Costume party


“TEN MINUTES until curtain.”

“Great. I’ll be waiting in the hospitality suite.”

I feel like I’m an actor in a play. I put on my costume (read: interview suit), and go out and perform for a new audience in every twenty minute slot. A bit shaky on my lines for the first few performances, but I’ve just about memorized them by now. Occasionally it turns into an episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” – an improvised answer to an unexpected question – but so far, it’s mostly stayed right on script. And, like any new show, after each performance I eagerly await the review. The phone call, I mean. Or the lack of one.

And like any show, some people like it a lot, and some people don’t as much. Some nights I’m on, and some nights I’m off. Sometimes an answer works, sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s all okay. If there’s one thing that’s surprised me about the interview process so far, it’s how human it is. We get second chances. Maybe not with each firm, but with the process – with a dozen, two dozen, even three dozen interviews, we can afford a mistake. We can deal with a fumbled line, a sleepy afternoon, a bad impression. And my interviewers have, without exception, seemed like genuinely decent people, just trying their best to really just get something from me in twenty minutes. In most cases, that thing being a transcript.

Before one of my interviews, I forgot to turn my cell phone ringer off. I realized it about three minutes in, and spent a few seconds pondering whether or not I should try to somehow slip my hand into my pocket unnoticed, and fumble around with the buttons so it turns off. But fear that I would accidentally hit something that would cause it to make some sort of sound – or that my interviewer would see and think that I was playing with myself – made me decide to just take the risk it would ring. I imagined in the back of my head that it would be kind of cool to get a call from another firm while interviewing with this one. If someone got a call about a callback in the middle of another interview – and the interviewer could tell – would that help someone’s chances? “If they want him… well, shouldn’t we want him too?” Of course the phone didn’t ring – it never rings (awww…) – but the added tension gave the interview that extra zing it had been missing. At least on my side of the table.

I’m not sure how much detail is appropriate when classmates ask how the interviews are going – which of course everyone asks. “Fine” seems too vague, but “well, I had one on Monday where we talked about my senior thesis, my lackluster Evidence grade, and this rash I’ve got on my elbow – and I haven’t heard anything about a callback yet even though my clairvoyant Aunt Mabel is sure that this is the firm where I’ll end up” seems too specific. “Same as yours” seems like an appropriate enough answer, since, from what I hear, mine pretty much aren’t any different from anyone else’s. “As well as could be expected given my obvious shortcomings” is the pessimist’s answer. “As well as could be expected given that my last interviewer hasn’t gotten back to his desk to make the call yet” is the optimist’s answer. “As well as they did last year” is the re-interviewing 3L’s answer, and “as well as my dry cleaner could dream” is the answer for the guy who keeps spilling the free coffee on his shirt and dipping his tie into the fruit tray.

Halloween isn’t until the end of the month. But our costume party’s already a week old. And it’s only just starting.

Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He also posts regular commentary here.

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