Interview #30 – Scraping the Bottom

I feel I should take myself out to dinner for hitting the big #30 without finding any real jobs! It was a close tie between this interview and another one which is slated to show up here in the next week or so, but the little law firm was nimbler and was able to setup the interview faster. So here goes…

I responded to an ad for an Associate. It was posted in a relatively legitimate place (i.e. not craigslist) from a small firm of about 5-6 attorneys; even during the interview the number of claimed attorneys at the firm seemed to fluctuate so I am not 100% sure of the actual size. I looked up information on the firm and it seemed to be a niche insurance defense firm, who like so many had one main client keeping it afloat and a handful of smaller cases going in an attempt to stay profitable.

My email was responded to within hours and after a few back and forth, an interview time was setup for the very next afternoon. Now, I would like to say that the emails were completely normal… (I would like to say that, but you know I can’t). Apparently something on my resume sparked a hidden passion within the interviewer, specifically one of the charities I work with is named ‘Saint Someone-or-other’ and the last email setting up the interview has a photo attached which says “I thought you’d appreciate this considering I noticed your work with St. Someone”. I opened the email and was greeted with a photo of what is known as an Incorruptible corpse wearing a mask (that the interviewer themselves was proud to have taken).

Fan-fucking-tastic. First impression is this person is either crazy religious or enjoys sending photos of corpses to people. Neither option bodes well for my upcoming interview. Morbid curiosity had me spend about 10 minutes researching the weird history behind the Saint before filing the whole thing away in the back of my brain with other things I really wish I had never stumbled across on the internet.

I arrive the next day at the office. Nice building, but their office is small and it turns out it is an officeshare situation (two tiny firms sharing a secretary and officespace). Warning flags are waving in my mind already but as I am already there I may as well continue, plus how could I pass up actually talking to the person who thinks it is a good idea to email photos of corpses to potential employees!

The office is sparse, but functional. It is also the first law office I have been in that had a fish tank (a minor plus in my book). It seems like every office in the 1980’s had a fishtank and now almost no one does. Anyway, I meet the person on the other end of the email and they are generally pleasant to speak with. I get the general lay of the firm. I’m told relatively circuitously there is zero upward mobility. There were 2 partners when the firm started many years ago, there are still only the same 2 partners now. I ask about the firm size and the partner leans back and starts counting. (uhm.. what? He doesn’t actually know who works for him?) I’m told the firm loses people on a regular basis; at that exact moment it seemed like they had 5 actual employees and maybe one contract attorney, although it may have been 4 employees and 2 contract…. the partner didn’t seem to know. At one point they had more than a dozen attorneys at the firm, but beyond the core 4 people, they were all contract workers brought on temporarily and were eventually fired when the business slowed again.

Here’s where it started going downhill. I will preface this by saying I found this job posting on a 4th tier Law School reciprocity site, and nowhere else (shades of the Gaming interview?). The interviewer started to nitpick over my resume. ‘Hmm, I see you did this…’, ‘Tell me did you pass the bar on the first try’ (which didn’t work out well for him when I laughed I explained the multitude of bars and certifications I hold) yada yada yada.. They kept poking until they found something they could hook onto. I wasn’t in the top 25%? Gasp! And the interview ended up staring at my resume with a sour look for a few seconds more. (mind you the credentials on my resume beat out the combined resumes of every one of the attorneys at his firm because they were nice enough to post the info on their website).

The interviewer then said, ‘weeellll, we’ve generally found that academics show how hard you are willing to work at this firm so I couldn’t offer you anything better than a contract position here.’ (this from the attorney sitting across from me who couldn’t get in anywhere above 4th tier… and his partner from the same school, and the other 2 permanent attorneys from the same crappy 4th tier law school.

They then go on to say that it would be straight hourly based on billable hours. (which for those who understand, means that it wasn’t a straight hourly job). It also meant if they didn’t assign me work, I made no money. From the trackrecord of the firm, it also meant they were going to hire me short term and fire me in the near future. Oh yeah, and they said they were expecting billable hours of 2400 hours / year. (Again, for those unfamiliar, BigLaw firms generally tack the high at 2100). Which means even if they had the work, they wanted to kill me with hours, then fire me when it started to slack based on the veritable inability to bill out 2400 hours. Nice.

Short version was, they wanted someone to kill themselves with very long hours for little money, no benefits, no job security, and no upward mobility.

I hate lawyers.

Interview #29 – Opposites with the same result

I’m generally at a loss on this one. I was quite sure I had it in the bag… again.

I got an interview request from a blind Craigslist posting looking for an insurance defense attorney. The ad copy itself was probably 2 sentences long and most of the information it contained is in the sentence above this one. Craigslist interviews are almost without fail horrible. Imagine my surprise when this one wasn’t. The firm itself was a very respectable mid-sized firm with several satellite offices in various parts of the state. Even more surprising was when I found out it was also the rival of the firm from Interview #15; both firms worked insurance defense for the same huge client and whatever this firm couldn’t swallow, was given to the firm from Interview 15.

Anyway, the first contact with them was a little odd, the first contact email listed a date and time for the interview and basically just said ‘Can you make it? Respond yes or no.’ I fear if you said no, you failed the interview right then. But as I am fabulously unemployed, I was of course available. So I showed up on a Thursday at the appointed time at a nice mid-sized high-rise office.

The office was quite nice. On the slightly smaller size, but I think that has more to do with the fact that they do not have many client meetings. It was primarily all litigation contract work from their big corporate clients, although I was told they did have some one-off cases / clients from time to time.

I interviewed with the most junior partner. They told me since they were the lowest of the partners the interview was going to be more of an informal affair, effectively what counts as a social interview. Or to put it in their exact words, it was to make sure I / the other interviewees were not functionally retarded. I get it, I’ve been kicking around enough to run into quite a few weird as fuck people (as shown in glorious detail here) to know that this profession is full of interesting characters.

The interview started off as most all others do, talking about my background and skills. The partner was very forthcoming about the firm and told me they paid crap, but better than working as a prosecutor (which is decent but not great). They also said most people leave within 3 years because they get paid crap and go on to much better paying jobs from their firm. Maybe a little too honest?– but I was still more than willing to work there. Then we started talking a bit about family and personal life, and it turned out we had so much in common it was crazy. Within a few minutes we were talking and joking about some very similar and very particular shared experiences. We ended up having a conversation for most of the interview and topped out at an hour and a half until they said they had to go as they had already taken too much time.

As I was leaving they told me I would definitely be back for the interview with the head honcho and I would hear back really soon. I sent out the standard ‘Thank You’ card followup for the interview and waited expectantly. Flashcut to Tuesday and an email is dropped in my inbox that says in brief, ‘Thanks but we hired someone with more experience.’ Which would have been easier to swallow if I hadn’t also been told they had quite a few people working there who were straight out of law school.

So I hit a grand slam perfect interview with the low tier partner, and it got me absolutely nowhere. Because… I have no idea.

Interview #28 – Quick and dirty

I answered a Craigslist ad and for the first time in forever, I got a real response from an actual firm. The ad was a blank slate and offered no information beyond they were hiring an associate related to litigation. So I sent off a relatively sparse email and resume. About 2 days later, I got an phone call with an interview request.

The pre-interview research didn’t turn up too much. The firm’s website had possibly less information on it than the actual craigslist ad. It appeared they had intended to actually fill out the site with information, but had never actually gotten around to it. Most of the information sections just said “coming soon” once you clicked on them. They were located about 45 minutes away down a long straight shot highway from where I live, so I dressed in my standard interview suit and headed out to find their office.

I will admit, for the first time ever, I arrived late to an interview. Not by much, but walking in 10 minutes late is never good. I was held up trying to finish with one of the rare clients I have as a solo without looking like I wanted to bolt for the prospect of an actual paying job. I showed up at a mid-to-downscale officepark and walked into a really small office suite the firm was occupying.

Occupying might have been a bit too fancy a word. The office was veritably barren beyond the functional furniture. It was obvious whatever job they had in mind wasn’t going to involve client contact at the office itself. I came in as another interview was finishing, made my apologies for being slightly late and got down to business. This as it turns out was going to be a screening interview. The only 2 people in the room were the office manager and the other office manager (?).  I was a little unsure of what the deal was, but I quickly figured out, one of the women interviewing me was the office manager, the other one was local office partner’s wife. I’m not sure what her specific job title was, but that’s never a good sign. The wife did most of the talking and told me they were doing the screening interviews before setting up the interviews with the attorneys. (great).

There was nary a substantive question asked. It seemed to all be a question of whether this one woman (the wife) got along with you, as the office manager rarely spoke up. The firm had recently gotten a new contract which was causing the whole firm to double in size. (it was a small firm that was instantly moving into the mid-size territory with these hirings.) A little concerning that a single client was causing them to hire so many so quickly… there was a pregnant question of what would happen if they lost that client, but I chose not to ask towards such bad omens. They didn’t bat an eye when I asked for the salary, so I definitely was hitting the right mark.

The interview itself however was probably all of 15 minutes… maybe. And there was already someone waiting in the lobby. They had literally blocked out the interviews into 15 minute sections and scheduled quite a few of them. Apparently, they just weren’t that sure looking at resumes what they wanted, so just had a whole bunch of people come in to see if they couldn’t figure out on the fly. Having an attorney sit in, or even look at the resumes might have helped in this regard, but I’m guessing the wife thought she was all over this one; even without the benefit of a legal education. One of her wonderful ‘legal’ questions was if I had done any federal legal work. It took me a moment to realize that she seemed to think that “federal” was a specialty and not the incredibly vague question it really was; it seemed a revelation when I said of course and then told her all sorts of federal law unrelated to whatever she was fishing for.

Very quick, very venial. Not the best impression of the firm.

Interview #27: Game of Thrones

I’m surprised my rejection didn’t beat me home on the drive back from this interview.

So I got an interview at a county DA’s office for an ADA position. I drive out to the office which is located just a little bit farther beyond the edge of civilization than I thought it would be. You know the situation… driving along seeing large office buildings give way to strip malls, give way to further expanses of undeveloped land; and at a certain point you wonder if you drove too far and missed your exit, only to look over at the GPS and realize you’re still 5 miles away.

I show up at a small, but well maintained town which seems to be hovering on the better end of economically depressed. You know its a smaller town when all the parking in the middle of the city is free. But also a nice change. I wander into the wrong building at first, the courts building was… ugh. gross. And since it was right before court started, the hallways were filled with what looked like a casting call for the Jerry Springer Show. I had a creeping feeling walking through the courts building that the office was going to be dreadful. I finally find a receptionist who directs me to an adjacent building. I walk into the (correct) building this time and I am greeted almost immediately by one of the ADAs who walks right up to me and says “You must be Azrael!” Seems a bit odd that someone walking into their building in a suit can only be the applicant… and also a bit odd (though nice) that someone was waiting for me in the lobby.

So I ride the elevator up with the guy talking to me the whole time telling me how the interview is setup. He started throwing out names and titles at a breakneck pace. “You’ll be talking to X who is the ADA for Y, and also talking with Z who is assistant director of W…. ” He spun through about 6 or so people and titles without pausing for breath and I was still trying to remember the first name he had given to me as we whirled through the security door and into the main office.

It was really a nice office. Spacious and modern, and clean! A far cry from the building next door. Things were starting to look up. I’m led down a hallway and my guide is still talking like an auctioneer next to me while I try to sift through the information he’s gushing forth. He pushes open a door to a conference room with the aforementioned 6 other attorneys already arrayed around the table waiting for me. I’m motioned to a seat at the end of a big Gothic black table and told to take the end seat.

The chairs around the table were just as large and Gothic as the table itself. Huge, black throne like wooden chairs with gnarled armrests rising out from the sides and big bronze diamond-shaped studs holding the leather upholstery to the chair. And it’s not just regular leather either… oh no. It is cow-hide; the type of leather with the cow hair still on it. As I pulled out the chair to sit, a tiny voice in the back of my mind looked at the chair and went “Eww… Couldn’t we just stand?” I briefly wondered if it would stick to my suit like cat hair after I stood up. Completing the picture was a set of longhorns on the wall above the table that nearly went the length of the table itself. The conference room definitely made an impression. And that impression was ‘bad interior decorating skills’.

I sit down on my designated bit-of-cow chair and I am introduced to everyone in the room in the same rapid-fire manner in which they had been mentioned before. Fast enough that I probably only absorbed one more name (for a total of 2 now) before the interview began.

The DA looked at me and said that I had one of the most impressive resumes he had ever seen. (uh oh… nothing like that is ever uttered without a ‘but’ following it). The interview really began and ended with the first question he then asked me.

“Why do you want to do criminal law?”

The question seemed straightforward enough. He may have added a bit more inflection on the “you” part of the question though… which is where the interview really came apart.

I started talking about my background in criminal law and how I really enjoyed doing it and why. I was then asked again, by the ADA right next to the DA, ‘why did I want to do it.’ (there was that emphasis again…) There is the half second where I wonder if he wasn’t listening to the answer I just gave, but that can’t be it. So I take a different tack and start explaining using more specifics from my background, and particular cases I have done. I explain that I enjoy the novelty of cases with unique and potentially undecided law. How courtroom litigation in my mind was fun and enjoyable and provided real stimulation, how I realized that a large number of cases are rote in a DA’s rotation but the ones which aren’t are what I found to be enthralling. Everything I was saying was true, I was enthusiastic and energetic and I had a few moments where everyone in the room laughed at some anecdotes from one of my previous cases. I thought I had answered the question well, showing my knowledge and ability.

The ADA who had walked me up was sitting closest to me. He was severely balding which made his deeply furrowed brow seem to crease and ripple a greater swath of his forehead than should be possible. He asked the same question a third time… (god damnit, they were fishing for something) and finally stated bluntly what the others had been dancing around. (It was a moment much like the “why are you here” from my internship.) He looked at me and said, “what we are trying to find, is what is motivating you to want to come here and do criminal law.”

Still not recognizing what fish they were looking for, I relied simply “I really enjoy doing it.” The DA shook his head and he then said as he pointed in a general manner to the ADAs at the table, “No, we want to know why you want to. I can tell you are very intelligent, but I can also tell you the reason why each person is here at this table. Be it social justice, protecting the innocent, getting justice for the victim…” With each pronouncement he jabbed a finger in the direction of one or another ADA who nodded imperceptibly at their pronounced ideology.

It was a startling realization once it sunk into my thick skull. I was sitting in a room of true believers. They wanted a philosophical argument as the reason why I was there. A soapbox from which I was suppose to proclaim that I wanted to right the wrongs of the oppressed and be ‘the hammer of justice’ for the downtrodden. I hadn’t run across this before… this was new. Very early on in my internship I was told that it was not good to get too invested in a particular worldview when dealing with the law. This has been reiterated by many, many very accomplished attorneys to me over the years. True believers make incredibly impassioned, but ultimately bad attorneys. You lose sight of what is right, or logical and instead always find a way to favor your ideological standpoint. Victims never lie. Defendants are always guilty. Corporations are bad. Etc. etc. etc.

True believers are passionate litigators because they can’t see how anyone could see any point other than their own. They lend believe-ability to their arguments because they themselves believe it so fervently and completely. They make horrible attorneys because they don’t see the other side. They lose their objectivity. There is no moment where they step back and say, “I don’t think this is a good idea / could I be wrong?” They often end up stepping over the line and doing something illegal themselves in furtherance of their cause.

So I was sitting in a room of ideological extremists, and I was apparently being judged because I was not one as well. But then something amazing and novel happened. The DA decides to take a different slant on the interview. He looks over at me and says

DA: “What is it you really want to do?”

Me: “Well, I really like litigation and…”

DA: “Let me ask it this way, what was your favorite class in law school?”

Me: “Uhm… well, I took quite a few classes in IP and..”

DA: “Ok, I know a lot of people. A lot of people in different firms here and in (big city). I could pass your resume on to some of these people I know. But I need to know who I should be sending it to. Is it someone in IP? Is that who you’d like me to pass your resume along to?”

There was a brief moment where I almost asked if this type of trick had worked for him before. The DA had just baited a verbal trap and asked me to step into it. He constructed the trap with such ease that I really was rather impressed. If I said yes, it meant the interview was over. It would mean I was actually looking to do something else and just happened to apply to his office for convenience sake. The hypothetical of him having friends in one field or another and actually passing on a resume was probably close to nil, but it was such a tempting offer; As it was intended to be. You say yes — and thank you, platitudes and whatnot and you leave with his assurance he’ll pass your resume on to someone, but you’ve just taken yourself out of the running for the position for which you were interviewing. They don’t need to reject you… you chose to bow out. You rejected yourself.

He had done it artfully. I was also a little insulted he thought I wouldn’t see it. I persisted in my claim that I enjoyed criminal work and parried around his verbal jousting. I successfully sidestepped some other verbal chicanery and apparently unsatisfied, he decided he’d reached his limit of patience with me and ended the interview with “do you have any questions for us?”

The questions (or maybe just singular question I suppose…) had so far only been asked to me from the 2 ADAs on the right side of the table and the DA opposing me at the other end, attempting to gain some ground (and failing) I quipped “Well, I haven’t heard much from the left side of the table, so…” I turned my attention to the left side and addressed a few questions to the other half of the ADAs silently sitting in the room like set pieces. I questioned them for a few minutes about various specifics of the office, but it was over. And it was obvious. I let it die and was walked out by the same ADA who walked me in. I rode the elevator down with a Game Warden and looked over at him and said, “well that sucked.” Briefly striking up a conversation about failing the interview hard. I actually sorta doubt I’ll even get a rejection it was so obvious.

Minor update #1: I told a friend the abbreviated version of this story. After telling them about the gothic conference room set and the true believers, they told me it sounded like they were crusaders. I think the analogy works amazingly well.

Minor update #2: Several months later, the same office started advertising for another open position. I figured, why the hell not and I sent a resume, I mean hey… now I know what answers they’d want in the interview. They sent back a letter which said (I wish I was joking) — Please don’t bother applying here in the future.

I am considering framing it.

Interview #26 – Touchy Feely

I think this one went decently, but the interview questions were a bit touchy feely as opposed to professional.

I sent in a resume for a county prosecutor position and by 8:30 the next morning I had a message that they wanted an interview. I got it setup with them for a mere two days later.

I show up at the courthouse and I’m somewhat surprised by the general lack of people. Most courthouses I’ve worked in were usually very active and full of people. Not so here. It was very laid back and you got the impression that nothing moved too quickly there.

I head up to the office and end up waiting for a time in the very small waiting room. On a random note, it was the nicest smelling waiting room I think I’ve been in yet. If it wouldn’t have been weird, I really wanted to ask to receptionist if it was an air freshener or potpourri, or what… because it was really nice. The office and courthouse, as with many state buildings, were wonderfully done up in early 80’s chic. The only photo on the wall showed an amazingly dated image that I am going to guess was taken around 1983 based on the big poofy hair and clothes.  (I would feel really bad if it were taken any more recently).

I’m eventually ushered back to the rather small office of the DA, who was an absolutely enjoyable woman. I suppose I thought she was enjoyable because she struck me as someone who spoke rather unfiltered. I am quite certain that if she thought someone was a fucking idiot, she’d probably look right at them and say, “Well aren’t you a fucking idiot.” Flanking me on either side were two prosecutors who spoke narry a word through the interview, with the exception of a question or two prompted by the lead DA.

But… (there’s always a but it seems), the interview seemed to have very little to do with my professional qualifications. I am pretty sure that once again, the interviewer had some sort of internal belief that they could ask probing meaningful questions that were vastly superior to all other interviewing techniques. So what I got was an interview that had such questions as “What was the most important thing your mother ever taught you?” and “What was your greatest hardship in your life?”

A great many questions were focused on my family (as in my parents and siblings). When I did start speaking a bit about my professional specs, I was interrupted and the conversation would be re-routed to a different topic. This left me rather unhappy with how the interview was conducted mostly because any attempt to explain in any sort of depth about my skills and qualifications, or explanations about my past never actually reached the answer I was trying to give. I would start the explanation but would be interrupted 2 sentences in before I hit most of the substance of the issue. But this tack seemed limited to the legal explanations… the touchy feely questions weren’t headed off quite so often. It felt like they wanted a very superficial view of everything and depth was to be avoided at all costs.

A primarily social interview is okay, if you’ve mostly decided on a candidate and already interviewed regarding their professional bona fides. Unfortunately, I got the distinct feeling that my resume had been barely glanced at. They asked me ‘Why work for the DAs office?’ and the beginning of my answer talking about working in one for 2 years in criminal as an intern and then another 6 months on the civil side, led to everyone in the room burying their face in my resume scanning furiously to find the pertinent section. In fact, anything I mentioned about my professional past seemed to be a surprise. The cover letter obviously wasn’t perused (they didn’t even print off a copy of any other materials except my resume, based on a surreptitious glance at the paperwork in front of the interviewer)

There was one moment in the interview when I hit a wall. They wanted to know “Why here, and why not somewhere else… like over at this specific place.” I had a judgment call to make. The DA here seemed to be very matter-of-fact; so I went for it. I gave her the short version of why it was a horrible place to work and I told them that I did actually interview there, ‘but neither of us were too impressed with the other” and further explained why I personally found it rather unfortunate. I think I hit the mark, but I realized I was skirting a fine political line. Telling the interviewer they are superior to a colleague is always good, explaining why is risky.

The interview wound down and I left with no real idea as to what their opinion towards me actually was. It looks like it would be a nice place to work, and a relatively relaxed atmosphere too. I have decent odds as they were only interviewing a handful of candidates and are making a quick decision.

Boiler Room

In business, the term boiler room refers to an outbound call center selling questionable investments by telephone. It typically refers to a room where salesmen work using unfair, dishonest sales tactics, sometimes selling penny stocks, private placements or committing outright stock fraud. The term carries a negative connotation, and is often used to imply high-pressure sales tactics and, sometimes, poor working conditions. – Wikipedia — alternatively… watch the movie.

I’m classifying this one as a pseudo-interview. Because it wasn’t really an interview, but they wanted it to appear that it was. Anyway, to the story.

I happen to run across several postings by a head-hunting company looking for what amounts to roughnecks for oil companies. In the past 3 weeks, they supposedly had held several job fair style hiring sessions and they were listing quite a few positions. I looked at their website and ran a quick Google search, including a quick streetview of their office. Seemed generally legit. So I contact the recruiter and basically say “hey, I’m not what you were looking for, but do you think your clients might be interested in an attorney.” I was assuming that if someone was doing a fair bit of placement with oil companies, throwing out a resume to their clientele might get me into some of the smaller companies I might not have otherwise heard of before, or even interest from bigger companies who skipped over my resume from the dreaded web application.

I get a quick email back saying “thanks for taking a leap of faith and reaching out to us.” They seemed genuinely interested and had someone call me back the next day. Pretty quickly however, it became apparent the caller had no idea what an attorney actually does. And they made a point of asking if I wanted instead to work on an oil rig (because… you know, why not?) The call didn’t instill me with confidence in the company, and then they asked me to come in to fill out an application. There was a bit of a pregnant pause and I non-verbally expressed I’d rather not with a long.. ehhhuuuuehhhhhh… before saying “Can’t I just do that online?”

Apparently not. So they setup a time for me to come in. I assumed for some sort of interview / paperwork hybrid thingy. I’m told they’ll send out an email with the info. Several days later the interview date arrives, but no email. So I merely assume it is an oversight and I drive on down to the address I had found earlier. The building was located in the ‘wrong’ section of town, but it was close enough to downtown that I just assume they were just being cheap on the rent. I had no idea…

I arrive at what can only be described as an abandoned building. There are random people sorta wandering around, not exactly street people, more like the general increase in random (and weird) passers-by you normally see when you enter the wrong neighborhood. I’m sitting in my idling car staring at the building, thinking, this can’t be it. So I call them up. Apparently, it is. I’m told to go through an unmarked door and go to the third floor. (I swear I’ve seen horror movies start like this) So I park and am shocked to find a working elevator that takes me to the 3rd floor. I walk out to an open air atrium with a bunch of offices facing a courtyard that has several rather large dead, potted trees in it, but that’s ok because the dead trees are covered in kudzu so they sorta look alive. The offices are all empty and dark. Not a soul seemingly around. The outside of the building was run down — the inside was veritably crumbling, and reminded me nothing so much as a by-the-hour hotel that someone tried to convert to office spaces.

I stood in place a few seconds taking it all in before deciding I’d rather not add a story here about how I was mugged by a crackhead going to a fake interview. So I turn to leave and get a few feet before an interesting dressed woman standing near the elevator and talking on a call phone says “Hey sugar, is there something you’re looking for?” My mind first wondered if I had just been offered what I thought I was… then I sorta said “Uhm, I was looking for ‘Company X’… they were supposed to be up here.” She pointed and said “oh yeah, honey, they over there in the corner.” and went back to her phone.

So I had a moment to consider whether to leave, or just to satisfy the morbid curiosity that was now equal with my self preservation instinct. I mean… I was already there, right? What’s the harm in going to look? So I wander over. It turns out, the offices aren’t all vacant…  There are probably three that have some folding chairs, and a folding table in the middle of the office… and a solo attorney’s name emblazoned on the door. (ouch). More telling was that there really wasn’t anything in those offices other than the folding table and chairs, no lights on, and no one inside. I end up at the corner office and the reason I didn’t see it is because it doesn’t really have a large atrium window, just a nondescript door with the company name taped to an 8.5X11 on the inside of a tiny window on the door.

I open the door, and the first thing through my mind was “I’ve made a mistake.” The office is tiny. It had at one point had carpeting that had long since been ripped out leaving a bare cement floor; but the glue was still rather prominent from where it had been removed at some indeterminate past. Someone had painted the walls and every other flat surface ‘Kelly Green’ in a rather fast and haphazard manner. The room was crammed with folding tables and cheap chairs manned by probably 20 or 30 call center serfs dialing out to ‘contacts’. I had walked into the office in a nice suit with a valise. Work stopped. Every eye was on me. This was apparently a highly unusual event.

In what I can only describe again as ‘weird’ I had not 1, but 3 people approach me and ask if they could help me one after another. Now, the room was very small, and everyone was already looking. So, the other 2 people had to have seen the first (and second) person talking with me, and then approached and asked if they could help too. I guess it was just a very helpful place. No one can find any record of the interview request, but they chalk it up to someone else’s incompetence and decide to move forward. I’m ushered into what at first glance I had assumed was a large closet, but in fact is their ‘conference room’. My mind is still processing, and at this point I feel like I shouldn’t walk out because that would be rude (not sure why my mind went that direction, my brain usually works faster than it was that morning).

I’m standing for a few moments too long in the conference room and the recruiter says “you look confused (or concerned.. or something).” My mind finally catches and I look over to the recruiter and finally say out loud what my brain had been screaming since I pulled up in my car. “I think I have made a mistake.” She brushes it off and says “oh don’t worry, we probably just misplaced the interview paperwork. It happens all the time.” The true meaning of my statement sails completely over her head.

The ‘recruiter’ asks me the exact same questions as the phone call several days earlier, including double checking to make sure I didn’t want to work on an oil rig. Then they hand me an application packet to fill out. I fill out some of it, but only some, because it was asking way, way more information than I felt comfortable giving to a recruiter not offering a job, let alone this recruiting company.  I say thanks and they assure me they’ll be calling shortly. I beat a hasty retreat, and count this one as a learning experience to listen a bit more to the voices in my head, and not always satisfy my morbid curiosity at what’s on the other side of the door.

I also harbor a slight fear that I’m going to have to deal with identity theft in the not so distant future from even what little information I gave them. I sincerely hope not. But it is a nagging thought nonetheless.

photoTrust me.. It wasn’t pretty. The photo does not capture the despair, disrepair, and dirt.

Interview #25: The state of frustration

Mo Government! Interview call and setup for about 12 hours from now. Sounds interesting.

Update: I am going to hold off on posting this interview. It went exceedingly well and I was told I was to be referred up the chain as ‘the’ candidate and get rubber stamped by the powers that be. I guess we shall see if that holds true.

Update 2: Fuck them.

So I submitted a resume to an atrocious state career site. Basically, think of the most user unfriendly system (no, not OSCAR, but damn close) that you can absolutely feel was made by the lowest bidder who was building the website while concurrently reading about how to build websites from a ‘For Dummies’ book. I had submitted probably 10 resumes to previous postings for the exact same job posted in multiple locations and never heard anything back… imagine my surprise when I got a call back and a request for an interview for the very next day.

So I drive out to the office. And by drive, I nearly mean a road trip, as the primary office was 100 miles away from me. I timed it, and the drive wasn’t that bad; less than an hour and a half because there was absolutely no traffic. I pull into the small town the office is based out of and had a slightly foreboding feeling. The town looked like the last dollar had dried up and blown away about 30 years ago. It had all the signs of following cities such as Gary, Indiana and Detroit into industrial decline; lots of boarded up buildings and almost nothing over 3 stories. At least Gary and Detroit had at one point been real cities… this place… really probably hadn’t.

Thankfully, the office was quite literally right off the highway. So I pull into a squat one story building and head inside. I briefly speak to the receptionist and I’m told to wait. The waiting room itself was distilled depression. Apparently there was no budget for cleaning with the state, as there was dirt everywhere and large spider webs that had long ago collected enough dust on them to basically be considered fabric. The waiting room itself could really only accommodate about 6 people… and it had 3 others sitting in it that looked (and acted) like rejects from a Jerry Springer casting call (woo state work).

So I’m finally called back for the interview. I walk back into a hallway with industrial carpeting so worn it is has a slight blackish color to it, and its ever so slightly sticky, which makes me believe that it had literally been worn down to the glue backing. Swanky. I sit down in a room across for one guy who informs me one of the 3 people who are interviewing me is running late and hasn’t arrived yet, so we start a bit of small talk. The managing attorney wanders in and we continue talking a bit half and half about random topics and more interviewy type questions. Eventually, the regional attorney walks in wearing a pair of jeans and a loose shirt. (casual? or too casual?) I am told (somewhat thankfully) that I’ll probably almost never be in the horribly depressing office, because I will be going to courthouses across multiple counties. The conversation continues and eventually they pull out a list of questions specific to the position.

The questions were really quite varied. And not only varied across the spectrum of my background and credentials, but they quizzed me on specifics of law and what decisions I would make based upon hypothetical situations. Normally, I would call this out as bullshit, because it was. This was for an entry level position, and they were asking questions that required quite a bit of nuanced knowledge of the field. I point it out, but at the same time, this was one of my sub-specialties and I was hitting a grand slam on their questions. They asked a few which I would normally even describe as trick questions; if you had this happen would you A or B, and the real answer was neither, you would do C followed by D.

At one point I was asked if I voted for Obama, I laughed and made a joke about the Hatch Act (yeah, I know a hard joke to make) but everyone laughed and they moved on. Yeah, it was pretty damn illegal to bring it up and the position was not political in any way shape or form.

So I was batting 1000 with the interview questions. The interview itself went on for 2 1/2 hours. It was long… I don’t think it was intended to be even half that, but the conversation was great and they were enjoying it too. It finally wound down and I got to ask the standard questions “when will you make a decision… yada yada” They told me they were deciding that day. The supervising attorney told me (in front of the other 2 interviewers) you have my vote as the candidate. They were all very friendly and were telling me that the background check would go through in about a month or less and the state office would call and offer over the phone. They told me that usually the candidate they select is hired and the process is merely a rubber stamping from the head office that wends its way through a few levels of the office before offering the hire. They were all but laying out what my schedule would be with them. I was told in as many words “you are exactly what this office needs” and “you’re the name we are selecting”.

So I was walking on air. It was a good interview. Now I just had to wait. And wait. And eventually begin to wonder why I hadn’t heard anything. And I finally got a letter telling me they went with someone else.

I sent the managing attorney my standard professional “WTF” email, asking for advice on what I can improve upon with my resume or interview. I really hope they respond, because I do actually want to know what the hell happened considering I was told I was the candidate point blank.


Interview #24: Money

So I got a call from an AM 100 firm asking for a phone screen interview. A few days later I get another call asking me to show up at their office for an interview “because their needs have changed”. I’m still not sure what that means, but I’m always game to show up for interviews – plus a Big Law office interview should be interesting if nothing else. I’m then told I’m going to be video conferencing with a couple attorneys in another state.

I sorta thought that meant that there would be someone in person to also speak with, but that turned out not to be the case here. Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I show up at the building and park in possibly the most expensive parking garage in this city (thankfully unlike previous ‘of course we will validate parking‘ interviews, this office actually did validate my parking). I then take a series of elevators to the top floor.

— Sidenote… I recall in other cities taking a single elevator up 100 floors or more, usually on an express elevator, but it was a single elevator. The city I am in now seems to have some sort of requirement that elevators can only go up 50 floors, and then you have to get out and go to a different bank of elevators to continue up any farther. Anyone know why this is? It just seems strange to me.

Anyway, saying it was the top floor wasn’t quite right. For this office, you go to the top floor, then get out of the elevator and walk up another flight to the their office. It almost seemed like they looked at the Realtor and said ‘we want the top floor’ were then told it was occupied, and then asked ‘What if we built something above that…”. That being said, it was beautiful. The decor dripped money, moreso than any other office I have been in. While I was waiting, someone came in whose sole job was to monitor and maintain the wood furniture and replace it if it started to look worn. I am quite confident that the fee charged by the decorator of this office cost more than most law firms spend on filling their office with actual furniture.

After waiting in an empty lobby for a few minutes, someone finally walked by. And actually got halfway down a side hallway before stopping and turning back to ask if anyone had helped me yet. It was a weird disconnect that apparently there are so few people who come into their fabulously decorated lobby, that someone waiting in it will be initially overlooked.

So after a few more minutes, I’m led back to a conference room with a large TV displaying the inside of a much less impressive conference room 1000 miles away, and I’m left there alone staring into another empty conference room. The existential implications were profound.

Finally the other attorney wandered into the frame and started talking with me and conducting the interview. I will say first that this was the most sane interview I’ve had in a very, very long time. The only weird part was that technically for this job, the direct supervisors were the people I was talking to 1000 miles away. I would likely almost never see them in person, but it also explained why I was sitting in an empty room talking to a TV. It also made me wonder why I couldn’t have done this interview over Skype from my apartment.

The whole situation gave a somewhat impersonal feel, but also showed that this was a very technically adept firm. The HR admin in one office setup an interview with several other attorneys across multiple states and it all went off incredibly smoothly. The only irritation was a slight delay of probably 1-2 seconds on the video-link which made me almost want to announce ‘over’ at the end of each of my answers, like some sort of ham radio.

But dear lord… if I was willing to kill to get the job from the prior interview, I can’t even tell you what I would do for these people. Probably something the Hague would want to talk with me about; but I think it might be worth it.



Interview #23: Good cop, Bad Cop

I think there must be one of those worthless business books written by a self-proclaimed guru with no credentials, that states the correct way to conduct an interview is to first have a sane interview with the candidate; and then send in the most obnoxious and deranged personality you can find for the second interview. I can not fathom any other explanation for why it seems to happen over and over again.

I went two rounds of interviews with a foreclosure firm recently. The first interview went quite well. I met with the named partner and the office manager. I got along quite well with the named partner, and based upon previous interviews, I thought that this was in the bag by scoring points with the big name of the office. Oh how wrong I could be. This particular firm was setup slightly differently, and operated on an almost franchise style of management. The firm had what amounted to a ‘mostly silent partner’ who rarely showed up and I would apparently have no contact with whatsoever. Except apparently for the interview. So, one of the silent partners showed up and was anything but. This is in contradistinction to the named partner who this time sat completely silent and smiling to my right through the whole second interview. Apparently I had misjudged where the power resided in this firm.

The silent partner started it off and said “I have three questions for you.” He asked for a specific citation to a state statute, the second question was a second point cite to a rule. I quickly stated ‘I don’t know’ to both questions, because honestly, that’s not something you should know off the top of your head for an interview for an entry level position which was offering to pay less than many paralegal salaries. (see the insane interview for reference).  He then proceeded to calmly step over the line of professionalism and well into the territory of douchbaggery and said “well, if you don’t know that, then what good are you to this office?”

(sidebar… so this means that if he had 3 questions already set, 2 of which he knew no interviewee could answer, he had his 1 phrased insult already chambered? Because he started off by saying, “I have 3 questions…” and I honestly don’t think I got a different version than anyone else, so the standard interview with this guy was to be insulted?)

There was a short beat wherein I had to process the lobbed insult which seemed a bit uncharacteristic in an interview, but at this point nothing much phases me; I’ve come to expect this abuse and like a Stockholm syndrome sufferer… I almost miss it when it’s not there. So relatively quickly my tenor shifts into a slightly more dick-ish stance and I state “I’m sorry, I was told that this position would include training. Was I misinformed?”

This answer actually caught him off guard, and he shifted in his seat a bit and stated that it would. So I continued on and told him I was bringing my multiple bars which were gotten via testing. My several advanced certifications, and my not insubstantial intelligence which I do believe was shown on my resume via several points. I finished my short (even keeled tirade?) statement by dismissively waving my hand and saying, “I am quite confident that I can pick up this relatively quickly.”

As with anybody who has just been told they said something stupid, the silent partner decided to double down on the dumb.  And he started listing off Probate, foreclosure, bankruptcy and asking if I had filed any of those cases before. Once he got to the third one I interrupted and said “Look, I am not hiding anything from my resume. If it’s not on there, I haven’t done it.” I proceeded to explain my actual litigation background in more depth. Which didn’t really sink in because he then proceeded to list off two other sub-specialties before stopping.

The interview came to a rather stilted end wherein the grinning named partner finally asked if I had any other questions before ending the interview. The interview itself only lasted about 15 minutes; not a horribly good sign. I walked back out, and the highlight of the experience was walking down to my car talking with another applicant for the job. He had a slightly similar background as me interestingly but he had just come out of his first interview with the foreclosure firm. I gave him the ‘3 questions’ on the off chance he was asked back and we chatted for a few minutes. He had previously worked at the County office referenced in Interview 18. I asked what his impression of the office was, his response was “It’s a meatgrinder… you dodged a bullet by not getting an offer there.” He said a few other choice remarks about the office as well as the interviewer I had spoken with, enough to seemingly legitimize his first statement, and that was the end of this latest interview.

I had been told they would get back to me in about 3 days. It’s been over a week. I’m not holding my breath for this one.


Interview #22: Welcome to the area, we just wanted to make sure you owned a suit.

In my continuing quest, I’ve sent out quite a few emails and resumes. They all have something in common however… they all state that I am looking for a job. Usually the attached resume and cover letter is a dead giveaway, but you have to make sure to bluntly state it for the more dense recipients. One of these cold resume emails is what brought me back to the hallowed halls of higher education.

I sent out a job seeking email to the tech capitalization office of a university, and I got a reply telling me to come in for “a meeting to discuss what I was looking for.” Now, most people would pretty readily recognize what I was looking for from the email and resume, vis a vis — a job, at the most basic level. For my part, I assumed I was headed into an interview, because when you send an email saying ‘I am looking for a job’ and someone else replies ‘Come over here so we can talk about that,’ one might naturally assume the ensuing conversation would be about a job.

Well, you would be wrong. At least so far as this meeting was concerned. I show up at a very well regarded university and park in the paid lot I was directed to by the secretary who was directed to schedule the interview. The grounds are quite lovely and I briefly enjoy the view before heading to the appointed office. The office is pretty much what you would expect from a university admin office, industrial carpeting, various functionaries and work study kids sitting in cubicles rather than a reception area; the standard attempt to use all the available space. Initially I am told to wait in the single folding chair sitting forlornly in a corner but instead I am quickly ushered into the office of the director.

I will start out by saying… they were an incredibly nice person. And I will follow it up by saying, they had no idea why they were meeting with me. Which is doubly odd since they were the one to directly setup the interview with me. We hit it off in the small-talk arena for awhile and talked about a few common points between us and gossiped about the academic world. Then they told me there was no job there. (thud). But there might be at some indeterminate point in the future, or maybe at the GC’s office, or somewhere. Then, to really drive the point home that they have no clue what attorneys do, they mentioned that they have some internships in the summer there. (not legal mind you… just business) Uh huh. They also seemed surprised to find out I was a patent attorney, which again seemed odd to me since it was on line 3 of my resume. and in the email. and in the cover letter. But honestly, the mention (offer?) of an unpaid internship usually gotten by undergrads in business majors really was the high point of the ‘interview’.

I’ve become an expert at disguising my disappointment, and to put it honestly, I’ve come to expect this type of thing. I think the real shocker will be when I get an interview for a job that actually exists. So we continued talking about whatever they wanted to talk about… for about 45 minutes more. I guess if they had been forthright and stated this would be more a networking meeting rather than about a job, I might not be posting it here. I’ve had lots of networking meetings at this point, but both sides are aware going into it that there isn’t a job offer in the balance.

So basically I got all dressed up to go gossip with someone in higher education. The meeting finally wound down, and I wandered back out of the office. As I left, I asked for the parking validation that had been promised in the email setting up the interview. The secretary looked at me and said “damn.. the person who does those things left for the day already.” I stood there for merely a moment and sighed, and said don’t worry about it.

Par for the course.