Paralegals: What Not to Do In A Job Interview

Oh yes, there are so many things that can go wrong in a job interview...

When I graduated from college, I felt that I could ace a job interview in any company, USA. I was witty, charming, and I fell in love every time I looked in the mirror, or any reflective surface for that matter. In addition, my modesty and humility put me in a class above the rest and I made sure that these attributes shined through at all times. Reasoning that my interview skills - though never used, surely refined - would appeal to any CEO, I guaranteed myself that in order to land a job all I needed to do was land an interview.

As a major player on the "interview circuit" in 2009, I sent out a resume or forty to nearly every company listed in the Business page that was a law firm: jobs for which I was qualified, jobs for which I wasn't qualified, jobs I wanted, jobs I didn't want. I figured the more jobs I applied for the more jobs I would naturally be offered. Consequently, with each job offer I would become the subject of a massive bidding war among companies and corporations. It would only be a matter of time beforegreat benefits, high salaries, and perhaps a rose petal or two were placed on the ground before me.

After my resumes were shipped in bulk mail and email, I received a call from a law firm located in a city adjacent to mine. The person calling explained to me that he was going to conduct a brief phone interview and, if it went successfully, he would bring me in for a face-to-face meeting. Happily, I obliged and answered the questions in a friendly, prompt manner.

During the phone interview, I maintained my professional composure by answering my call waiting only once, and politely instructing my sister to "shut up" as she shouted in the background. Additionally, I resisted the strong urge to show the phone interviewer my musical talent by playing a stirring rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" by repeatedly pressing the numbers 3, 2, and 1. I, after all, didn't want to come across as intimidating.

With the phone interview concluded, I was told that I "may as well" come in for an interview the following day. I was also told that "very few people" had actually interviewed. Hearing the word "few" led me to believe that this company was highly selective and I was talented enough to be one of the chosen few.

The next day, confidently representing my fellow paralegals, I set out at noon with plenty of time to get to my interview in a punctual manner. However, being directionally challenged from youth, I soon found myself completely lost and turned around with seven minutes to spare. As the surrounding buildings merged into identical structures, I pulled over, called the company's receptionist, and, in a tone that subtly reprimanded the company for being so hard to find, asked for directions.

Fifteen minutes late, but well worth the wait, I stepped into the marketing firm and immediately met the man who would be interviewing me. His hand extended, I shook it in a gentle manner while making as little contact as possible. Being that I could almost bench press fifteen pounds, I didn't want to crush his metacarpals with too strong of a handshake. .

As we sat down, I apologized for my tardiness, justifying it by pointing out that the bright daylight sun prohibited me from seeing the Northern Star and using it as a guide. Thus, it wasn't really my fault at all: it was the fault of the cosmos.

He took his seat across the desk from me and I quickly decided to employ the "hard to get" attitude. Humans, by nature, always want what they can't have. As he spoke, I was careful to listen but not to act overly interested. I didn't want to come across as desperate. He rambled on about this and that while I, reeking of poise and know how, slouched casually in the office chair, looked around this office, chuckled at an ugly painting, and adjusted the family photo that sat next to his computer.

After planting the "I'm hard to get" seed, I decided to reveal my fluency for body language. Removing my feet from his desk, I sat on the edge of my seat in an attempt to show interest. But, I suddenly leaned too far forward and ended up having to place my hands in front of me to regain my balance, knocking over his family photo in the process. I apologized and took the opportunity to demonstrate my ability to be helpful by suggesting that he might want to place the photograph somewhere it wouldn't be "so much in the way."

Once I offered him that pointer, I thought it would be best to initiate "Operation: Eye Contact." In order to let my interview know he had my undivided attention, I continually nodded and - thinking it would be best if I didn't divert my gaze from his - I tried not to blink. My eyes, having been as wide as possible for almost a minute, began to well up with tears until my interviewer turned into little more than a blurry blob. I knew I couldn't blink now: I was too good at eye contact and blinking would make my mascara run something fierce. After several moments of our pseudo staring contest, he excused himself to make sure he didn't have anything stuck in his teeth and I silently congratulated myself for showing him that I knew more about proper body language than the most accomplished mime.

Upon his return, my interviewer began to ask me questions related to my job experience. I pondered each question carefully, chewing the remaining mint juice from my spearmint gum, placing my right fist under my chin and tilting my head in a manner that suggested I was either deep in thought or I had gas. My hope was that my interviewer would see me as a thorough and calculated thinker, one who chose her words as carefully as she chewed her Wrigley's.

He then asked me what I thought to be my greatest attribute. I told him it was leadership because I really like for people to do what I say. He started to ask me another question when I heard my cell phone ringing in my coat pocket. In order to show my devotion to the interviewer, I quickly answered the phone and almost immediately asked the person on the other line if they could call back at another time.

I was then asked if I had ever been fired from a job and, knowing that I had, I tried to distract him by not actually answering the question. I tried the "enough about me, let's talk about you" approach but that got me nowhere. Ultimately, after failed diversions, I told him that I had been fired from a job after getting in a fight with my superior who was "clearly wrong" and "clearly a jerk."

He proceeded by asking, "So what was written in our job description that made you want to apply?" For the life of me, I couldn't remember a single word that was in the job description and so I sheepishly asked if he could read it to me. He happily obliged and read a description of a job for which I had no qualifications. Mistakenly thinking out loud instead of to myself, I said, with a charming chuckle, "Why did I apply for that?"

As the interview came to an end, he asked me if I had any questions and I inquired about money, benefits, vacation time, and whether or not his company ever pressed charges. At this, the interview concluded and he walked me to the door.

On the way out, I rewarded myself for a job well done by taking a heaping handful of peanut butter candy from the jar that sat atop the receptionist's desk. In another attempt to be helpful, I told the receptionist that it wasn't very prudent to have peanut butter candy for the taking since a lot of innocent people were highly allergic to peanut oil.

When my interviewer walked me to the lobby, he seemed flustered and rushed. Even though he said his goodbyes and quickly walked away, I could tell deep down that he really liked me. He was probably just in a hurry to cancel any remaining interviews. Obviously, he'd found the perfect candidate.

Nearly six years later, of course he still hasn't called with a job offer. Now that I'm a more seasoned paralegal, I feel I know all the right moves in an interview.  I certainly have learned a lot about what NOT to do!

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