Since I am blogging about my work life, which I normally don't do, I thought I'd share some stories of some job interview situations that were bizarre. I've had countless job interviews over the years.
Sometimes I didn't want the job. Sometimes I was offered the job and turned it down. On a couple of occasions in my life I got a job I probably shouldn't have gotten but then I learned some interesting things -- so it all worked out OK in the end. After I had some therapy.
Keep in mind while reading that I have worked for a number of different firms in my 25+ year paralegal career, and I have tons of interview "war stories." I have tons of case war stories, but you'll have to buy the book to hear those.
At a firm where I interviewed in Knoxville, one of my first job interviews ever, I was told that since I was right out of school I should pay THEM for the privilege of working there. They proceeded to offer me a job at a salary that wasn't actually enough for me to live on, which wasn't a surprise.
At another job interview in Knoxville I was told "Don't ever expect anyone to say thank you around here. We don't have time to hold your hand. We won't say anything to you unless you screw something up."
When I first moved to Atlanta I worked for about a year for a very demanding attorney. After I realized that particular job was never going to get any easier and I wasn't ever going to be any happier, I started interviewing for other jobs, off and on, for the next 5 years or so.
So I have a ton of job interviewing stories from those years, the mid 1990's.
Sometimes during those years I'd interview at firms where I learned that they wouldn't be able to hire me because of my current boss. Other defense attorneys feared her. They feared retaliation. She didn't play well with others. She had a reputation similar to that of a mafioso, which is sort of funny because she was from the sticks and had a Southern accent that made Bill Clinton sound like a Yankee.
When I had interviewed with her, after driving down to Atlanta from Knoxville and smoking in the car, she had told me I would have to quit smoking. I did, eventually, but only towards the end of the time I worked for her. She made me want to smoke more. She made me want to chain smoke, actually, because of the stress, but since I was only able to steal 2 brief smoke breaks in a day I was able to cut down drastically while working for her, and I finally quit.
During that time I had a phone interview with the legal department of a large company and one of the questions was "Do you smoke?" I said yes, but not necessarily at work -- I had already cut down and was trying to quit -- and the interviewer said very rudely "Well we don't like people who smoke and so this interview is TERMINATED." Now, I sort of understand that attitude, but we're talking twenty years ago, and I thought the question was really rude and how the call ended was really rude. Within a year or so I had stopped smoking. I had also learned that no paralegal ever stayed with that company very long.
I interviewed for a job years ago at a large, prestigious firm here in Atlanta, and part of the multi-step interview process was... weird. I got a call from the paralegal on the team who proceeded to ask me a lot of questions about my birth and my astrological sign. I am not kidding. When she found out I was born in July under the sign of Cancer, she was triumphant, telling me how fabulous it would be for me to join the team. Now, I think astrology is fun to dabble in - heck, my blog isn't called The Crab Chronicles because I like seafood, although I do love seafood. [I digress.] I would never make any sort of serious decision based on someone's birthday, though. Anyway, this same paralegal who interviewed me later turned out to be, well, very strange. Let's just say that. One day she said she had to leave early for a doctor's appointment. She never came back. The next day, from home, she sent a very long email to the partner in charge of the team, telling that attorney in detail just what a terrible person she was, and a terrible lawyer. Soon after, the lawyer left the firm and left town.
Another time, years ago, I had an interview with a much larger, even more prestigious firm, the kind of firm where there are original Picassos on the walls. The paralegal coordinator who interviewed me used a long sparkly purple pen that looked like it belonged in the backpack of a fifth grader. Oh...kay. Then she proceeded to ask me the sort of HR questions that I find really annoying and useless, like what's your biggest asset you can bring to the job, what's your biggest drawback, etc. I can always field those questions pretty easily. The question she asked that threw me, for a minute, was this one: "Why do your friends like you?" I did what I always do when I am nervous, I became instantly a comedienne, throwing out bad one liners. "Because I PAY THEM!" I said, chuckling. The purple pen was writing that down as I finished chuckling and looked at her. "Oh no, that's not my final answer, no, I was just kidding," I said. She looked at me in total puzzlement. OMG, I thought, I would be working in the same office with someone who was born without any sense of humor whatsoever. Yikes.
In hindsight I realized the perfect [funny] answer would have been "Friends? I don't have any friends." That might have gotten me some sympathy points, possibly even the job itself because that firm is what is known among the paralegal community as a sweatshop.
I interviewed with a defense firm a few years later that has a very good reputation in town. One of the partners who interviewed me had a voice exactly identical to Kevin Costner. I am very sensitive to voices and I have a very musical ear, so I always notice voices and accents. This was in the mid 1990's and Kevin Costner was hot hot hot. I wanted to close my eyes and pretend I was actually in the presence of Kevin Costner. I didn't. I was incredibly distracted, though, and my answers probably made no sense. The lawyer was pretty attractive, and that didn't help. Then again if he had talked like Kevin Costner and looked like George Wendt I might have gotten the giggles and blown the interview anyway..
A few years ago, I interviewed at a firm here where the founding partner was so paranoid about anyone in her office knowing she was interviewing candidates that the whole interview was conducted in her car, driving around Buckhead. She told me in addition to paralegal work, she wanted me to spy on all the associates in the offices and report to her what they were doing. She was sure they were cheating her. I was horrified. She didn't offer me the job, thank goodness.
I interviewed for a job that sounded pretty interesting, until I learned a bizarre but crucial fact. The attorney, a sole practitioner, had her office on a separate floor from my office. OK. I would get plenty of exercise, I thought, always a good thing. I didn't mind being the receptionist/paralegal. But then I learned my desk would be on the first floor and there would be nobody else around, and I would sit right in front of a door that faced the street. No security anywhere. I Googled the office and saw I'd be sitting right in front of a big plate glass window, too. By myself. In midtown. No other offices on the first floor. Anyone could walk in off the street. I seriously thought about it. I thought about getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon in my purse; not something I've ever wanted to do. Nope. Pass.
I interviewed once in Knoxville with a lawyer who had his secretary call me before the interview and ask every question you're not supposed to ask someone - are you married? Kids? Dating anyone? Age? Do you go to church? Etc. I was very young and I didn't know any better so I answered all the questions. I went in for a personal interview and later learned he hired a paralegal who was prettier than me. I'm actually glad I didn't get that job.
I turned down a job a couple of years ago that sounded really interesting at first. Boutique firm. Interesting cases. Nice offices. Not a bad commute. I found out that one of the partners I'd be working with closely refused to use anything but his Apple computer. Everyone else had HP computers. Hmmm... He also like to work at night, until late at night. His partner liked to come in early. They wanted me to answer the phones, do all the paralegal work, be the office manager, write marketing materials, clean up, etc. Now, I don't mind wearing many hats. BTDT and it can be kind of fun, particularly in a small firm. The pay was ridiculous, though. Just slightly above minimum wage. Plus they didn't pay parking. Um... NO. The biggest mistake those guys made was letting me talk to the woman leaving the job, who whispered to me exactly WHY she was leaving, thus guaranteeing I would not want that job.
There's a small firm here in town where I interviewed and part of the process was a test to see if I could read the partner's handwriting. He wrote all his briefs out by hand. Refused to use a computer. I don't mind typing briefs, but trying to read his handwriting was like trying to read Chinese. By the time I was through with that interview I was sweating and feeling nauseated.
I interviewed once at a firm that handled all the defense work for one insurance company, and to get into the office I had to press a buzzer and appear in front of a camera. The door stayed locked at all times. Each of the 4 attorneys I interviewed with separately asked me variations on the same questions: How do you handle stress? How would you handle it if someone called you up and yelled at you on the phone? How would you handle being threatened? How do you deal with people who are very unhappy and won't stop calling you? Have you ever had a client yell at you? Why? How did you handle it? Do you think clients have the right to cuss you out? How would you handle cursing and threats of severe harm?
By the end of all those questions I thought to myself, y'all must pop Xanax like tic tacs around here. No thank you.
This isn't an interview anecdote but I will close with it anyway. I once had a very elderly attorney scold me because as I was getting a cup of coffee some attorney told me a joke and I laughed, out loud. The old attorney glared at me and said "This is a LAW FIRM. We don't LAUGH around here."
True. Very true.
After that, I confined my laughter to after hours, at a bar with everyone else in the local legal community.