The road to hell is paved with callbacks

BY MATHEW PARKE

I mentioned to my mother several weeks ago that interviews would begin soon, and yesterday she called to find out how it was going. I described interviews as a blur of 20-minute meetings in hotel rooms with strange men and women, at which point my mother began shouting something into the phone about Satan and the East Coast.

As Mom pled with me to come back to the farm and I tried to dissuade her from buying a ticket to Boston, it struck me that she was on to something. There was something familiar, after all, about many of my interviewers — perhaps they were emissaries of my old teenage nemesis, Old Scratch himself. If that were the case, it would go a long way in explaining the last four weeks.

It would explain, for example, why so many people I know who are committed to public interest work are suddenly interviewing with big law firms. I’m referring to those who lecture their classes about moral responsibility, sure that anyone who is facilitating a merger between two large companies is lacking in that area. Only Scratch could convince those same people that if pro bono work counts towards the firm’s minimum billable-hours requirement, they can do good and still make six figures. The road to hell may be gradual, but that first step into a big law firm is a doozy.

If the devil is involved in the interviewing process it would also explain how so many interviewers know the most intimate details of my employment history: where I attended college and what some of my hobbies were. And then there was the evil laughter that seems to invariably explode immediately after I leave the room.

When I mentioned my suspicions to some of my friends, they tried to dismiss them. One pointed out that interviewers could have learned about my employment from my resume. But my interviewers asked me about jobs I had actually held, not jobs listed on my resume. Interviewer: “So how did you like being a waiter at Chili’s last summer?” Me: “Oh, that was just something I did during the day — I worked at a law firm during the evenings. Actually I quit Chili’s in August when the Law Review asked all the new people to report.” Interviewer: “You’re on Law Review?” Me: “Huh? Oh … uh … no. Did I give you that impression?”

After I began to suspect that Satan was somehow mixed up in the interviewing process, I took steps to protect myself. I believe that at least some of them worked. Many interviewers seemed unsettled, for example, by the incantations I recited before entering the room and the religious symbols I took to placing between us on the table. When I would insist that a priest accompany me into the interview, some firms refused to talk with me at all. I think I know why.

On the other hand, I could be wrong about all this. Maybe my friends are right when they insist there is a perfectly logical explanation for everything and that the interviewers are people just like me. And I have to admit, if I look past the interviewers’ tails, it’s plausible that they are.

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