As you probably know from my previous post – I have a summer associateship at a law firm this summer. I would like to share some of my musings about the whole interview process. Disregard as you may, but I think it was an interesting experience.
Frankly, I was a bit nervous entering the search for a private-sector job. I worked at non-profits and government jobs throughout my life, so I approached the big bad wolf of private enterprise very cautiously. I had a preconceived notion that businesses were all about the bottom line, and being a Deaf woman, I thought I would not fit into the bottom line. However, I found out that it wasn’t that bad.
At my school, we have something called On-Campus Recruitment – literally hundreds of employers, mostly large law firms, come and interview with up to 50 students. This resulted in about 30 interviews for me (I wanted to play it safe – especially because I had no idea how employers would react to my Deafness and, of course, the economy, although the economy was not as bad back then as it is today). It was an exhausting affair – but not as bad as I expected.
Ultimately, I ended up with nine callbacks, which is when the employer invites you back to their offices for more interviews. This was actually more than most of my fellow students. I have a theory about why I was relatively successful in the private sector interviews over some of my other peers, despite some alleged disadvantages.
- Preparation – despite the fact I can speak fairly well, I am not so great at spontaneous speaking. I need to think things through, figure out pronunciation and how I approach the topic before I speak. As I mentioned before, speaking is more of a cognitive task for me – it’s work for me. But my preparation (figuring out exactly how to explain my interest in the law firm, why I went to law school, etc.) resulted in me being better spoken than some of my peers who may have relied on their spontaneous speaking ability too much.
- Directness – I did not hide the fact that I was Deaf. Quite the opposite – I even brought a sign language interpreter to my interviews. I was open about the fact that I was looking for a firm that would support my needs. In my mind, if I was an employer, I would much rather know up-front about what an employee needs in order to function properly.
- Confidence – This point is related to my previous point – since I did not feel like I was “faking” by either (1) not bringing a sign language interpreter with me to make sure I understood everything that is said; or (2) hiding my Deafness, I felt more confident walking into the interviews. A lot of people, regardless of deafness, try to hide their true self during interviews and it usually doesn’t work. I think that principle rings especially true for d/Deaf persons – both sides are cheated if the d/Deaf person fakes it, the employee and the employer. The employer doesn’t know how to deal with the d/Deaf employee because the said employee did not fully disclose everything. The Employee is stuck with mediocre (if any) accommodations and potentially unwelcoming atmosphere.
One other point – I was surprised how more willing larger law firms were in hiring me. I interviewed with some mid-sized firms and even though my qualifications were great for them and the interview went well, there were no callbacks. I compared notes with other d/Deaf law students and they also experienced this phenomenon. Of course, this is completely anecdotal, but humor me here. My theory about this trend is that large law firms have plenty of resources, so they are not as fazed about the idea of paying for accommodations. Mid-sized employers, however, are a different story. They seemed more concerned about the bottom line (despite the fact that they do well for themselves).
This is not to imply that I did not make mistakes during my interviews. To be honest, I was a nervous wreck during my first few interviews – stuttering, sweating and the whole works – a miserable failure. However, with 30 interviews, I was able to work out the kinks. By the end of the on-campus interviewing cycle, I was a pro. In fact, the firm that I will work for this summer was my final interview.