"Interview season can feel like a slightly lower-stakes Hunger Games, with the rest of your life in the balance. It is a high-pressure situation and nervous 2Ls are often on the brink. So what happens, when the interviewer - in this case a partner - decides to mess with candidate?" - Kathryn Rubino, "Interview Horror Stories: Interviewing With An Emperor," in Abovethelaw.com, September 24, 2015. Here is the article.
Long story compressed: The partner told the 2L to "entertain him." He did the same with all the others he interviewed that day. The story has a happy ending for this particular victim. He received the job offer of his dreams from another law firm. Plus, he later spotted the "emperor" looking frantic and frazzled in Manhattan. Loss of cool is the ultimate professional sin.
But, this kind of lead-in on an interview could have been strategic. It could have been meant to test out the emotional and verbal reflexes of the job candidates. Tech enterprises, including startups, do that all the time.
One Boston entrepreneur orchestrated an ambush of me by his team. I kept the focus on the how-to of creating a marketable book, which was the deliverable, and landed the ghostwriting assignment. Of course, there is always the question: Should I even have wanted the business. The answer: At the time I did. I needed the money. And the experience was the platform for pitching to other tech prospects.
The bottom line on interviewing, though, is never to enter with a set script. Sure, you should be prepared. The challenge is not to put undue value on the insights you have come up with about the organization, the supposed key talking points, and the distinct edge you want to hammer that you will provide versus the other applicants.
The reality is that a job interview is a conversation. That process is fluid. Unless you remain totally open, you won't be able to, as the cliché has it, go with the flow.
Here are the 5 must-dos:
Prepare. But don't over-prepare. Every interviewer is different. There are no absolutes. Unless you can align with his or her gameplan, you will wind up coming across as rigid. No one wants rigid in the firm.
Listen, including to non-verbal cues. The body language and facial expressions might communicate: I'm a ironic type. That means that you have to pick up on that ironic tone. You are dealing with a Dave Letterman type, not a Jay Leno.
Smile. That's the universal signal that you are managing the situation.
Ask the interviewer questions. That has become a best practice. If you don't have questions, you don't grasp complexity. Nothing is as it seems or as posted on the firm's website.
Thank the interviewer. What you are thanking for is insight into the firm and this particular member.
After going through a disrespectful interview, you have many options for later. You can turn down the position if offered. You can anonymously provide details (it would have been smart to have worn a wire) to Rubino (Kathryn@abovethelaw.com). You can badmouth the miscreant. You can even report that behavior to the firm's top bass but that can make you come across as a crybaby or whistleblower.
Takeaway: I have found an increasing number of job interviews are disrespectful. So? The objective is to land work. That could entail having to put up with those not adept in the art of the interview.