Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Happy Rosh Hashana to all those for whom it applies. Happy Weekend to everybody else.

On-campus interviews start on Monday. So I've carved out some time this weekend to research the firms a bit more than I already have and to think about some answers to questions I might get. Things like "biggest weakness," "time you overcame a challenge," "where you see yourself in five years," etc. Questions I hope I don't get, because they probably mean the interviewer is just going through the motions and asking the standard "how to conduct an interview" questions and not really listening to the answers, but that I think I should probably think through a bit, because I'm not the best at this stuff.

My ideal interview, honestly, would be where they ask me for my references and go call them to ask about me. I think they'd probably do a better job of talking about me than I do. I get flustered a bit in these things -- the pressure to start responding right away and not take three seconds to think through what I really want to say. I just need to relax, to actually act like it's a real conversation, to not be afraid to be funny or interesting or honest.

I've been through an on-campus interviewing process before, when I was a senior in college and I interviewed for a bunch of jobs, mostly because I didn't know if law school was the right thing, and at least wanted to give myself a chance to get stolen away from the more-education plan. And my first interview was with the (software) company I eventually got an offer with and worked at for two years (I did marketing stuff, not programming or anything like that -- but I'm sure I've talked about that at some point long ago on here). 8:30 in the morning on day one of interviews. And the eight interviews after that one were all with consulting firms, and I didn't really want to be a consultant, and it showed.

The least-effective interview moment -- I was interviewing with a consulting firm, and the interviewer asked if I "would ever give up on a problem." And I answered that I'd of course first do whatever I could do, enlist help, ask questions, try different tactics, but if it got to the point where it would be more useful for me to move onto something else, where I could actually add some value, and let someone else, who might bring a different set of tools to the problem, take over, then, yeah, I'd think it would make sense for me to give up. And she said "a consultant never gives up" and that was pretty much that. I still don't really know if I agree with her.

This process can't be easy for the interviewers. Twenty minutes each with perhaps two dozen candidates, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, resumes that all look generally similar, grades that probably don't have a ton of variation. There's no one here who, in the right context, can't certainly shine in a twenty-minute interview. A connection, ask a good question, hit on something someone's comfortable talking about, and a conversation will get going, and everyone here is bright and articulate enough to acquit themselves well. So I imagine that sorting us out is hard for the interviewers, and a lot of it is the intangibles -- did you connect with the interviewer, did you "click." Were you"on" at that particular moment.

I had another fairly ineffective interview moment last year, when doing some phone interviews for jobs. I interviewed with a non-profit that dealt with immigration issues -- mostly an informational interview, really; I had a connection, and just wanted to learn more about what they did... I just wasn't sure if it was an area I was interested in or not. So the guy talking to me saw on my resume that I've written songs, and he asked me how my song writing relates to my possible interest in immigration issues. In retrospect, the right answer of course is, "it doesn't really. It's just something else I do." But, especially on the phone, without physical cues, I found it hard to take that breath and think through an answer before saying something, and I said something like, "well, I suppose music can affect people, and make them happy, and if you're helping immigrants get settled in a new country, you're affecting them and making them happy too." What a dumb answer. It's nonsense, really. That's the kind of answer I have to avoid, I guess.