Twenty minutes to meltdown


My shirt is wrinkled. My shoes are untied. My tie is a bit wrinkled as well, but it’s difficult to tell because I’ve tied it into a malformed ball halfway down my chest. I wouldn’t hire me. Or at least I wouldn’t hire the person who dressed me (which, unfortunately in this case, happens to be me). But at least I’m wearing pants and when I get to the hotel for my interview, I know the firm cold. I’ve memorized the names of their partners. I know their practice areas. I know how many of their secretaries put bowls of candy out on their desks and the median number of Reese’s peanut butter cups in such bowls. And then I spend two minutes talking about stuff I did on my resume, and eighteen minutes hearing the partner’s thoughts on new-age Kazakhstani poetry, and the interview is over.

I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Dates can work this quickly because you’re assessing whether or not you’re interested in seeing the other person naked. I have a little doubt, however, as to whether twenty minutes of conversation can truly tell you whether a person is Caligula or Mother Teresa in business casual. How do they make any definite, well-informed decisions about you? Unless, of course, they’re trying to figure out whether or not they’d like to see you naked, in which case they should clearly not be recruiting at Harvard Law School.

The twenty minutes is also just not enough time to convince someone to hire me. I need much more than that to break down all their silly conventions about grades, work ethic, punctuality, intelligence, and personal hygiene. And while the twenty seems too brief, I am also completely willing to complain about the thirty. It should be an extra ten minutes for them to get to know me and for me to get to know them, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Instead, it’s an extra ten minutes for me to insert my foot directly into my mouth while not leaving sufficient time to remove it. In a couple of interviews I performed that particular maneuver so hard and fast that I nearly kicked my teeth out.

It only gets worse when I do multiple interviews in a day. After the first two, I’m not sure what questions I’ve answered or even what my answers are. They ask me how I like the weather in Boston, and I respond that I think their toxic torts practice is one of the best in the country. They ask me why I’m so strangely interested in toxic torts, and I tell them I really want to work in international tax because tax has always been my favorite kind of international. They ask if I need to lie down and I explain to them how they should hire me because I’m an innovator and would do a fantastic job of creating a blue-collar crime practice because I regularly meet with potential clients.

I can also only recall about half of what I did on my resume. I also can’t remember anything at all about the first 20% of my life, so I don’t know that I should find it surprising. When I have trouble thinking of the answer to a question, I start responding with questions of my own to cover my ignorance and demonstrate that I am a clever go-getter who will take charge of any situation. For example, when my interviewer introduces himself and asks me what my name is, I ask him how he knew I had a name.

Soon, I draw a blank on the name of the firm as well. All firms start sharing the name of “Your Firm.” “I think your firm is fantastic and really like the work you do.” It’s like the Mulva/Delores Seinfeld episode. Actually, it’s a lot like it if you’re interviewing with Allen and Overy. But at least my nervousness dissipates with multiple interviews. I relax. I stop worrying about my answers, and I just try to carry on a conversation and learn a little bit about them. Maybe I relax a little too much: I went through one interview with my fly unzipped. While it’s a good idea to showcase your assets in an interview, I doubt Career Services would recommend that particular technique.

But for the most part, I don’t do too bad of a job at putting my best foot forward. I really don’t do that great of a job either, but this is somewhat intentional. To do otherwise would be like a travel agent describing Tikrit as a “thrilling, sunny, exotic locale perfect for those seeking a healthy dose of adventure.” Besides, it keeps the interview process a little more fresh. This is a particularly good thing when many feel that the interview process quickly devolves into stock responses: they have theirs, and we have ours. At that point, it almost seems like the interview becomes a polite way of poking around to see what the other person is really holding in their hand in the midst of a bluffing match. We want to know what they’re hiding (whether or not they’re working Saturdays and Sundays along with Saturnights and Sunnights), and they want to know what we’re hiding (which in my case is really not much of anything: see previous comment about the unzipped fly).

I have twenty more interviews to figure out how to properly navigate this process. By the end, I may become the perfect interviewee, but probably not. Even if I learned the ideal answer to every question, it would do me little good as I have a remarkable inability to keep a straight face. I just hope that by the end of OCI, I’ll have figured out how to tell time on the annoyingly analog watch I wear with my wrinkled suit.

Taylor Dasher is a 2L. He wrote this column on Sunnight.

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