Can I Work Remotely?

What not to do on interviews: Episode 001.

Can I work remotely? 

No, you can’t. If you could do the job remotely, we would’ve told you that and skipped the detailed discussion about relocation.

This is not a question to ask the HR person on the initial phone screen – or to ask later in process, either! When we discuss relocation, we go into great detail including all the potential family and financial impacts, and for good reason!

Everyone is familiar with the Rule of Unintended Consequences and attorneys are always being judged on their judgment. The consequences of asking a company to restructure their job just for you can be more than you’d think.

Here is what can happen…  *Details have been intentionally changed in order to protect client and candidate confidentiality.

A North East based wholesale trading group was searching for an attorney to support their crude oil and refined products business. We cold called a candidate with the perfect background who had not been looking. A directly recruited candidate we’ll call Mary. During our call with the candidate we discussed everything.

We went through her background with a fine-toothed comb, discussed all the agreements she’d drafted and negotiated, drilled into what this opportunity had to offer for her, and confirmed that money would work.

And, finally, relocation. This position required relocation to the North East. She confirmed her interest. We talked about what it would take to sell her house, Mary shared what her husband does and that it would be relatively easy for him to find a new role, her kids were under the age of 10 and it wouldn’t be difficult to move them. And, to top it all off, her husband is from the North East. Her in-laws would be only about 1 hour away. Perfect!


We wrote up and sent a recommendation to our client. Mary was scheduled for a phone interview with Sam in HR. The phone interview with HR in this case is redundant and would only cover things we’ve already discussed, but it’s the client’s process. This is a client we work with regularly and know very well. We’ve never had a candidate receive a phone interview with HR and not move on to the next step.

This candidate proved to be the first!

Mary got on the call, was very pleasant, Sam liked her… and then Mary asked him if the role could be done remotely!

Ordinarily, this would blow back on us for not making relocation clear to the candidate. Luckily, we have a very good relationship with Sam. He immediately knew that it wasn’t our lack of vetting – the candidate didn’t listen to us. Does Mary have a problem hearing what others say?  How will she listen to clients?

Despite our entire conversation about how relocation would be required and supported, Mary thought she’d go to the source and ask HR if it could be done remotely!

This makes everyone look bad: the candidate and us.  


During candidate debrief, Mary said it went well! She didn’t mention that she’d asked about an option to work remotely. Probably because since Sam just said “no” and didn’t make a point about it, Mary didn’t even realize that it was an issue.

Sam told us the story and let us know that he thought it was extremely unprofessional for an attorney to tell us one thing and to tell HR another. Did the candidate think we wouldn’t notice or find out? Does the candidate think we don’t talk to one another? Sam said it will go into Mary’s candidate file and the “did not move forward” reason will be lack of integrity. This is permanent!

Mary was dumfounded that to find out that HR told us what happened and didn’t have an answer for what she was thinking.

Remember – this industry is small. A mistake like this can permanently damage your chance of ever working for a company.

And, really, if you could work remotely – we would’ve told you!

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