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How to interview in a different city without risking your current job?
by Danice Kowalczyk
I am an associate with a top firm on the West Coast. I am interested in moving to a New York City firm; however, I don't know how to go about carrying out the interview process. I know I need to take a few days off, or call in sick, in order to fly across the country to interview. However, aren't I putting my current job at risk by taking time off?
In other words, how can I interview for a job when I'm worried about risking my current job? I'd like to just phone it in and schedule telephone conferences. Do firms do that? Otherwise, can I schedule all of my interviews on the same day or two and limit my time away from the office?
- Jenny, Los Angeles, CA.
I would be unbelievably wealthy if I had a nickel for every time a lateral candidate said to me, "I'd like to attend the interview, but taking time off risks my current position, so I really would rather do a phone interview or push the meeting off for a few weeks until we get more responses from other firms and then schedule all the interviews at once."
In theory, this is a great idea. You know it. We, as your recruiters, know it. In reality, however, lateral interviewing rarely plays out as neatly as the above comment would suggest.
Because BCG Attorney Search works with candidates across the nation and in the international markets, we are regularly faced with the "travel dilemma" and the catch-22 encountered by candidates interviewing in different states or countries. As such, it is our goal to get you as many interviews as we can, utilizing the least amount of back-and-forth travel time. Of course, this isn't always possible, but most of the time it is.
Having said that, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Phone conferences and/or video conferences are rarely the best uses of your time.
While a phone or video conference seems like a travel-saving idea, the truth of the matter is that such mediums rarely lend themselves well to effective interviewing. Problems such as static sound, delayed video streams, fuzzy pictures, sound gaps in transatlantic or transpacific phone lines, and other snags are regular occurrences. In fact, one candidate of mine spent an hour talking to a headless partner as the camera was facing the partner's torso and not his face. These are the tangible problems.
The intangible problem is that such mediums rarely allow for the "connection" which needs to occur during the interview process between interviewee and interviewer. If a firm has interviewed four people and three of those four were met in person with the fourth being a "video candidate," guess who usually gets the callback? Guess who usually gets the offer? The candidate who came to the interview in person. It's a sad fact but true. 95% of the time, it's true. I have seen this play out again and again.
2. Pushing off an interview until "more are lined up" may affect your chances of landing a job.
This is a smart move...when undertaken carefully. Nothing is wrong with pushing out an interview until more firms come to call. The risk here is that no one knows when all the firms are going to "come a-calling." Thus, pushing a meeting out further than two weeks can be dangerous.
Firms, especially Big Law, interview hundreds of candidates, and you must always keep in mind your competition. If a firm wants to see candidates for a given position during a particular week and you ask to schedule your interview two to three weeks later, they will likely comply. However, it is very likely that you won't actually have that interview because the spot will fill beforehand and/or they will already "commit to" or "click with" someone else beforehand...and sometimes cancel the meeting altogether.
Very recently, a candidate of mine was offered an interview with a top NYC firm. Although in town on business, he asked that I not schedule any meetings with the firm because he wasn't "ready" to interview yet; he wanted to "get in the mode" and "get a few more firms lined up" before he was ready. So he asked me to move the meeting to three weeks later. While this sounds reasonable and I did ask to reschedule (although I knew the risk and told him about it), the firm has yet to do so.
In effect, I don't know that we will ever get our chance with this firm again. He had his chance and lost it, and the firm has moved on. That was a tough lesson to learn about saturated and highly competitive markets such as New York City.
3. Hoping to schedule all of your interviews during the same week is another common goal of candidates.
Again, sometimes this is possible (and that is our goal as well). Other times it simply is not. Again, this is nothing against you, but firms have priorities—hiring priorities. They must deal with those priorities, varying partners'/associates' schedules, and outside influences such as OCI, which distract them from our hopeful focus on scheduling everything during the same week.
Firms aren't trying to play hardball when they say they can't do something. It's simply that they are very often juggling five people's schedules, one partner's hiring priority, and their own work duties in order to create time to interview you.
There is no way to get around the fact that if you want a new job in a new state or foreign city, you must commit to the interview process...even when it gets difficult. Travel can be exhausting and difficult. I have seen candidates work all night, get on a flight to the U.S. from Latin America, undertake a half-hour interview in New York, get back on their return flight, and go back to work. It is this type of diligence and commitment to your goals that will bring you success.
There is no other way around the "catch-22" of looking for a job while keeping your current job. At the end of the day, your goal should be about limiting your travel time, but it can be achieved by staying reasonable, staying flexible, and keeping in mind not only your priorities but also your competition in the marketplace (what other people who are going after the same job are doing) and the marketplace itself. Staying aware of all three factors that will influence your success rate is critical.
So, in answer to your question, yes, you can "phone it in"! But unless you are on a major deal or about to go to trial, I would not recommend it. Moreover, yes, you can line them all up at once during the same week! But let's do it carefully and be fully aware of the risks of pushing things out too far into the future.
As a rule, the job search for my candidates coming in from abroad or across the country is very smooth when they understand how all of the above factors come into play in their search. It's not always easy, but if everyone is realistic and reasonable and flexible, we can achieve your career goals in a smooth fashion—with limited time away from the office.
You need to be aware of the fact that the interview you have been granted is a great opportunity. A gift. Attend to that gift wisely. Your future should not be something you desire to "phone in." Instead, give yourself every possible shot at success when these interview opportunities land in your lap. In the competitive U.S. and foreign markets, such opportunities may not come around again.
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See the following articles for more information:
- 21 Major Interview Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
- The Best Way to Prepare for a Job Search and Interviews
- How to Talk About Other Interviews in Your Interviews
- How to Answer the Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question
- How to Answer the Do You Have Any Questions for Me Interview Question
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