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  1. #1
    Beetlejuice!
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    Potential Employer not Keen on Bike Commuting - Anyone Else?

    So I try to keep my ranting to a minimum, but today I experienced something that is still kind of bothering me so I thought I'd share and get feedback from those who have experienced this as well.

    I went on a job interview today for a place that is known to, lets just say be very....hippie. At the end of the day it is a business, and I get that, but the overall vibe of the place and impression to the general public is that of woo woo quality. I think it might be a bit more woo than I can handle, but anyway. So I drove today because obviously you want to dress nice and not show up for an interview all sweaty and gross. My interview is with two people and the first comes out to greet me and give me the tour. As we are touring around he casually asks where I live and how long my commute took to get there today. I answer and think nothing else of it, seems like a reasonable question. We go to the second persons office to conduct the actual interview and somewhere along the way she too asks me about where I live and how long the commute took. I'm thinking to myself wow the previous employee must have had trouble getting here on time. Its at this point that I decide to play my hippie environmentalist card and mention that I do like to bike commute to the office when I can and when it isn't 120 degrees outside....thats when I get 'the look'.

    You know, the look.

    The look of, "I can't believe you ride your bike to work" look.
    The look of, "You must not have reliable transportation because you have to ride a bike" look.
    The look of, "You must be a poor bum one step away from living on the street" look.

    I live in Phoenix, where bike commuting is growing, but I think most people see people on bikes and think they are too poor to own a car, or unable to obtain proper ID (illegal). But honestly I was kind of surprised when it happened, I figured of all places this place would embrace someone like me. Anyway, we carry on with the interview and on my drive home I'm still left wondering what happened. The only thing I think of is that maybe this is a position where I could potentially be called in at the last moment to cover so riding a bike wouldn't be feasible. If thats the case, I'm probably not interested in working there anyway because I refuse to be married to my job.

    At this point I'm not worrying about it. I have to go through a second round of interviews (if I get that far) before I can even seriously consider working for this place. Maybe I read them wrong and they were just surprised in a positive way?

    Thanks for listening. Has anyone else experienced this? Or does anyone else currently work for an employer who is not hip to your chosen method of transportation?
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
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  2. #2
    weirdo
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    Weird. I would have thought your hippie green card to be a good play, too. Like you say, maybe it was more surprise? Unfortunately, I guess we`ll never know- whether you get further along the interview process, or even get hired there, or whether they never call back, there`s no way to be sure if the bike had anything to do with it. Anyway, I`ll hope for the "surprise" look, and good luck with the job hunting.
    Recalculating....

  3. #3
    Beetlejuice!
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    Meh, I'm not worried about them not hiring me because I ride a bike, but if thats their decision then perhaps its not a place I should be working anyway. The whole conversation just struck me as odd. Personally if I was an employer I might be more inclined to hire someone who commuted by bike than not, but thats just me.
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
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  4. #4
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    that's kinna weird, I'm with you and would have thought they would support bike commuting. I work for an energy company and they completely support us bike commuters (and people who work out at lunch), there's a secure area in the garage (which for cars is only available to mgmt above a certain level) to lock up our bikes, lockers, and showers

  5. #5
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    Actually, last week I was surprised to get an email from our Commissioner, who is enough levels above me that I rarely deal with him... it was sent after 10 p.m. no less. It said "Thank you for being a role model for all of us. Your dedication to using bicycle and mass transit is truly amazing. " This was after I sneaked my annual bike commuting mileage into the "weekly report" that goes up the chain.

  6. #6
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    Really? They'd think you're too poor to own a car? What a strange thing. O_O (In my usual experience, at least)

    I'm too poor for a car, but my parents have one. still, both of them use the bike as often as possible to commute to work. Some might think it's smelly, when you get in from really heavy biking (I don't think they have showers at work), but mostly it's just a way to get around cheaply and environment friendly.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solrider View Post
    As we are touring around he casually asks where I live and how long my commute took to get there today. I answer and think nothing else of it, seems like a reasonable question. We go to the second persons office to conduct the actual interview and somewhere along the way she too asks me about where I live and how long the commute took.
    You should know that an employer cannot legally ask you those questions in an interview, therefore they were unprofessional.

    If you felt like you were obviously judged in a negative manner by your response (especially by something you are proud of) then you probably don't want to work there. You made it clear that they did not provide a good "first impression".

    Good luck with your job search.

  8. #8
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    I like to answer questions with questions in job interviews. Throw the ball back in their court. How long is their commute? Did they buy some house where out in the desert and always struck in traffic?

  9. #9
    CB of the East
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    Weird, so what does this employer do?

    I'm a novelty at my work. I park my bike right in the front lobby being very careful not to scratch the cherry trim. People know I don't have to ride and that I'm just "crazy".

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by in2theforest View Post
    You should know that an employer cannot legally ask you those questions in an interview, therefore they were unprofessional.
    +1

    The only thing they could have asked you was, "do you have reliable transport?" That's it. A simple "yes" would be appropriate for you in that situation. They don't need to know what, from where, or how you get to work, just that you can get to work when you're supposed to be there.

  11. #11
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    It is possible that it is a carbon footprint thing. Hiring people with long commutes burns more oil, yadda, yadda

    My return question would be why they'd want to know, I mean if you are on time and regular as clockwork, that is all they need to know. Don't they have your address on the forms? How hard can it be to look up where you say you live and the distance to work?

    Now if they were considering a person who needs o be available quickly in an emergency, they should ask about such a scenario. My guess is they want to be green but a bike is a bit too weird. If so, and they think about it, they may call for another round.

    BrianMc

  12. #12
    DIY all the way
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    Quote Originally Posted by bedwards1000 View Post
    I'm a novelty at my work. I park my bike right in the front lobby being very careful not to scratch the cherry trim. People know I don't have to ride and that I'm just "crazy".
    Same story here.

    The responses I have gotten from showing up to a meeting on a bike, range from ave to to respect, but nothing negative.


    Magura

  13. #13
    Beetlejuice!
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    Thank you for the responses everyone. Luckily for me this is not a dire situation, I already have a job (three in fact), and this was just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up without finding out more information. I am in no way in a desperate situation where I might end up taking a job that wasn't right for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by bedwards1000 View Post
    Weird, so what does this employer do?

    I'm a novelty at my work. I park my bike right in the front lobby being very careful not to scratch the cherry trim. People know I don't have to ride and that I'm just "crazy".
    Without getting too specific this is a small private college that teaches holistic and alternative therapies. I'll be more than happy to name them after the process is over.

    Quote Originally Posted by FKMTB07 View Post
    +1

    The only thing they could have asked you was, "do you have reliable transport?" That's it. A simple "yes" would be appropriate for you in that situation. They don't need to know what, from where, or how you get to work, just that you can get to work when you're supposed to be there.
    Thanks for the info on that, I was not aware that it was actually illegal to ask. I was not offended in any way and had no problem answering the question. After sleeping on it I still really get the feeling that either the previous employee in this position had transportation issues, or this is a position in which I may be called in on days off for emergencies and they need to be sure I can get there quickly.

    You'd actually be surprised how many job postings in the Phoenix area request specifically that people have a car. Not just reliable transportation. I see it all the time. Perhaps because we are a giant sprawling city and it is not uncommon for people to have a 30-40 mile commute or more into their jobs, with no real reliable public transport option unless you happen to live near the very limited light rail system.
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
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  14. #14
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    My company is quite keen on bike commuting as 5 of the 25-30 salaried employees at my company are bike commuters but its just been because of word of mouth hiring of friends so our company supports the bike commuter culture.

    BUT, our property was just bought by a company that changed the rules and outlawed bikes in the building. Hasnt been a big deal except for two times when the property manager stopped one of us announcing how we should be glad that she's installing a bike rack OUTSIDE of the building and again to tell a coworker he cant bring his bike inside the building. Our CEO went to bat and shut her down, even threatened renewing our lease if that stipulation remained. We're all riding nice bikes and some of the commuters have been bike commuting for 5-6 years at this company.

    But yeah I get the looks from a lot of folks in the building since we're in the ritzy part of town (Buckhead area in Atlanta) and every other car in the deck is a Lexus, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Benz, etc. Getting off the elevator the other day, I heard a guy remark about how much it had to suck to only have a bike to ride around and a few of the other tools in there chuckled and I just didnt even care enough to point out that I've got the fastest car in the parking garage and choose to ride my bike to work most of the time.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTscoob View Post
    We're all riding nice bikes and some of the commuters have been bike commuting for 5-6 years at this company.....and every other car in the deck is a Lexus, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Benz, etc. Getting off the elevator the other day, I heard a guy remark about how much it had to suck to only have a bike to ride around and a few of the other tools in there chuckled and I just didnt even care enough to point out that I've got the fastest car in the parking garage and choose to ride my bike to work most of the time.
    I think "My other bike is a Carrera, Ferrari, BOSS 302, or Bugatti, whatever would have been a reasonable quip, under the circumstances.

    Turnabout is fair play.

    BrianMc

  16. #16
    Squeaky Wheel
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    Quote Originally Posted by in2theforest View Post
    You should know that an employer cannot legally ask you those questions in an interview, therefore they were unprofessional.
    Are you sure about this? I do a lot of hiring and as it has been explained to me the information requested through the interview process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job; whereas, information regarding race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are irrelevant in such determinations. The ability of one to actually get to work consistently on time is usually a very important component to a job, and as long as an employer can show a business need to ask a question then it's fine to ask that question. You cannot ask questions that show an intent to discriminate. You can ask questions that determine ability to perform the job.

    Back on topic, my company is very supportive of bicycle commuting. It's very helpful that the CEO is a fulltime bike commuter.

    To the OP, if you go further in the interview process and are still concerned about the bike commuting part, I would raise it at the next appropriate moment and make sure to emphasize that it won't impede your ability to arrive to work on time, yes you own a car and are willing to drive to work when needed, and then stress the other benefits of commuting (healthy employee leads to lower health care costs, etc.). Better to be proactive about it. Good luck!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodway View Post
    Are you sure about this?
    Woodway, Yes, I'm sure. I do a lot of hiring too. The question the employer asked Solrider, the original poster is "where I live and how long my commute took to get there today". That is none of their business to ask.
    An employer may ask "Are you able to arrive at work everyday at 8:00am?". They only need to know that a potential employee can arrive at work on time, punctually and consistently. They don't need to know where you live or how long it takes you to get from point A to B.

  18. #18
    namagomi
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    If "rides a bicycle" is going to be one of the negative points these morons write I can only imagine what the office environment will be like for you. If "needs a car" for this job is a requirement be aware you're about to get robbed of a significant amount of your paycheck to personally maintain/operate/insure a car on behalf of that company.

    Yes this happens elsewhere, i'm sure it is illegal, many employers just don't have a clue what is unlawful to discriminate against or simply don't care.

    If you show up to work on time ready to go it really isn't their business which way you got there.

  19. #19
    Squeaky Wheel
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    I think we are generally in agreement - it was just the part about the question being "illegal" I had an issue with. It's only illegal if there is an intent to discriminate. A poor question that should never have been asked? I agree with you 100%!

  20. #20
    Beetlejuice!
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    After much consideration, meditation and conference with my significant other I've decided that this is probably not the right time nor place for me to seek new employment. Even if I make it to round two I will decline to continue the process.

    I'm totally jealous of all you guys who have really supportive companies. Where I work now isn't what I'd consider non-supportive, but I do still get strange looks and I am one of a handful of other employees I know of that ride their bikes to work. We just hired a new employee and yesterday I was talking to my director about him and she mentioned that he didn't have a cell phone or a car and that 'he rides his bike to work".....like it was a bad thing. I just kind of looked at her and said well I think thats pretty cool! But thats the attitude I'm afraid in a majority of this city.
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
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  21. #21
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    that's an odd situation. a hippie employer not keen on bicycle commuters? strange.

    I'm even allowed to stash my bike in my office in the middle of a VERY non-hippie part of rural Texas.

    as for appropriate interview questions and appropriate answers to inappropriate questions, my wife appears to have very little filter on this sort of thing. she's looking for a new job now (a little sooner than we'd like, but it is what it is) and she got an e-mail response from one potential employer the other day who was concerned about her willingness to commit long-term to his business due to her prior ~3yr terms at previous jobs. a valid question, but she responded with FAR too much detail that the employer does not need to know to judge her willingness to commit.

    but she does have issues with directly answering questions in general. she eventually gets there, but when she is directly asked a question, she implies several other questions that she then needs to answer first.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by velocycling View Post
    I like to answer questions with questions in job interviews. Throw the ball back in their court. How long is their commute?
    That is confrontational and isn't going to score points. In an interview if you're a smartass you can kiss the job goodbye.

    A good reply would be something on the order of:

    "Am I correct that you place great importance on employees being punctual? Please be assured that I share your concern and am totally reliable when it comes to arriving on time."

    Heck they have your address on the application so let them figure it out.
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  23. #23
    weirdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    my wife appears to have very little filter on this sort of thing. she's looking for a new job now (a little sooner than we'd like, but it is what it is)....

    ....but she does have issues with directly answering questions in general. she eventually gets there, but when she is directly asked a question, she implies several other questions that she then needs to answer first.
    Hey, that`s MY wife!
    What the heck is she doing in Texas?
    Recalculating....

  24. #24
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    Too bad you didn't run across cyclists on your interview. I work at a large, bike friendly search engine company that also works hard to be green. They make a huge deal over Bike To Work day, as do other companies in Silicon Valley. To encourage people to be green there is a program where Self Powered Commuters earn $$ charity for each day you self power to work. The formula is they donate 30/N dollars for the Nth day in a given quarter you self power to work. So if you only bike to work one day each quarter, you earn $120 for a charity that you select. The max is $600 per year. There are bikes parked all over the place on campus and in buildings. It is really nice working for a company that empowers bike commuters.

    I don't know why they asked you about commute. Perhaps they were just trying to make small talk. You have to be careful what you ask people about during an interview. Trying to be personable without asking too many personal questions can be tricky. I stick to pets rather than kids :-)

  25. #25
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    Too many hippies who can't be bothered to learn to take care of their bikes maybe? I find it interesting just how ingrained into some regions' cultures cars can get. I grew up in San Francisco and have lived in Santa Cruz, New York City and now Seattle, and while I have a car at present, having a car has been fairly sporadic in my adult life. Way too much trouble and expense in NYC, for example.

    A friend of mine who's determined not to be stuffed into the mold of her Southern California upbringing, on the other hand, can't use alternatives to her car when they're right in front of her and convenient. Despite how awful it is to drive in this city.

    Personally, I'm happiest when my choice of transportation, whatever it happens to be on any given day, is no big deal. I like riding my bike to be convenient, not a statement or anything.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  26. #26
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    Having worked in downtown SF before I started riding to work myself, I had a very negative impression of bicyclists. Not enough time to cross the street because I had to wait for all the bikes to pass because and then finally getting knocked down definitely didn't help. Bicyclists in front of my office NEVER stop for pedestrian signal and others use the wheel chair ramp to get on the sidewalk to cross and then come back out the other side.

    Oh the fixie/BMX crowd doing tricks on the sidewalk and getting pissed off at pedestrians for getting in their way or laughing at those people who tripped over their obstacles to jump over didn't help either. It common for them to put things like 2x4s, trash cans, police barricades, rail spikes, and such on the sidewalk to jump over or do other tricks on.

  27. #27
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    When you bike commute, even by choice, a lot of employers seem to have this idea that the reason you do it is because you are unable to obtain or keep a DL. When in an interview or just talking with a potential interviewer I just avoid the topic because there is a stigma. Unless I know that there is a member of the management team or alike who bike commutes in, then I'll bring it up. I like to talk about cycling and other sports I do when I am in an interview or talking with employers because I find that it can be a good icebreaker with certain people, particularly yuppies. The reason I mention this is because I am finding that they like to keep active too.

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    The place I work at now is somewhat enjoyable, mostly cool people, four ten hour shifts per week, and I have input in how the machines I work on are setup.
    However, I do take crap for biking to work and not owning a car. I've never been late for work and haven't missed a day. My performance is always above average, and I don't stink as far as I know.
    My coordinator likes to nag at me for riding a bike in the winter, for riding at night etc. People have assumed that I lost my license, that I'm afraid of cars and many other things.
    Here's how I see it:
    I can take time out of my day for exercise when I get home, or I can do it on the way to and from work.
    I can get a second job, and lose part of that income on the car I'd need due to time restraints, or I can gain the same amount of extra cash by not driving.
    I can come to work ticked off ever day that I was cut off, or my engine broke, etc. Or I can enjoy my ride to work.
    If worse came to worse, I could always buy an emergency bike for >$50 at a local store(not ideal, but it'll get me there). If a tire blows on your car, can you replace it for $50(I really don't know, I have no need to check tire prices).

    So, I save time and money, I love my life, I'm somewhat healthy, and I'll be in shape most of my life.
    Who's really making the stupid decision here?

    I get called cheap a lot, so I just go with it now(-:
    Next spring a co-worker and I are setting crayfish traps in the river along the bike trail for the free, hopefully delicious food. And last week I really had my coordinator going when I told him I flush my toilets with dirty dish/bathwater to conserve(I don't), but I had him going on and on about it for an entire work day.

    When people at work treat you like crap, just have fun with it.

  29. #29
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    Good for you. Even on the just above freezing, monsoon rain days, I am happier when I ride to work. I can drive easy enough, but I choose not to.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by rufio View Post
    When you bike commute, even by choice, a lot of employers seem to have this idea that the reason you do it is because you are unable to obtain or keep a DL. When in an interview or just talking with a potential interviewer I just avoid the topic because there is a stigma. Unless I know that there is a member of the management team or alike who bike commutes in, then I'll bring it up. I like to talk about cycling and other sports I do when I am in an interview or talking with employers because I find that it can be a good icebreaker with certain people, particularly yuppies. The reason I mention this is because I am finding that they like to keep active too.
    I try and avoid the bike commuting subject as well. I CHOOSE not to have a DL and, actually, it's none of their business and has no detrimental effects on my ability to do whatever job I happen to be applying for. I have done contract work for computer installations for many years and let my resume' speak for itself.

    If some employer has the attitude that I cannot get to the job site or has a problem with me NOT having a DL then that's a company that I really don't want to work for anyway.
    Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.. Ferris Bueller

  31. #31
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    Their response is unfortunate. If you don't live far from work, commuting by bike makes so much sense that it's intellectually impossible to view it as a negative. It's one of the strangest stigmas out there. I generally avoid that question at all during interviews. If they ask me about transportation, I just tell them I have reliable transportation and always get to work on time. A photographer friend of mine used his car-free lifestyle as a unique selling position for his work. He was the "green" photographer, and it helped boost his sales.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodway View Post
    Are you sure about this? I do a lot of hiring and as it has been explained to me the information requested through the interview process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job; whereas, information regarding race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are irrelevant in such determinations. The ability of one to actually get to work consistently on time is usually a very important component to a job, and as long as an employer can show a business need to ask a question then it's fine to ask that question. You cannot ask questions that show an intent to discriminate. You can ask questions that determine ability to perform the job.
    By asking where someone lives, you might be trying to get at their race or sexuality. (oh, you live in the mexican part of town, or the gay part of town). It's like asking if someone has kids or is married. Just plain not relevant to the job requirements. I guess you could ask if they could get to work on time, since that would be relevant...

  33. #33
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    "did you hire me for how I get here, or for what I can do for you once I get here?"
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    I managed to simply smirk at the "They-can't-ask-that" post, but the "answer-a-question-with-a-question" reply actually got a laugh. There are very few things an employer cannot ask. And this question definitely falls within the permissible range. A potential employer wants to get to know you. If they are going to work with you, they want to actually like you. And they can ask all sorts of questions to determine whether they like you. If you choose not to answer them, fine. But you probably won't be getting the job if you won't answer questions in the interview.

    What questions can an employer not ask? They can't ask questions that would (or perhaps could) connect you to a group that has historically been discriminated against. "So where do you go to Church?" "Is your wife white, too?" Any question that would actually be illegal would be something that would make everyone spit out their coffee and stare.

    There are a whole host of questions that are very personal and are still very relevant to the job. "What kind of car do you drive?" It lets the interviewer know whether you have reliable transportation (though perhaps without truly scientific accuracy) and might even give some insight into your personality. (For some jobs, just owning a pick-up truck might be a bonus. For others, a four-door sedan to carry clients is better.)

    Employers want to know you as well as they can before hiring you. The rationale from their perspective is just as important as it should be from your perspective. They don't want to hire someone that they don't like. You don't want to work for people you don't like. My advice to anyone in this spot would be to be as honest and forthright as possible. There are some places that you just don't want to work.

    Years ago, I sat down with a guy for kind of a pre-interview. I said a lot of things that completely shot down any chance I had with his firm. I didn't realize at the time that I was doing that. And I really wanted a job. I would have taken that job. But eventually I would have been miserable there. It just wasn't the place for me. If you put all of your cards on the table, and they don't want you, then you probably don't want them either.

    I'm very happy to have an office where I can ride to work. There are very few places where it is culturally acceptable for an attorney to bicycle to work. That's because people often do make those asinine assumptions--he must be poor if he rides a bicycle. I know lawyers who drive flashy German sports cars simply to convey the message that they are successful. It's silly, but it's reality. And I know that there are potential clients out there who won't hire an attorney on a bicycle. They want to see their attorney step out of an $80,000 car, just to convince themselves that they have hired the best guy. If you want to fight the culture, you're just banging your head against the wall. Forget about converting the idiots. Just keep looking until you find a place where you will actually fit in and be happy.

    Good luck on finding the right place.

  35. #35
    weirdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConfederateLawyer View Post


    Years ago, I sat down with a guy for kind of a pre-interview. I said a lot of things that completely shot down any chance I had with his firm. I didn't realize at the time that I was doing that. And I really wanted a job. I would have taken that job. But eventually I would have been miserable there. It just wasn't the place for me. If you put all of your cards on the table, and they don't want you, then you probably don't want them either.
    I`m pretty sure that`s the same conclusion the OP came to, but worth restating anyway. I agree 100%.

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