When you go to an interview, your focus will naturally be on the recruiting person who will be shepherding you that day and, of course, the attorneys who will be interviewing you. Interview days are nerve wrecking for everyone, even for people who are normally as cool as a cucumber (you know who you are). In that environment, it is easy to ignore or, worse, slight or mistreat a secretary, oops, excuse me, I mean an administrative assistant that you interact with that day (hereinafter collectively with the recruiting department person and receptionist, the “little people”.)
Maybe you curtly ask for bottled water or coffee without being prompted, or don’t say thank you (with a smile) when s/he gets it for you. Perhaps s/he politely smiles at you as you enter the office, and you inadvertently give her a nasty look because you are nervous or simply because you are afflicted with the RBF Syndrome (more commonly known under its scientific name, the Resting Bit*h Face Syndrome, regardless of your gender).
Or it could be the firm’s receptionist. While you are waiting to be met by the recruiting department person in the reception area, maybe you blurt out to another person, within a hearing distance of the receptionist, something unflattering about the firm, its lawyers (especially female attorneys’ looks, attire, age, etc.), its location or facilities, and so on. Likewise, you may inadvertently diss the recruiting person.
They may seem like inconsequential “little people” in your ever so important job search, but you have to realize that many of these staff people, such as a receptionist, secretary and recruiting staff, have the respect and trust of the attorneys that they have developed over a long term (many times, decades). While the “little people” do not write an evaluation form or anything formal, if they make unfavorable comments about you to the attorneys (which seldom happens, by the way), you can bet your butt that your chances of receiving an offer shall be compromised significantly.
Remember, young attorneys have to be trusted to deal without much supervision with many important clients (and their own “little people”!), and work well with other lawyers in the firm as well as opposing counsel and lay people. The thing that experienced attorneys can’t stand the most is an annoying, self-entitled little young associate. As such, they would not react kindly to anyone purportedly slighting “their” people. This we can guarantee.
Now, just to be clear, the opposite is not usually true. Kissing up to the “little people” is not likely to help your chances of getting an offer. You know, maybe because everyone is expected to be nice at times. In this context, your actions can only hurt, not help, your chances. Sorry. Oh, and don’t ever flirt.
Your takeaway: If you don’t treat a trusted and beloved staff person with respect even when you should be on your absolute best behavior is a red flag that the interviewers would not simply ignore. Ditto for saying inappropriate things in the earshot of staff . . . Firms may make a point to hire diverse groups of people, but arrogant, self-aggrandizing people are not one of them (well, at least not intentionally). Not to mention the fact that you, clearly, have horrendous judgment. They can’t trust you enough to put you in front of a client. Be nice to everyone. Please, listen to your mother.