Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oldest Son's interview brings back memories -- really, really bad ones

Oldest Son had a third interview with a big company last Friday. He'd survived two on-campus interviews; this was a 'meet the folks' interview at the Chicago headquarters.

I had to drive downtown last Friday; I agreed to drive him home when he was done. (He had to get ready to leave, you see, for the football game back at school on Saturday. Fall Break was ovah! [if that's the correct hip-hop spelling] Two of his buddies from the neighborhood were going to take him. One must keep one's priorities straight at all times.)

"It's nice to be the townie for a change," he told me as we walked from my office to the parking garage. He got to the interview on the Blue Line, but others were complaining about the out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall parking garage where they'd been obliged to park.

Oldest Son looked around the parking garage with increasing interest as we found my car. "I think this is the garage they were talking about," he said. A car with Iowa plates zipped by on the downward ramp just as we arrived. Oldest Son was convinced. "If I'd known this was where you parked," he said, "I might have been able to put this on my expense report."

Get that: An expense account for an interview.

This is a lot different from my experience. In my last year of law school I had a job, as a clerk, and we'd had discussions about my staying with the firm after graduation -- but no firm promises had been made. So I kept looking. My father was able to line up an interview for me with a new, ambitious, rapidly growing firm (he knew one of the senior real estate partners well). My father made it quite clear to me that he'd obtained an interview, not a job offer. I thought, going in, that my expectations were suitably low. I was mistaken.

The firm has since gone out of existence. But at the time, it was a supernova on the Chicago legal scene, a partnership of two power partners from two big firms, who'd brought along several of their minions apiece and had grown tremendously in the couple of years since their founding. They had ambitions of becoming a true silk-stocking firm and, at the moment, they had the client list to support to support those ambitions.

I showed up for my courtesy interview, on time and suitably accoutered. I was promptly ushered in to meet the trio that would conduct my interview. One was a middle-aged Italian-American partner from DePaul. He'd come over with one of the founders. The other two were more in keeping with the elitist ambitions of the firm: A female Jewish partner from New York and an African-American associate, newly arrived from Harvard.

New York greeted me with, "Oh crap!" (She may have used a stronger term, but this is a family blog.) "Just what we need, another Fish Eater."

"Fish Eater," I have since learned, is a pejorative term for Catholic. With more than a quarter century of experience, I now realize it was probably more of a friendly jibe at her partner, not a personal insult aimed at me.

At the time, however, I cringed noticeably. Even if I didn't know what "Fish Eater" meant, it didn't sound very promising to me.

Nevertheless, I managed to keep up with my new companions on the short trip to the Italian Village. The Italian Village was -- and still is -- a landmark restaurant on West Monroe Street in the Chicago Loop. It's now three restaurants, commonly owned, in one building. It has always been a fancy restaurant, with (for a Philistine like me) indecipherable menu items and stellar service.

The server took the drink order. Harvard ordered a glass of white wine. New York ordered a Perrier with a twist. DePaul ordered an ice tea.

Now it was my turn. I ordered a Coke. New York thought this was hilarious: "Just once," she laughed, "I'd like to see a candidate with the guts to order a martini at one of these things."

She may have actually used an even more intimate body-part reference. Either way, guts or the other, all of mine shriveled... and the interview went downhill from there.

I told this story Friday to Oldest Son on our way home. He'll not be asking me for advice on any future interviews any time soon. Still, he put a consoling spin on things. "You did get a nice lunch out of the deal, Dad."


Mother Jones RN said...

Welcome back, I missed you.

I hope oldest son lands the job. If he doesn't, will you be writing posts about Oldest Son moving back in permanently with Dad and LLS?

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Hope Oldest Son gets that position.

off line said...

Best of luck to Oldest son, but something tells me that luck will have little to do with it. Oldest Son has optimism on his side.
I enjoyed your story, thanks for sharing it.

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Where fibers meet mud said...

Having these adult children is a challenge all by itself - makes on cringe and burst with pride all within the same minute. Hope Son#1 finds the job that suits his personality and talents!

sari said...

I hope your son finds something he likes and thanks for using one of my favorite words - minions.

Minions - it just cracks me up to say it.

Anonymous said...

I love this story!

Interviews are hard. That's why I've worked at the same place for nearly 8 years. :-)

cmhl said...

fish-eaters!! I haven't heard that one in a while..