Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

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Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 28, 2012 11:55 am

I posted this in another thread but it was never answered.

My younger sibling (in his 20s) passed away suddenly in the first month of 1L. I don't need to talk about it to "explain" grades because I did well (about top 15% and LR), but it was still a huge challenge throughout my first year.

Is this the type of thing to stay away from at the risk of (a) making the interviewer feel uncomfortable or (b) coming off as "using" the experience to sell myself? I think it says a lot about how I'm able to work through tough circumstances, but I'm having trouble articulating that without sounding like a heartless human being.

Any input?

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thesealocust
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jul 28, 2012 11:59 am

This might be a good question to run by your CSO since it's so personal/unique/severe. If I were you I'd shy away from it because it's hard to predict how the interviewer would respond. Certainly keeping your grades up reflects well on you, but I feel like it might make at least some interviewers awkward or even emotional depending on their background.

Ideally you want the interview to be light, cordial, and positive - so that the person can imagine working/chatting with you comfortably. I'm not saying bringing it up would invariably hurt that, but it seems high risk.

At the very least, don't bring it up unless it's responding to a very direct question about 1L difficulties.

anonmyuos
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby anonmyuos » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:02 pm

Don't bring it up unless someone asks a question that you feel requires you to bring up (e.g. "What was the most difficult thing during 1L year?" "Tell me about a time you had to overcome obstacles to succeed.") I know it seems like a big deal that you did well even with a massively traumatic experience in the background (and it is a good thing you can do that), you're stressing too much over a little detail. If you try to bring it up, it will be awkward and it will look like you are either trying too hard, are insensitive, or are flat out socially awkward. An interview is a time to let the conversation flow naturally -- it might be different if you had bad grades because then it's a relevant fact, but as it is, it doesn't need to be brought up because it doesn't heavily impact any hiring decision.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:12 pm

OP. Thanks for this input. I'm definitely overthinking it- 99% of the time there's no reason to even talk about it, but I'm paranoid that someone will ask a direct question and I won't know how to respond.

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sunynp
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby sunynp » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:15 pm

anonmyuos wrote:Don't bring it up unless someone asks a question that you feel requires you to bring up (e.g. "What was the most difficult thing during 1L year?" "Tell me about a time you had to overcome obstacles to succeed.") I know it seems like a big deal that you did well even with a massively traumatic experience in the background (and it is a good thing you can do that), you're stressing too much over a little detail. If you try to bring it up, it will be awkward and it will look like you are either trying too hard, are insensitive, or are flat out socially awkward. An interview is a time to let the conversation flow naturally -- it might be different if you had bad grades because then it's a relevant fact, but as it is, it doesn't need to be brought up because it doesn't heavily impact any hiring decision.


The interviewer is going to feel like shit if they ask you "tell me about overcoming an obstacle" and your response is "well my brother died less than a year ago." I wouldn't mention it. It won't help sell yourself to the firm. In an interview, only give responses that will make someone want to hire you. Telling them how your brother died is going to make them very uncomfortable. If you have to, mention something about a family emergency early in 1L but how you overcame that and used it to motivate you to succeed. Though, you could probably make up an obstacle if you don't have another one.

edit to add: I'm sorry that happened to you OP. I hope my answer didn't sound too callous.
Last edited by sunynp on Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

anonmyuos
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby anonmyuos » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:22 pm

Yeah it's definitely something that might be awkward if you're asked about it in terms of the indirect question ("Tell me about an obstacle") and you want to mention it because it's the truth. You might consider saying something like "Well, during 1L year I had a very close family member pass away unexpectedly and I had a difficult time dealing with school and family." Just enough detail to give them a sense of what you went through, but not enough detail that they feel the need to ask more information. And if they're normal, which most OCI interviewers are (though not all), they'll say something like "Oh I'm really sorry to hear that. That must've been tough." at which point you respond "Yeah, it was but it brought my family closer and really gave me perspective on life. And now, [insert pivot line here]" .... Then you pivot away from the topic and the interview moves on. It's definitely something you can handle bringing up if it's done right.

Most people won't know exactly how to respond, but they'll extend sympathies and then it's up to you to change the subject because you brought it up. So just do that. It's always best to be honest in interviews. Don't hide anything or lie, and don't shy away from topics. It's a fact that happened, so you mention it and move on. They'll get that you don't want to talk about the details with someone you just met 10 minutes ago.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby RPK34 » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:48 pm

I would NOT say this. Many interviewers will go into awkward mode after hearing that. There's no good way for an interviewer to deal with that. What can you say? "sorry to hear that your brother passed away recently. So what was your favorite 1L course?"

Not too mention the interviewer is going to feel awkward being outgoing or joking with you after that.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:59 pm

OP again. I think the best way to deal with it might be to ONLY talk about it in response to "What was the most challenging part of 1L?" and even then, frame it as "I had to miss classes during my first semester because of a family emergency and then had to be really disciplined in catching up on reading and studying for finals" or something along those lines. I think you all are right in avoiding the blunt "My brother died".

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:27 pm

As others opined, I don't think this is appropriate to bring up in an interview at all. That is something highly personal, and if someone I was interviewing brought it up, I don't know, it would make me uncomfortable. Think about it like this - an interview is a trial run for how you'll play to clients. Would you tell a client something like this the first time you met them? No. Sorry about the loss, but focus on the positive during your job interview - you want the interviewer to be thinking happy thoughts only when you leave, because just after you leave is when they fill out their little evaluation sheet. Mentioning this amounts to over-sharing. And because you don't need to explain a drop in grades or anything, I'd be wondering why you brought it up at all.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:52 am

I finished my 1L year at the top of my class notwithstanding the fact that I missed an entire month of spring semester due to surgery and cancer treatment. I did not bring this up at OCI in the fall. It would have left an odd silence in the room had I mentioned it even in response to questions like "tell me the greatest challenge you overcame."

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:31 am

I had mono second semester of 1L. My grades held steady and I made LR. I feel like this is nothing like cancer or someone's brother dying in terms of awkwardness. Is it safe as an answer to "what is a great challenge you have overcome?" Of course I wouldn't mention it unless asked a question like that.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Munson » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:40 pm

To OP--

I think you are getting bad advice in this thread. Your ordeal is more difficult than many of the previous commenters can possibly imagine, with the exception of the person who had cancer. You should not use your grief to promote yourself without being prompted, but you should bring it up if a question concerning your greatest challenge arises. That is a monumental challenge to overcome, and it says a tremendous amount about your work ethic and ability that you were able to do so. Your interviewers are mature adults and probably quite intelligent. They can handle it. Any other answer from you is likely to appear contrived and wont be nearly as powerful.

As more general advice to all of you, I'd say, be genuine. Don't pre-rehearse answers and don't bullshit. Get good grades, participate in extracurriculars that interest you, prepare for interviews by researching the firms and its lawyers, and apply to cities that you have an articulable reason for wanting to live in. The rest will take care of itself.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby 09042014 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:59 pm

Are you idiots fucking kidding me?


Bringing up something so shockingly personal in an interview is horribly unprofessional. Interviews aren't some sad sack contest like admissions personal statements, they are professional business interviews. You are going to make a significant percentage of people very uncomfortable. And you will seem overly emotional and lacking in judgement to others.

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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Munson » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:12 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Are you idiots fucking kidding me?


Bringing up something so shockingly personal in an interview is horribly unprofessional. Interviews aren't some sad sack contest like admissions personal statements, they are professional business interviews. You are going to make a significant percentage of people very uncomfortable. And you will seem overly emotional and lacking in judgement to others.


Only because you resorted to name calling, I must point out that posting on an Internet message board over 15000 times is "horribly unprofessional". Not sure you have any idea what you're talking about. As the saying goes, they that talk most have the least to say.

09042014
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby 09042014 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:22 pm

Munson wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:Are you idiots fucking kidding me?


Bringing up something so shockingly personal in an interview is horribly unprofessional. Interviews aren't some sad sack contest like admissions personal statements, they are professional business interviews. You are going to make a significant percentage of people very uncomfortable. And you will seem overly emotional and lacking in judgement to others.


Only because you resorted to name calling, I must point out that posting on an Internet message board over 15000 times is "horribly unprofessional". Not sure you have any idea what you're talking about. As the saying goes, they that talk most have the least to say.


Protip: I'm not dumb enough to talk about posting 15,000 times on TLS (it's really more like 25,000 since many lounge threads were deleted).

Fucking isn't professional, but that doesn't mean fucking at home makes you unprofessional. It does mean fucking at work is.

Suck a dick.

Munson
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby Munson » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:47 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
Protip: I'm not dumb enough to talk about posting 15,000 times on TLS (it's really more like 25,000 since many lounge threads were deleted).

Fucking isn't professional, but that doesn't mean fucking at home makes you unprofessional.

It does mean fucking at work is.

Suck a dick.


Your message speaks for itself as to your credibility, but for OP's benefit I'll respond.

Mentioning the loss of one's brother in response to a direct question regarding one's greatest challenge is not unprofessional, especially when this loss occurred during law school. Talking about that in response to that question is answering truthfully, and it shows OP's personal side while also showing that OP can overcome substantial adversity to succeed. A hackneyed, boring, false answer gets OP nowhere. Would you have OP use a template for this highly personal question?

Clearly, OP should not and assuredly does not expect to get a job because her brother died, and certainly begging for a sympathy offer won't work. But if the question is asked, OP has a powerful, truthful answer that says a lot about her character and ability to overcome challenges. If she can speak about it matter-of-factly without becoming overly emotional, the truth is the way to go.

anonmyuos
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Re: Talking about 1L obstacles in interviews

Postby anonmyuos » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:56 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Are you idiots fucking kidding me?


Bringing up something so shockingly personal in an interview is horribly unprofessional. Interviews aren't some sad sack contest like admissions personal statements, they are professional business interviews. You are going to make a significant percentage of people very uncomfortable. And you will seem overly emotional and lacking in judgement to others.


You're wrong. This might be right for you - but you're wrong to make such a broad statement. You can bring things up like this if you're genuine, if you're honest, and if you do it the right way. If you do it to promote yourself or say "Woe is me" or if you bring it up in a very blunt way, then yes - that'll be awkward and unprofessional. But if you do it right, it'll be fine.

Somehow you seem to think being "professional" means taking all humanity out of the conversation. That's not true and is probably exactly opposite of what you really want. The point of conversations (and interviews) is to make a connection and communicate who you are and what you're about to someone else. If you were sitting on the other side of the table and asked someone about their greatest challenge, and they gave you an honest answer about how they had a difficult situation during 1L and had to make it through it (and did) most people would imagine themselves in that situation, and be like "OK, I can see that sucking and it probably did suck but good for him for handling it as best he could." This is how you establish a real connection.

That's not to say the situation isn't delicate. It is and it should be handled with some care. But that doesn't mean you can't do this right. So OP needs to know himself and know whether he can respond with honesty, truthfulness, and some degree of deference to the awkward subject matter. If he can (and I think he can, particularly based on his responses to this thread), then it will come off well. And if not - then sure, you can avoid the question and respond with another challenge. But because it's not as honest, it won't be as powerful.




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