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12 Ridiculous Things Lawyers Did on Interviews


Being in the executive search business for 29 years, you would think I have seen it all. Nevertheless, I am still occasionally surprised by the actions of a well-vetted candidate on a job interview. The following are true, real-life actions that are unforgettable. Each led to immediate disqualification of their candidacy. What is most unbelievable is that each candidate came away feeling upbeat about their interview and positive that an offer would follow. Unfortunately, that was far from reality.

  1. Took 30 minutes to answer the opening question – Nobody likes a talker, especially since the best in-house lawyers are good listeners. The conversation should be natural with each party talking 50% of the time. Taking excessive time to answer a question is a total turnoff, and most likely you are just boring the interviewer. Give thoughtful answers, but know when to stop talking.

  2. “Because it’s 20 minutes from my house” – When asked why you are interested in the position, the answer should be how the company, the work, the leadership, and the industry have your attention. Answering with something unrelated such as location, or even worse, why you are looking to leave your current employer, will fail to impress the interviewer.

  3. Mispronounced the name of the company, even after being corrected. – Not joking. Do your research and know everything about a company, especially their name. Read the proxy and know everything about the people, the business, financials, leadership, and competitors.

  4. Eyes looked at everything in the room, except the interviewer – A solid handshake, a genuine smile, and good eye contact are required. How can you be trusted if you don’t look someone in the eye?

  5. Focused on the next job, rather than the position at hand – If the current position isn’t big enough for you, you are not the right person for the job.

  6. Badmouthed current employer – This is interviewing 101, but happens too often. Pointing fingers at others is also a sign of low EQ.

  7. Used profanity – Profanity during an interview shocks the interviewer and is unacceptable.

  8. Wore athletic shoes to meet the GC and high heels for a refinery tour – Always dress to impress, unless someone tells you to be more casual. Also, know the environment that you will be interviewing in and make sure that your attire matches the culture.

  9. The three-Manhattan lunch – Ordering alcohol at lunch is risky enough, but having more than one leads to a conversation which can quickly degrade. Stick with water at lunch.  Final round interview dinners tend to be more social to get to know each another, but take the lead from others at the table.

  10. “Where will I sit?” – Focusing on your office accommodations or other company benefits during an interview shows a lack of priority.

  11. Shared details of a past boardroom presentation – Even if you don’t think something is confidential, many feel that sharing internal company information is taboo and are fearful that you might do the same to them.

  12. Made a pass at someone – Need I say more? How you treat everyone you encounter during your visit counts. Be friendly and respectful beginning at the front desk.
I hope that you found this list more amusing than the hiring managers on the other side of the table. The best advice that I can give is to go on every interview with the objective of receiving an offer. Make the decision whether you want the offer after it is in hand.

Topics: Compliance   |   Legal   |   Advising & Coaching


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