Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tova Darling's Totally Awkward Tuesdays

It's Tuesday, which means it it time for Tova Darling's Totally Awkward Tuesdays event, in which we write about something awkward that happened in the past, and link to Tova Darling's blog, and post a link to our blog on Tova's blog.

I was going to pass on the awkwardness festival this week, given the situation with my Grandpa dying and all. But since Tova Darling says it may be the last TAT for a while, I'd better join in. Plus, my Grandpa always had a great sense of humor. I know he'd approve.

Tova's story reminded me of a rather awkward job interview that I had, when I was in law school.

First, a little background. After college, I took a couple of years off and worked for a while, then decided to go to law school. By the time I was interviewing for law firm jobs during my third year in law school, I thought that ancient undergrad history was pretty irrelevant. The law firms tended to think otherwise.

So I was being interviewed by Ms. Blonde Bombshell ("BB") and Mr. Tall, Dark, & Handsome ("TDH") from one of the larger law firms in town. I think they send their most attractive partners and associates to conduct interviews in an attempt to make the interviewees feel even more inadequate. I also think the law firms get together and think up the dumbest questions possible to ask potential recruits, just so they can compare notes later and laugh at the dumb answers they get, because just about every interview I had featured at least two or three really stupid questions, often the same two or three really stupid questions.

These two interviewers appeared to be two of the most socially conservative - prudish, even - people I had ever met. I base this on the way they dressed -- conservative even for lawyers -- and the way they spoke.

On the way into the room, I bumped my elbow, hard, and said "ow, shoot!" as I rubbed my elbow. A couple minutes later, Ms. BB dropped her pen and her interjection of choice was "oh fudgesickles!" as she retrieved it. Fudgesickles? I recognize it would be entirely inappropriate to drop the F-bomb, and fudgesickles was preferable to that, but really, fudgesickles? In my experience, that word is used only by people who are soooo prudish that even "darn" is too strong a curse word for them. I would not fit in well with that crowd. So this interview was not off to a good start.

And these two really took the cake for dumb questions. They asked me a lot of things that were irrelevant and perhaps even illegal. The interview went something like this:

BB: What clubs did you lead or participate in during your undergraduate years?

Me: Well, I worked my way through college, generally working 30 hours per week, so I didn't have time for a lot of clubs, but I was vice-president of the Italian Club and I also volunteered for "Reading for the Blind" once a week.

TDH: What hobbies have you pursued during law school?

(This was a stock question used by all the interviewers at every big firm in town. I'm still not sure whether I was supposed to say, "none, the law is all I am interested in" to show that I would never let my personal life interfere with my work, or supposed to name six things to show I am "well-rounded." I always took it as the interviewers' attempt to find something fun to talk about, to sort of "ease you into" the interview because, really, who the hell cares?!? All that the big firms *really* want to know is whether you are willing to work 80 hours per week without complaining.)

Me: (Stock answer for these dumb questions) I enjoy music and hiking.

(I did not get the usual follow-up questions about that -- what kind of music? where do you like to hike? The better interviewers would make it into a conversation: "Oh, really, I like hiking, too! Have you hiked ___ trail?" To which I would respond either "yes, it's beautiful there, isn't it?" or "No, I haven't tried that one yet, where is it?" And so forth...)

There were a few other stilted questions, with no follow-up, demonstrating either that these interviewers did not know how to make conversation or that they did not care to have a conversation with me. Either way, not a good sign..... And then, the kicker:

BB: Are you married? Do you have kids?

Me: (Flabbergasted because they are not supposed to ask these questions): Uhhh....

TDH: BB, I don't think we're supposed to ask that! (Turning to me) Sorry about that...

Me: Uh, that's ok...

... awkward silence ... (are they waiting for me to answer it anyway?)

And then the final kicker, the one that ended the interview:

TDH: Who is your favorite famous person?

Me: (Flabbergasted because this is possibly the dumbest interview question I've ever heard, stalling for time because I was so taken aback by the prior question that I literally couldn't think of *any* famous people at all, and finally going for shock value because I have now decided I don't want to work for these numbskulls). Uhhhh... I dunno.... It's so hard to choose.... There are so many fantastic famous people.... Uh.... Axl Rose?

.... awkward silence ....

TDH: (Obviously hugely disappointed by my answer). Oh. I guess I thought you would say "Thomas Jefferson" since you went to the University of Virginia for your undergrad degree.

Me: Oh. Oh, well!

And that was that. I did not get an offer from that law firm.

Thanks, Tova, for helping me remember these awkward moments!



The Grandpa said...

Great post. Reminds me of a couple interviews I had when I was out of graqd school looking for a faculty position. The interviews were always by committee, and the committees were usually chosen to represent the great philosophical divide within the department. So after briefly describing my background and interests in teaching there was always a question that seemed to be the focus of heated debate at faculty meetings, and each side waited to see whose side I would take. Talk about awkward.

SkylersDad said...

I think Axl Rose would seal the deal for me. Anybody who says they like Axl in an interview is going to be way fun to work with!

Fancy Schmancy said...

You'd think a law firm would be smarter than any interview I've ever been on for an admin position! What a bunch of dumbasses, not knowing what (who) they had in front of them!

John said...

Ohh, fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu dge. Only I didn't say "fudge." I said the queen mother of all dirty words. The "F - - -" word.

Over the years, I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap...

Heh. : )

Hit 40 said...

Tough Interview!! Been there!

My hubby was asked at his last interview what was his favorite episode of seinfeld!! He said the contest.

He got the job.

Dr Zibbs said...

Bubble Up.