Don’t be the “open kimono” interviewee

Extreme honesty is a bad interviewing strategy.

To be clear, I never recommend lying in an interview. The risk of a lie backfiring is high and, of course, it’s just plain wrong. Yet, many very bad interviews come down to the use of extreme honesty, or what I call “open kimono” syndrome. Here is the Urban Dictionary’s definition of open kimono: “To reveal what is being planned or to share important information.”

Out of every 100 attorneys I send to meet with clients, 99 report back that the interview was a smashing success. Accordingly, I only learn how we really did when I debrief the decision-making interviewer. Most interviews go well, especially since we do our best to screen out bad fits ahead of time. Still, I hear some horror stories.

5. An attorney with impressive pedigree, but three law firm employers over a 10 year period (not at all uncommon), was asked why he wanted to go in-house. He said, “I want to give practicing law one more shot, and I think the change to an in-house environment would be exciting.” The second half of that sentence is fine. The first half is a death sentence.

For attorneys coming from law firms to in-house interviews, I feel compelled to offer this basic advice. Do not, under any circumstance, indicate that your interest level is based in any way on your desire to achieve more work/life balance. Nothing insults an in-house interviewer more than the inferred message that you work harder than he does. The correct answer to the “why move in-house” question is always something like, “I consider myself a team player, and I’m excited by the prospect of partnering with business colleagues to help them get deals done and proactively avoid problems. I think it will be a fun challenge for me.”


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Mike Evers

Mike Evers recruits attorneys for corporate legal departments throughout the United States. Please visit His...

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