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Improving Your Application for Articling

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On 8/2/2018 at 2:06 PM, QueensGrad said:

.... What follows is my advice to students on what to and not to do in the course of securing an articling spot....

 

I think the OP's post contains so many tidbits of good advice and insight, that it would be a pity to have it "age out" so quickly.

While I don't necessarily agree with some of the (implicitly subjective) points, having reviewed applications myself I would say that the "opus" overall is definitely eye-opening for anyone who is considering how their application could be looked at/perceived by smaller legal employers (and not only).

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On 8/11/2018 at 12:41 PM, cluj said:

I think the OP's post contains so many tidbits of good advice and insight, that it would be a pity to have it "age out" so quickly.

While I don't necessarily agree with some of the (implicitly subjective) points, having reviewed applications myself I would say that the "opus" overall is definitely eye-opening for anyone who is considering how their application could be looked at/perceived by smaller legal employers (and not only).

Thanks :)

 

Hopefully it will be of use to people during the next set of articling rounds. I know it wasn't well timed, but I'd just finished up dealing with applications to my firm so it was on my mind.

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Hey a lot of this is very good advice but some of it is very subjective and goes against what I experienced on the official articling recruit.

Three things that stuck out to me were:

1) Mentioning your dislike of the interests section. Many LCOs are recommending putting things here that make you unique (but not too unique) and it gives the firm something to discuss to determine fit. You might not like it, but I noticed that in my big law firm interviews, I was often paired up with a lawyer with similar interests. I used my interest section to promote some non-law or employment related achievements that didn’t fit elsewhere on my resume.

2) Bringing in application materials. I was told by my LCO not to do this as firms will always have it. This may be a large/medium firm thing though.

3) Addressing bad grades. I have a bad semester on my transcript. Typically I’m a b+ student in law school but I was a c+ student one semester due to a health issue. I was told never to bring it up or draw attention to it unless the interviewer asked. 

I think what you posted is very valuable. Especially for a small firm or sole practitioner. 

I am happy to say I was successful in the articling recruit (despite lower than average grades). I think my interest section was really important to be honest. 

Weirdly, only 1 firm asked about my bad grades. 

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10 minutes ago, bananasamana said:

Hey a lot of this is very good advice but some of it is very subjective and goes against what I experienced on the official articling recruit.

Three things that stuck out to me were:

1) Mentioning your dislike of the interests section. Many LCOs are recommending putting things here that make you unique (but not too unique) and it gives the firm something to discuss to determine fit. You might not like it, but I noticed that in my big law firm interviews, I was often paired up with a lawyer with similar interests. I used my interest section to promote some non-law or employment related achievements that didn’t fit elsewhere on my resume.

2) Bringing in application materials. I was told by my LCO not to do this as firms will always have it. This may be a large/medium firm thing though.

3) Addressing bad grades. I have a bad semester on my transcript. Typically I’m a b+ student in law school but I was a c+ student one semester due to a health issue. I was told never to bring it up or draw attention to it unless the interviewer asked. 

I think what you posted is very valuable. Especially for a small firm or sole practitioner. 

I am happy to say I was successful in the articling recruit (despite lower than average grades). I think my interest section was really important to be honest. 

Weirdly, only 1 firm asked about my bad grades. 

1. I agree that some sort of interest section (a small one) is fine, though I've always felt I could live with out it. I think you're right that bigger firms would want to see something because they care about well rounded individuals and they may get enough applications to warrant thinking on that section. Despite the number of applications I received, I don't think I got enough competitive ones to make that section mean much at all to me. But, my apologies if I made it sound like it should be ditched. Really, you're right, it should be there (because I guess you don't know when a firm will care about it, and the ones that don't won't hold it against you because we know it's standard), but there shouldn't be any weird things on it. I think my aversion to this area is because it's so easy for people to stand out in a negative way. I think it's rare that someone stands out in a positive way there (usually it does nothing for me) unless it's something like fencing, or archery, or scuba diving, or something else that seems interesting.

 

2. Whenever I went to interviews I had packages with me in my padfolio, which I brought to every interview. I wouldn't offer it off the bat (unless it was an occasion where I had something change, such as interviewing after I'd found out I passed the bar but had had to send out the application before I got that news), but it's a good idea to bring it with just in case. Of the 15 or 16 interviews at large firms that I did while still a law student, I'd say at 3 of them I handed over my application package for one reason or another. I think on two occasions they had more people sitting in the interview than they had copies so I was able to just provide them with one on the fly, and in the other one the lawyer interviewing me showed up quite late (about 20 to 30 minutes) and couldn't find the applications he was supposed to be going through, so if I hadn't had copies with me he wouldn't have had one to look at in the time we had left (this was at Beard Winter, by the way). Actually, this leads me to a bit of interview advice I forgot, don't book your interview for first thing in the morning. I did 3 or 4 9am interviews and for two of them the lawyer was late (20 to 30 minutes on both occasions). They feel embarrassed and I think it kills your chances because they don't want to have to see you again due to the embarrassment. It may not be what sinks you, but it can't help. Anyway, that's my reasoning for why you should bring copies. Maybe simply not offering them is the middle ground, but just having them in case? Different experiences, I guess. I wasn't aware people were being told not to bring them anymore.

 

3. Your example is correct, and clearly I wasn't clear enough (my bad). If you have one term of bad grades, don't mention it. Absolutely. I think it will stand out as an outlier. I meant more for people who have chronic bad grades. If I see a dip in one semester, I'll assume something went wrong. I don't worry about that, we all have bad times. I meant if someone was overall a poor student.

Thank you for the comments/feedback. I want to put together an advice booklet for future students, I think. I've got a number of projects like that which I'd like to do, so I'm happy for any input!

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@QueensGrad, just wanted to say that this was one of the best threads I've come across on this site in recent memory.  I hope it gets pinned like Pyke's OCI one from 2012.  There is so much good information there that I think could be of assistance to any student looking for a job and most of your points in my opinion are applicable for any sort of articling job one is looking for.  Nice job with the headings and organization as well.

One comment that jumped out at me was your comment re the handshake which is pretty spot on.  When I was in law school, I interviewed for a job where the interviewer placed a lot of importance on the handshake.  She later showed me her notes and for every interview, the first thing she wrote down was what their handshake was like ie. limp, strong, firm etc.  Now I don't know if she was an anomaly or that a limp handshake was a deal breaker if everything else was good, but she certainly gave it a lot of weight as she believed that a handshake revealed a lot about who you were. 

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On 8/2/2018 at 2:06 PM, QueensGrad said:

7. DO NOT try to add me on LinkedIn or other social media at any point during the course of the application process. It's seriously weird to me. I don't know if that's a younger person thing (not that I'm that old, I'm only at the old end of millennials so there shouldn't be THAT much difference in our thinking) but it's strange. We're not buddies. If you get the job, I guess you can add me on LinkedIn (not that I use it), but generally you should wait until you've started the job.

1

Just as a caveat, I agree with most of your advice--it's great and such a welcome contribution to this site. I only have one quibble. 

While I wouldn't say an applicant should connect on LinkedIn, I actually don't see any harm or weirdness in it. LinkedIn isn't a social media buddy network. It isn't strictly for coworkers either. So I don't know why a candidate has to wait and see if they get hired to make the connection. It's a networking tool. Candidates probably use it to creep you as much as you do them. By the interview stage, you probably know each other as well or better than a good chunk of people who've just randomly added me to their network. Who cares?

Also, as opposed to pretty much every other social tool, LinkedIn seems to be one where being freewheeling with accepting connections has little detrimental effect (except of course when you're a woman and the people you accept are ill-behaved types that solicit dates over LinkedIn--though this has happened to me too and I'm a dude. Some people are just unwise). Besides, you can always remove and/or block people who misuse the app. It is really a trivial matter to allow the connection.

Frankly, you could see it as eagerness; your interviewee is probably just trying to get intel about your practice, where you went to school, and maybe anything else you might have in common before the interview. Your privacy settings might make it difficult for them, so actually connecting as opposed to mere browsing could be the only way they can access that information.

Connecting with a prospective employer on any other social media, however, is pretty weird. Definitely, nobody should ever do that barring some good reason to.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs

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I agree that the cover letter is very important but will add that employers may want to add a writing sample to the application requirements. Our firm, and I know of a few others, have done this for several years now. It can be quite telling what some people will submit.

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There is no one size that fits all. Some may find it weird, some may not. If something can be perceived/cause problems and does not benefit you too much, I recommend just not doing it. A good example I like to use is perfume/cologne. Some may like it, but I don't think it will benefit you too much. However, some people may be allergic and you just screwed yourself. The Linked in example can fit in too; I don't think it helps you in anyway, but it has the potential to be found weird by some. So, why do it? (Do it after you land something and for linkedin specifically, I guess you can add people you like and have decided you do not want to go to their firm if given the option).

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8 minutes ago, Genericname101 said:

The Linked in example can fit in too; I don't think it helps you in anyway, but it has the potential to be found weird by some. So, why do it? (Do it after you land something and for linkedin specifically, I guess you can add people you like and have decided you do not want to go to their firm if given the option).

3

I don't really disagree, and stated that I don't encourage anyone to do it. My quibble was more with OP's position of drawing an adverse inference from it. As opposed to cologne/perfume, where an actual physical reaction results from the candidate's decision to wear it, there is literally zero harm to the employer by hitting "connect". Don't wanna connect with 'em on LinkedIn? Don't connect. There's no real reason to also believe that person is a weirdo for making the request. 

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37 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

I don't really disagree, and stated that I don't encourage anyone to do it. My quibble was more with OP's position of drawing an adverse inference from it. As opposed to cologne/perfume, where an actual physical reaction results from the candidate's decision to wear it, there is literally zero harm to the employer by hitting "connect". Don't wanna connect with 'em on LinkedIn? Don't connect. There's no real reason to also believe that person is a weirdo for making the request. 

But it is an annoyance, even the request and notification then login to LinkedIn and check and have to decide whether to accept or not. There is harm, because it's an annoyance and may seem presumptuous. A thank-you for the interview email, by contrast, may be an interruption but if you put e.g. "Thank you for the interview" in the subject line, it can be safely ignored or read by the recipient and is unobtrusive.

I'm not hiring, interviewing, working FT as a lawyer, etc., but I still get annoyed by e.g. a potential vendor trying to connect to me on LinkedIn and so am analogizing to that.

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1 hour ago, epeeist said:

But it is an annoyance, even the request and notification then login to LinkedIn and check and have to decide whether to accept or not. There is harm, because it's an annoyance and may seem presumptuous.

That's some real first-world "harm" right there. Egad, receiving and having to respond to a push notification! I'm not particularly sympathetic about that as an annoyance. I get far more annoying spam from people I've already invited into my circles (and yes, I do draw adverse inferences from those, but a simple "add me" request is really not a big deal and I typically don't give it a second thought).

I'm still so confused about this position though. Would you be even more annoyed if the candidate included that exact same thank you message in the content of the add-me-on-LinkedIn request as opposed to the email? What exactly is the difference? Clearly, you'll get a push notification for both the request and the standalone thank you email. Is it just that you don't like some lesser person intruding on your "professional network"? Are you entitled to some unspoken cone of privacy from mere candidates? I'm struggling to find a legitimate reason that an adverse inference should be drawn besides that some people "think it is weird". What exactly is the presumption you think they are making? That they are deserving of your connection? And if they aren't, is it such a strain on your lifeblood to simply reject the request? 

Also, it isn't a random vendor we're talking about, it's a prospective candidate who you contacted to interview for a position. I admit I'm also never jazzed about a stranger who works in a not-at-all peripheral trade spamming me to add them so they can sell me their services, but you can't really draw an analogy there. You and the candidate are clearly not strangers, and the candidate and your relationship is presumably related to your interviewing them. As in, there's no real threat of future spam from them, as there might be from a potential vendor.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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Some stuff just comes down to personal and idiosyncratic preferences on the part of the interviewer, I guess. Which is kind of scary to think about from the side of the interviewee, but I guess that's life.

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16 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

That's some real first-world "harm" right there. Egad, receiving and having to respond to a push notification! I'm not particularly sympathetic about that as an annoyance. I get far more annoying spam from people I've already invited into my circles (and yes, I do draw adverse inferences from those, but a simple "add me" request is really not a big deal and I typically don't give it a second thought).

I'm still so confused about this position though. Would you be even more annoyed if the candidate included that exact same thank you message in the content of the add-me-on-LinkedIn request as opposed to the email? What exactly is the difference? Is it just that you don't like some lesser person intruding on your "professional network"? Are you entitled to some unspoken cone of privacy from mere candidates? I'm struggling to find a legitimate reason that an adverse inference should be drawn besides that some people "think it is weird". What exactly is the presumption you think they are making? That they are deserving of your connection? And if they aren't, is it such a strain on your lifeblood to simply reject the request? 

Also, it isn't a random vendor we're talking about, it's a prospective candidate who you contacted to interview for a position. I admit I'm also never jazzed about a stranger who works in a not-at-all peripheral trade spamming me to add them so they can sell me their services, but you can't really draw an analogy there. You and the candidate are clearly not strangers, and the candidate and your relationship is presumably related to your interviewing them. As in, there's no real threat of future spam from them, as there might be from a potential vendor.

Let me guess, you're a millennial... :twisted:

It's really fucking stupid for a job candidate to annoy prospective employers (not that I am one, but OP is, and do a Google search re advice on connecting) by doing something that they've been told is stupid or annoying or weird unless there's a really good reason. Do you disagree?

The presumption is that anyone would be interested in connecting with a job applicant before it's known whether they even got the job. If one wants to connect, and thinks it's important, ask during the interview, and it will still sound presumptuous and weird. Unless someone is so genuinely impressive that one would want to connect to them regardless.

Now, sometimes there's a good reason to risk being annoying. What's the good reason you're asserting? None. You're saying you don't see the harm, but you're not saying what the benefit is. Instead, you're insultingly doubling-down on something you said yourself isn't important. Why?

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I find it weird for someone to do that before knowing if they've gotten the job or not. If they get it, or even are rejected (but told they did well regardless) then it certainly doesn't seem as odd.

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I would find it awkward if a student I had interviewed tried to add me on any social networking site. The person I hire, sure. The people I call to say no, but it was really close - maybe.

I think there is a generational gap here. I have noticed that my reaction to online etiquette is quite different from people who are fifteen years my junior.  

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25 minutes ago, epeeist said:

It's really fucking stupid for a job candidate to annoy prospective employers (not that I am one, but OP is, and do a Google search re advice on connecting) by doing something that they've been told is stupid or annoying or weird unless there's a really good reason. Do you disagree?

I've written multiple times now that candidates shouldn't do this. There's no point in focusing on the thing we agree on. We agree, because I agree that there are people out there who have sticks up their butts, all day long, every single day.

The point I was making is that the people who are annoyed have sticks up their butts. 

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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41 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

I find it weird for someone to do that before knowing if they've gotten the job or not. If they get it, or even are rejected (but told they did well regardless) then it certainly doesn't seem as odd.

But what relevance does getting a job have to do with making a professional connection? Again: LinkedIn is not a tool whose use is reserved solely for people who work or have worked together. It is also not solely for personal, close relationships. It is essentially a digital rolodex with social networking features. By rejecting the apparently scandalous idea of accepting a connection from a candidate you may or may not hire, you're basically saying "I don't want this prospective person's professional resume in front of me, and I certainly don't want them to be able to contact me." Meanwhile, you're interviewing them for a position where you most definitely have their resume in front of you and where they most definitely can already contact you. Again: who cares? Why is that weird?

I'd also add the forest-for-the-trees short-sightedness of refusing a candidate's request to connect when so much valuable additional information about their online behaviours and other connections can be gleaned from it.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs

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So you guys are saying I shouldn't endorse your data management skills? 

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