video ended and had no ability for mobile viewing (since I was traveling). Remember… hours and hours of this shit for the honor of a one in three shot at a job working with ‘interesting characters’ with ‘strong personalities’.

So I arrive at 10 in the morning for the interview. Mind you, I woke up that morning before 5 so that I could get ready and on the road to drive 4 hours to this interview. I’m ushered into a conference room with the other two applicants who are already there, and they leave us in the room alone and close the door. After a minute of silence, my curiosity got the better of me and I leaned forward and asked with a slight smile to them, “So I gotta ask, how did your first interview go? Because I’m a little confused why I am here.” The first guy says, “pretty good I thought it went well.” I look over to the woman seated next to me. She says, “I thought it went very well.” I process this for a moment, and then just go “huh.” And I lean back in my chair laughing quietly. The guy looks a little concerned now and asks me “why? What happened with you?” I lean forward to answer and at that moment the door opens and in walks the lead attorney. I look at the other applicant and I smile and shrug wordlessly.

The lead attorney surveys us and then tells us he is going to split us up for part of the morning. At which point he points to the other guy and says “You stay. You other two, follow me.” So the woman and I stand up and walk out with the lead attorney leaving the other applicant sitting in the empty conference room. He hands the woman off to his law clerk to take her on a tour and leads me to a small office where none other than Mr. Maritime Fan and another of my favorites from interview one are sitting. And we all start to engage in small talk. The lead attorney starts out and mentions he likes my suit, and that it is a good color on me and basically makes a point of saying I look pretty. (this will come back later) I don’t think much of it, but for your benefit of the mental image, I’m wearing a charcoal suit with a light grey shirt and a solid red tie. Nothing exceptional, just a standard nice suit. After this, the lead attorney asked if I watched any of the videos. I told him I did and identified which one. His response was “Pfft… that piece of shit.” Now I had a list of about 150 possible videos to watch, and no mention was given as to preference as to which they wanted me to see… So I picked a random recent one and explained that I figured watching something seemingly on point to petitions would be good. I apparently randomly chose wrong. We talk for about 10 minutes and pretty much in the middle of a conversation the lead attorney stands up and says “come with me.” So I follow him back to the conference room where we left the other guy.

The door opens and the room is packed with people. Sitting on one side of the table is the applicant, and on the other side are arrayed at least 10 or so other people curving around the table. He points at the other guy and says “You come” points at me and says “you, stay.” It was reminiscent of the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter screaming ‘New Cup’ and rotating around the table. So the other guy heads out, and I take his place across the table. No introductions, no information given. So I sit down and everyone shuffles some papers and pulls out my resume. Breaking the ice I fire off a joke and say “this might well be the most people who have ever actually looked at my resume.” No one laughs… tough crowd. So these people start asking me questions about my resume. The questions had a very stilted quality to them, some of them were just odd. At a certain point, I stopped something I was explaining and apologized and asked who I was speaking to in the room because the lead attorney didn’t tell me who anyone there was… are you all lawyers, are you staff people, are you someone else? The whole idea of knowing your audience may have been why I was striking out on the conversation points. This was the first thing that people laughed at, someone said “Figures” another said “Yeah you should get used to that if you want to work in this office.” They were all the rest of the attorneys from the office. Most of the questions had a rather empty feeling like they had been told that each one of them had to come up with a unique question to ask the applicants; it led to several questions where they would ask about something specific on my resume and within the first 2 sentences of my explanation I knew they were lost. I would try to restart thinking it was supposed to be a question that was meant to spark a conversation, and instead find out they really didn’t have a reason for asking the question and seemingly didn’t care about the answer. It seemed to be a space filler.

About 15 minutes in, in the middle of a sentence, the door flies open, and the same pronouncement is made. New Cup!.. I mean “You come. You stay.” And I stand up and walk out. This time I get taken on a tour of the office complex by the law clerk. By far the most normal of anyone I have met at the office which is saying something considering he was the prototypical Aspie. At one point he told me that I could ask him any question I wanted because he had no say in the hiring and nothing would get back to the lead attorney. I figured, why the hell not, at least I’ll get an honest answer out of someone. So I started out, “Well I am sort of curious as to why I am here. My first interview didn’t just go badly, it was horrible.” To his credit, his reaction was actually one of confusion. Then he asked me “Was it in the afternoon?” yes. “Oh that’s why. They are cranky in the afternoon.” (what?) Then he stopped and said “what day was your interview?” Wednesday. “Oh… oh Wednesday was not a good day. Not at all. And in the afternoon.” And that was my explanation. I guess.

That didn’t explain all of my burning questions however. We were nearing the end of the tour and I said, “You know, there is one other question I had. In the last interview I was told I would be working with ‘interesting peop’…. well bluntly I was told I was going to be working with someone who is an insane asshole who is going to try to get me to do potentially illegal things. Is that true?” The clerks brow furrowed and he said “No… no the office you’ll be at has a great attorney, great person who is very nice etc etc…. … and I can’t think of who he would be talking…” and suddenly he stopped. “Oh… OHH!!” he exclaimed. “You didn’t hear it from me. I’ve said too much.”

The obvious problem was he hadn’t said anything. Although he did effectively confirm that there was some random crazy person who I would be working with. I suppose that independent verification is something though. I think the only new bit of creepy as hell information I got from the clerk was that apparently the office sends out people to talk to your neighbors as part of their background check (among other things). This brought a brief moment of joy to my life as I briefly thought of someone trying to talk to my neighbors (did I mention one of my neighbors was recently put into a sanitarium? Several of the others aren’t much better, so I sort of relished the thought). Shortly after this exchange the lead attorney comes back and brings me back to the conference room where the other 2 applicants are now sitting across from the 10 or so staff attorneys. As I start to sit in the chair the lead attorney points at us and says to his attorneys “One, two, three. I want you to rank them in order of preference, write it down and hand it to me.” There is silence in the room. And after a moment one of the attorneys says “Now?” and the lead attorney blasts back “Of course now! Why else would I say that if not now!” The attorneys start shuffling their papers a bit and at least to their credit one of them loudly mutters “Well this is awkward.” as they wrote down who they liked best on small slips of paper. I wasn’t sure whether it felt more like a 4th grade popularity contest, or judging at a dog show where we were the dogs. I had a brief flash through my mind that I should ask the assembled table is they wanted to check my teeth before making a determination. My better demons told me not to say anything.

All but one of the attorneys filed out leaving us with the lead attorney and staff attorney. The staff attorney starts talking “I printed out the questions…” and was cut off by the lead attorney.

“I didn’t ask you to do that. If I wanted you to print it out I would have asked you.”

“But I forwarded you the questions we were talking about…”

“And I didn’t like them so I wrote new ones.” said the lead attorney.

The staff attorney was now standing in the room holding out a pile of papers somewhat blankly, and then sighed and dejectedly walked out of the room. This did not appear to be a unique occurrence. The lead attorney now turned and focused his attention on us. We were each handed a copy of the gaming act, the regulations, and what I can only describe as a Law School exam question on gaming law. And we were told that we had approximately 2 hours to write out an answer using the act and regulations and that at the end of the time, we would have to orally present and potentially defend our answers in front of the lead attorney, Mr. Maritime, and another from the first interview. The only take away worth mentioning about this whole section was that it turned out not all the answers were located in the nearly 1000 pages of the act and regulations. In fact, they weren’t listed anywhere, they were just things they do and you should have probably included it in your answer even though there was no way for you to know about it.

So the interview is over and as we’re winding down I find out I am the only person who applied for the position who was not from the capital, and the only person not from the one law school they listed the job at. (nepotism *cough*) So I was the only person driving 8 hours for this interview. Which, if you recall, was for a job in the city in which I live. As I get up to leave, Mr. Maritime stands up and shakes my hand, and again drops a WTF out of left field. He says “Don’t listen to what (lead attorney) says. I like your suit. I think it actually does look good no matter what he says.” The lead attorney is sitting about 3 feet away and quite literally, just grunts at this statement. And with that, the interview is over, and I am left to ponder what the hell I just sat through.

Here there be dragons… and fools

My most recent interview has seriously made me consider revising my resume.

On my resume is my background in Maritime law. In nearly every interview I’ve had, this has come up at some point in the conversation. I had previously considered this to be a positive; something that not many people know about and would set me apart as a bit unique. Plus, its a good conversation starter; an interviewer can use it as a jumping off reference to start the conversation going. And honestly it is quite interesting (in legal circles) when you actually get to talking about some of its stranger aspects. The problem as I see it now, is that everyone brings it up; Which cuts both ways depending on who decides to bring it up.

In my last interview, I ran across the enthusiastic idiot. They seemed very taken with the concept of Maritime law, and also seemed to have read something about it a very long time ago which they only dimly half remembered. The problem became one of saving face. The enthusiast had started this conversation in front of 3 attorneys he worked with, including his boss. Once he started in, he was committed. We had been talking a bit about the qualifications with maritime law, and then they decided to go balls-to-the-wall and show off their knowledge of the field.

Here is a rough transcript of the conversation:

The Enthusiast started – “You know the ‘King’ case?” Followed by an expectant pause, waiting for me to verify whatever half memory they had.

I replied, “King case? Is King the name of the ship? I don’t really recall a ‘King’ case.”

He followed it up, “Yes. It was the name of the ship. It was an important case.”

And now I made the mistake of starting the guessing game, “Are we talking about Salvage here? Because that might be litigated under the insurance company’s name…”

“It probably was salvage.” he said.

Oh crap. It was at this point I realized he had no idea. And worse yet, I just gave them another word to latch onto. My mind was spinning on how to get out of this, but while I was thinking I was talking. “Hm, salvage, well a bunch of the big salvage cases I remember happened around the Cape of Good Hope…”

Suddenly the enthusiast backed off. “It’s not a test, don’t worry about it.”

I started to say something else, and he repeated more emphatically “don’t worry. nevermind. It’s not a test.” And he changed the subject.

I was a bit confused, whereas before he was all gung-ho about some apparently important case that he couldn’t remember the name of the ship, the content of the case, or nearly anything else… and suddenly he was trying to shut it down. I realized in that moment that geography had saved me. They had no idea where the Cape of Good Hope was, and he was about 5 seconds away from looking very stupid. But, so long as he stepped away now, he could try to play it off that I just didn’t know what I was talking about. Had the interviewer been doing it on purpose, it would have been an excellent example of game theory.

This might have been the end, but it seemed like they couldn’t completely leave the topic alone. “What if there was a gambling ship on (some navigable riverway) and they built a pier? Would that make it maritime?”

The number of problems with that statement quite literally made me squint. The waterway and the ship made it maritime. The pier could fall under maritime jurisdiction depending on what you are talking about, but why would that matter. The only things usually contested on piers are damage to the pier, and injury of people on the pier. He hadn’t stated any sort of problem to determine jurisdiction but he seemed to be inferring from the conversation that somehow the pier inherited the status of a gambling establishment. Somehow. I started explaining that really Maritime law could do much of the same things as regular state law, but its real power lay in shifting the liability of the parties significantly if pulled into Federal Maritime jurisdiction.

This answer was met with the beaming face of the enthusiast as he waited expectantly for the answer I had just given him. My heart dropped. This part of the conversation was going to end up just like the last.

 

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what case he might have been referring to. Later, driving back from the interview, a thought occurred to me as I was mentally listing the names of cases and ships… HMS… His Majesty’s Ship. The interviewer had no idea what the name of the ship was nor the content of the case, but somehow was able to half remember that it was (probably) a British flagged naval vessel. And this became ‘King’ in their mind.

Interview 14 – Back to the comforting embrace of WTF

I’m going to go with some particulars on this one. Because you just can’t quite gauge the WTF-ness of the interview without it. I’ve talked it over in a postmortem with a few people and basically everyone has told me the interviewers were just fucking with me, or potentially this was their idea of ‘testing’ applicants. Regardless, it definitely hits squarely in the midst of the stranger interviews I’ve had.

So I applied to an entry-level attorney position with a State based Gaming Commission… as in gambling. For anyone not an attorney reading this, Gaming Law is a niche field. As in a teeny tiny niche that pretty much is relegated to a handful of state attorneys per state and an equally limited number of generalist private attorneys who list it as one of 50 fields they claim some limited knowledge of; or corporate attorneys linked to casinos. It’s not something you ever read about in law school, and it’s not something you would run across in standard practice. It is a very small niche field generally under the umbrella of Admin law, and it is vastly different from state to state. Anyway, I show up at the office. Wait, did I say merely show up? No… you see although the position is going to be located at the office that is maybe 20 minutes away from where I live, the phone call to setup the interview tells me I have to drive almost 4 hours to go to the the state capital where the main office is located. Which is in the middle of a shopping mall right across from the food court. (getting the general flavor for the interview yet?)

So I show up at the interview and I am seated across from 3 of the senior attorneys of the office. The interview starts and about 5 minutes in, the chief enforcement attorney for the gaming commission wanders in and sits down across from me. He proceeds to slouch down over the table and start scribbling on a pad of paper and does not look up or speak to me for the next 40 minutes. One of the other attorneys continues on with the open ended “tell me about yourself / education / etc”. This leads another attorney to ask about my background in gaming law.

And here’s where it all just spins out.

I replied honestly that I have no background in gaming law. This shouldn’t be a surprise, all of these people across from me are staring at copies of my resume. But my response is met with what I can only describe as an icy stare back from the attorney. There’s a beat of silence in the room, and I continue on and say, “My understanding is that this was an entry level position.” I receive a general affirmation that it is… and then they continue on with the same line of questioning about my knowledge of gaming law. This line of questioning goes on for an uncomfortable few minutes before they decide unsatisfactorily that I am not going to admit I was just joking and I actually have an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming law. They abruptly turn the questioning and ask if I had visited their website. And I thought, ah-ha! I did, prior research will finally pay off. “So what did you think of it?” … oh crap. What did I actually think of it? It was useless to nearly everyone. It used a standard template and provided a useless mission statement and information that may as well not be public facing, because honestly when was the last time you ever wanted to file a petition to place a slot machine. The first thing thru my mind was that they must have recently paid someone too much money to update it and now I was stuck trying to come up with something nice to say. I generally sidestepped the issue by saying I used it only to try to do a bit of research on who I might be talking to and what the job would entail. This was partially a lie because the only way I was able to do any real research on the office was thru Google and various news articles because there was nothing of interest on their website.

Then they wanted to know if I read the Gaming Act for the state which clocks in at a good 170+ pages (which was linked on their website… maybe that was supposed to be a smooth transition that didn’t work out for the interviewer). “No.” I stopped short at adding “why would I?” This interview had long since crossed the line from conversational interview into the realm of adversarial interview. This answer also didn’t sit well. (Again, as an aside for any non-legal reader who might think their expectation is normal… it isn’t. If you apply for any entry level position the expectation is you will learn the information, not that you know it now. You became a lawyer and were intelligent enough to go through law school and pass the bar, the expectation is that you can apply your knowledge and learn any sub-specialty of law needed. You aren’t asked what your favorite local criminal statute is when applying for a prosecution position, nor are you expected to know how best to defend a client from tax evasion until you’ve been learning on the job for a little bit.)

I’m going to skip the majority of the middle part. Mostly it was stilted question and answer akin to the above, with the exception of some advanced tax law information on my resume an interviewer mistakenly asked about, because the most basic answer went so far over the head of the attorney who asked about it, it was ridiculous. (the silence I was greeted with after finishing my answer was a wee bit uncomfortable)

So getting to the end of the interview the lead attorney seems to wake up and for the first time looks at me and speaks. I’m told they are going to select 3 people for a second interview to find ‘the one’, and that the second interview is not really an interview it is a mock trial. Wait.. What? That’s right, if called back I would be given an exemplar case and I would have to argue this before a larger group of agency attorneys who would have an opportunity to haze question me about it. I’m then told that basically I would have to study the state gaming act prior to the second interview and be prepared to come back and argue a case. Thinking quickly I ask if granted and denied petitions are available as public record so that I would know what I would have to be arguing. Most people would consider this to be an intelligent question, a lucid well considered idea that was showing that I was planning on putting forth effort in the endeavor. Instead it was met with the statement that no, everything in the office was confidential and not open to public records requests. Most normal interviewers would have ended the statement there acknowledging at least the initiative of the interviewee, but instead I was then told that any and all leaks of confidential information are thoroughly investigated and criminal charges are filed against the perpetrator who leaked them. The following silence and stare towards me was attempting to convey either the gravity of those words, or possibly meant to show that they knew my secret desire was to fling confidential memos all about me as I ran down a busy airport concourse. It could have legitimately been either one. I felt like somehow given the very emphatic stance taken during the interview, Edward Snowden had released something damning about this office and it just hadn’t made it to the media yet. This was followed up with a short statement that if hired I would be afforded enough time to learn the job, but that I would be very closely scrutinized and if I was not up to par I would be “kicked to the curb.” (I am directly quoting there). Yes, the interview had quite obviously taken the turn from adversarial directly to antagonistic.

Then in a strange about face, the tension broke for a moment and the head attorney leaned back and asked me how I worked with people who had strong personalities. And then he sorta amended it and said ‘interesting characters’ with ‘strong personalities’. Two attorneys at the end of the table snorted and sorta chuckled. Then it was amended again to how I would deal with these strong personalities when they tried to get me to do things which I shouldn’t be doing. This was getting good. Apparently the office I would be potentially working at had far crazier people than this, and they would be trying to force me to do things I wouldn’t want to do.

I hadn’t even made it to the second interview and they had already effectively threatened to fire me, file criminal charges, and told me I would be working with insane ‘characters’ with ‘strong personalities’ who would try to strong arm me into compromising situations. Nice. The interview ended with the head attorney asking if I had driven in the 4 hours just for the interview that day. Yes I had; Here I thought I would at least win a minor point showing commitment to getting the position. His response was that at least I had shown that I could make it on time to an appointment a far distance away. I maintained a judicious silence, because truly.. what could I have said to that anyway. And with that, the interview was over.

The job posting itself was posted in only one place online. Which is rare. Usually these types of jobs are splashed across a dozen job boards and scrubbed of identifiable info and re-posted on the scamsites of placement agencies. It turned out that it was only posted to the job board of the alma-mater of one of the attorneys, and potentially their own agency website. My nepotism radar definitely dinged on this, but whatever. Early in the interview (before it went bad), one of the attorneys made a point of bringing up that I had correctly included “THE” in front of Ohio State University on my resume, and we laughed about it. (for those not in the know, this is a running joke with Ohio State relating to their trademarked name… Ohio State is registered as “The Ohio State University” and if your T-shirt or whatever OSU branded item doesn’t include the “THE” then it is likely not a legitimate licensed item. Everyone who went there has had the indoctrination to this stupidity early on from some university functionary.) Now the normal assumption to most people, is that the person I was talking to was somehow connected to OSU. As I am leaving the interview he gives me a jovial handshake and says “we won’t hold that you went to OSU against you.” And I said.. Oh, I thought you had gone there too. He said, no I went to your rival. Again… from anyone at OSU, there is only one rival and that is Michigan. So naturally I say, “Michigan?” and he looks slightly confused and says no… and names a different state. One which not only doesn’t hit the level of being a rival, but which hasn’t come anywhere close in rankings in many many years. I mutter something about not being into sports so don’t hold it against me.

So I’m being walked out by the junior(ish) attorney in the room. And he starts telling me a little bit about the benefits on the way to the elevators. I figure why not considering how shitty the interview had gone, and I interrupt and ask him if the other applicants they had were actually experienced in gaming law, effectively trying to gauge the competition for the crazy I had just walked out from. They said no, not really, especially considering that the money being offered wasn’t that great and someone with more (any) experience would be making more nearly anywhere. I responded, you wouldn’t have known it from that interview. He said something to the effect that they were just trying to find someone who they thought could pick it up.

And with that, I went down and passed by the next applicant headed up the elevators. I almost said something. Almost. I wouldn’t want to ruin a surprise like what was waiting for him upstairs.

 

Interview 12 & 13

These were thankfully rather normal interviews.

I had the chance to interview for where I had interned. You know that saying “You can never go home again”? Well, it seems that once you leave where you intern, they really don’t want to see you come back. I have obviously been looking for work for awhile, and I have kept in contact at least peripherally with people I worked with at my internship. They knew I was looking for anything, I had made the range of the subtle to the obvious statements relating to working there if anything opened up. I felt confident that if something did open up, they would drop me a line. (You’ll have to trust me that my internship went well and I was well liked while I was there.) Anyway, it was with a bit of surprise that I ran across the job listings from my former internship online on a job board. No one dropped me a note, no mention of it from the multiple people I had known. Maybe it was an oversight… somehow. So I dropped my resume thru their online system. Within a day or two I got a phone call from them.

They passed me thru the first round of interviews and straight to the second, but I had this odd feeling that something was strained and not quite right. I didn’t give it too much thought until later. I had the interview with the senior figure, and I will admit that I may have made one fatal misstep. I acted very familiar. I mean, I had been working with everyone there for 2 years. We had gone for lunch and drinking and to a couple events together. I was friends with people. It’s hard not to act familiar, but I got a bit of a sense that they didn’t want me to be friendly and familiar. After the interview I stopped over and spoke to people I knew in the office. I had a vague impression that it wasn’t an oversight that I hadn’t been contacted, and that I had created an uncomfortable situation they didn’t have an ‘out’ from when I found their job postings.

I question what I would do if offered a position.

 

Job interview 13 was amazing. It was in DC, I drove out and stayed overnight. It was the best interview I have ever done. I was stoked. Federal employment, directly on point with several of my specialties. I was incredibly excited by the prospect of this job. I continued to be excited for the next few weeks. A month out from the interview and my sense of excitement has turned a bit sour as my best interview apparently wasn’t good enough.

Interview 10 & 11

Ah yes.. So the alluded to ‘more’ interviews to talk about mentioned at the end of Interview 9 posting.

Interview 10 was another phone interview. I had a lovely conversation for another analyst position. This one was a real estate analyst. I am actually rather clueless about what I could have done wrong on this one. I had a really good 45 minutes interview where I talked passionately about my interest in real estate (an teeny tiny exaggeration to be sure, but I’ve got the background to be able to pontificate on it at length). The interviewer seemed very interested in me. Not only did they seem interested, she was setting out a schedule for the next round of interviews and wanted to make sure I would be available next week to come in on Tuesday or Thursday once she passed my name on to the interviewer who would call to setup a time. She all but told me who I would be meeting with. I got off the phone stoked. Two more weeks went by before I gave up hope that they were going to call back. I didn’t receive a rejection, nor even an email. Just a big nothing.

The next interview had a remarkably similar feel to the black hole phone interview. It was for a temporary federal position. The caveat was that it was for a position of an actual attorney! I had an in person interview no less. So I show up to this interview round about mid–May. The job had a hard start date of June 1st. First I was congratulated by one of the two interviewers on making it this far in the application process. The gears in the back of my brain suddenly started spinning…. Oh crap… seriously? A very temporary position had generated so much interest that making it to an actual interview was considered noteworthy? Besides the ominous congrats at the beginning, it went quite well. I got on really well with the attorney and the administrator interviewing me. We had a pretty good interview punctuated with a decent amount of friendly conversation. Then they started talking about scheduling, and if I was available to start this day, and would I be available the whole period of time etc. etc. They basically were giving me my work schedule and going over times. I told them I had prior obligations on one day but it was flexible enough that I could reschedule if they needed me to, and the main attorney said it would be no problem to take that day off. We were wrapping up and the attorney asked me if there was anything else before we ended, and here might have been my only misstep; but I will never know. Since so many positions are gotten thru a nepotistic indulgence, I thought I would throw out a name they would know. And I said,” Well, I do have some specialized knowledge about (specialty) law based upon my relationship with Mr. Attorney-Across-the-Street.” (there is no way they couldn’t know him). I explained how I knew him and how I had gotten some knowledge about that legal specialty. It seemed perfect. They acknowledged that they knew him in the casual offhand “oh yeah… of course we know him.” The interview ended well and I left. And I heard nothing more ever from that office. No rejection, no email, no letter. Nothing. The only way I knew I was rejected was June 1 came and went.

So, I seriously wonder if I picked some massively hated individual to use as a reference point in the conversation. I’ll never know. I might ask him the next time I see him if there is any reason why that office might not like him. But the likelihood of getting a straight answer is almost nil.

I apparently just have to content myself with the absence-of-notification to know that I was rejected.