Interviewing in Changed Circumstances

got fired before job interviewReader A has a question about truth in advertising… and how to tell a prospective employer that you’ve been laid off.

I’m a 2010 law grad with an interview at a biglaw firm in the next couple of days. For the last 6 months, I’ve been working at small law firm, and I was laid off last week. I applied to the biglaw job more than a month ago (before I was laid off, although I did know work was waning). My problem is I’m anticipating the question “Why are you looking to leave your current position” and although I have a great answer prepared about the challenges and opportunities this firm would provide me that my small firm didn’t (with more firm-specific details, of course, but I’m choosing to leave those out), I know I also have to mention I’m no longer at small firm. I’m worried because everyone I’ve talked to has told me that unemployment is the kiss of death in biglaw, and I’m afraid the biglaw firm will toss my application in the trash once they realize I was laid off. Do you or your readers have any suggestions on how I can best phrase this? For what its worth, the small firm job was contingent on workflow from the get-go and there was always an understanding between me and my boss that the position might be temporary. I think I’m a great fit for the biglaw position, and its exactly what I want to do, so I’m really hoping this interview goes well.

First, good luck on the interview!!  This can definitely be a touchy subject, but ultimately it sounds like you’ll be fine. (Pictured: dark-clouds-over-downtown manhattan, originally uploaded to Flickr by dandeluca.) Some notes:

a) Be honest. You never want to hide something on a job interview.  I’d even suggest that you watch your tenses — you don’t have to say “When I was there, I did X Y and Z” but you should make sure you talk about your work there in the past tense.

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Dealing with Anxiety (Post-Interview Or Otherwise)

interview-anxietyReader M had a question about post-interview anxiety, something I notice coming up in the comment threads a lot…

I had a second round interview this week, and I’m waiting to hear back. The job is working in-house for a big company. Their legal team is spread throughout their offices, so my first interview was with HR, then my second interview was with their VP Legal Counsel and another Senior Counsel attorney. I think it went well, but I’m so anxious. My first question is what to do with anxiety while waiting to hear back about a job? My second question is if anyone has stories from successful interviews that might shed light on whether or not it went well.

The wonderful thing about interviewing for jobs outside your own company is that they have no idea what a stressball you may be after the interview. (Of course, for jobs inside the company you have to keep your cool, which is even tougher — but hopefully less stress-inducing given that you can “read” the personalities better and they know you better.) There are two interesting questions here: what to do to ease anxiety, and how to know if an interview went well.  I’ll take the second one first.

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Urgent Reader Mail: What to wear to an interview/dinner?

Reader A writes in with an urgent request…

I sent in my cover letter + resume to a firm and was invited to a dinner with potentially 2+ members of the student hiring committee (I’m assuming other students were invited as well…) the restaurant is quite high end and I was wondering what recommendations you would have to wear. They didn’t mention a dress code. I’m thinking either: 1) A black dress + Black jacket OR 2) Black dress pants + dress shirt + black sweater over it.  What would be your choice?

Ultimately, this is an interview, and that means one thing to us:  full suit. Because it’s unclear, though, be prepared for the possibility that you will want to take off your jacket to be more casual.  So, for example, choose a suit where you like the pants by themselves, and choose a layer beneath the suit that has sleeves and looks professional.  A silk sweater would probably be our choice here, accessorized with pearls or other conservative (and good) jewelry.  (Pictured above:  August Silk Three-Quarter Sleeve Square Neck Sweater, available at Macy’s for $29.98 — we’d also recommend checking out your local Filene’s, TJ Maxx, or other discount store; for some reason they frequently have a wide variety of these silk sweaters.)

And yes, we did say pants — even though we’re normally huge fans of the skirt suit for interviews, because this is dinner, you want to avoid any appearance that you thought you were going on a date.  Go with a skirt if you want; we’d avoid a dress at all costs.

Readers, what say you? Also, do you have any other tips for the tricky dinner interview? We’ll point you to an older post we wrote about dining etiquette; we’d also advise drinking very little (one glass of wine at most) and ordering something easy to eat, like ravioli.