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Improving Your Application for Articling

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9 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

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 don't think it really matters why it's weird since there are clearly people who do find it weird.  I haven't ever hired anyone for a job, but I would feel weird if I just interviewed someone and they tried to add me on LinkedIn or any other social media platform.  Just stick with the thank you email and you're good.  Maybe the interviewer is someone like you who receives the notification and it's not a big deal, but just based on this thread alone, there's several people who wouldn't view it positively.  Why risk it?

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11 minutes ago, Stark said:

I don't think it really matters why it's weird since there are clearly people who do find it weird.  I haven't ever hired anyone for a job, but I would feel weird if I just interviewed someone and they tried to add me on LinkedIn or any other social media platform.  Just stick with the thank you email and you're good.  Maybe the interviewer is someone like you who receives the notification and it's not a big deal, but just based on this thread alone, there's several people who wouldn't view it positively.  Why risk it?

Nobody has or is continuing to dispute the risks of doing it as a candidate. We all agree.

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I think it's fine to ask to connect on LinkedIn with someone who interviews you after they offer you a job, OR after they inform you that they are not going to hire you. If you connected well in the interview, got good feedback but just didn't quite make the cut, I think it's fine to try to connect with them then. They are now a potential networking contact for you. I just wouldn't do it in the time period between seeing their posting and hearing their final answer as it might be awkward for some people at that point.

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1 hour ago, Hegdis said:

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.  

I am going to have to agree with you on this one, and I am in the generation who seeks online gratification from everyone. I don't see the point in adding an interviewer on LinkedIn. You're not friends, you're not colleagues, in fact, the only reason you're aware of the others existence is through the compulsion of the hiring process in introducing you.

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13 hours ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

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. 

No, you wrote you didn't see any harm in it, it's a freewheeling network, no real harm to dealing with connections, etc. You made a lengthy post specifically to disagree with OP. If you agreed candidates shouldn't do this (at least while candidates - as noted, doing so after one knows one why or the other is different), then why such a lengthy post to disagree with OP? If you agreed with OP and me, why so many lengthy repeated posts?

But, assume for the sake of argument I'm wrong in an objective sense. So what? Job applicants should within reason try to think subjectively about what potential employers will think of things they might do, and unless there's a good reason to do something to stand out, avoid it. Even if they think the subjective opinion is wrong (EDIT: standing out for having as per OP's example, a good cover letter, is not bad, I meant standing out for something not clearly objectively and subjectively good). My continuing to respond is not for your benefit, but to warn against someone quibbling with OP's points merely because they think why not (as opposed to a more reasoned disagreement). If someone thinks wearing a suit and tie on a Friday afternoon in summer during a heat wave is silly, they may be right - but if they have an interview, they should wear it unless there's good reason not to. A good reason to stand out might be for some applicants if they're 99% sure they won't get an interview, then standing out may be good, because even if unlikely to succeed, if it fails, nothing lost. Doing so, however, should be a deliberate action, not a, hey, why not.

As for sticks up butts, I wonder at the etymology of the expression; perhaps it's derived as a reference to execution by longitudinal impalement (i.e. in some cultures, impalement through the anus so that the victim took hours or days to die in agony as they gradually slid down the pole), especially since some versions of the expression refer to poles rather than sticks?

Edited by epeeist

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2 hours ago, epeeist said:

If you agreed candidates shouldn't do this (at least while candidates - as noted, doing so after one knows one why or the other is different), then why such a lengthy post to disagree with OP? If you agreed with OP and me, why so many lengthy repeated posts?

Uh, because I'm criticizing what I think is an unreasonable inference by employers? I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with recommending on one hand "don't go out at night, it's unsafe" but on the other hand investigating a problem with the unsafe streets. Not that this is analogous, but I think you can take my point that recommending while also being critical of the thing underlying the recommendation are two separate things.

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I would worry about the optics of connecting with an articling candidate on LinkedIn in advance of interviews. In particular:

If during a formal recruitment period, could connecting with an applicant during a regulated period ever be viewed as offside Law Society rules? As an articling interviewer, I'm instructed by my firm to avoid any communication with applicants to the extent possible.

If I accept a connection request, could the applicant read into it something about their chances of being hired? I don't want to add to the already-extensive list of things that articling candidates read into.

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There is a lot of good advice in your post, however two items jump out as concerning.

1. The legal profession is suffering from a mental health crisis. Your attitude that even inquiring about work-life balance, or caring about it, suggests absence of dedication or “fragility” is precisely what contributes to that crisis. You can set out clear expectations as an employer about the work required, without adopting a belittling attitude toward someone who is thinking about work life balance as a legitimate subject.

2. The degree to which your specific interpretation of male fashion sense informs your perception of a candidate borders on the absurd. It is reasonable to expect a candidate to wear appropriate formal attire, less so to expect them to colour coordinate their tie clip and watch.

For what it’s worth to any prospective candidates, I work at a highly competitive office for articling, and several articling colleagues wear “funny” socks daily (like the PM or George H.W. Bush) and we comfortably discuss work-life balance with our principals without fear of judgment. 

 
Edited by EMP
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On 8/17/2018 at 11:48 AM, Stark said:

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. 

Seriously? I have noticed a few handshapes as being particularly limp or firm, but can't imagine that would be relevant to an employment decision. 

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56 minutes ago, EMP said:

There is a lot of good advice in your post, however two items jump out as concerning.

1. The legal profession is suffering from a mental health crisis. Your attitude that even inquiring about work-life balance, or caring about it, suggests absence of dedication or “fragility” is precisely what contributes to that crisis. You can set out clear expectations as an employer about the work required, without adopting a belittling attitude toward someone who is thinking about work life balance as a legitimate subject.

2. The degree to which your specific interpretation of male fashion sense informs your perception of a candidate borders on the absurd. It is reasonable to expect a candidate to wear appropriate formal attire, less so to expect them to colour coordinate their tie clip and watch.

For what it’s worth to any prospective candidates, I work at a highly competitive office for articling, and several articling colleagues wear “funny” socks daily (like the PM or George H.W. Bush) and we comfortably discuss work-life balance with our principals without fear of judgment. 

 

I just don't think it's particularly illuminating to discuss work-life balance in an interview. There is a certain amount of work that has to get done. How long it takes each person to do it may vary. And your expectations of how much time to spend working will change from articling to a few years into practice as it takes less time to do routine things. Your needs will also change as your situation changes ie. if you have kids. Work-life balance is something you figure out and negotiate the more valuable an employee you become. I also don't know that work-life balance and mental health are necessarily connected.

I agree about the tie clip and watch but I am not a fan of men using gaudy accessories and thinking they are dressed up. And sure, once you're hired, you can wear funny socks in some offices, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to do it at the interview. 

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27 minutes ago, providence said:

I just don't think it's particularly illuminating to discuss work-life balance in an interview. There is a certain amount of work that has to get done. How long it takes each person to do it may vary. And your expectations of how much time to spend working will change from articling to a few years into practice as it takes less time to do routine things. Your needs will also change as your situation changes ie. if you have kids. Work-life balance is something you figure out and negotiate the more valuable an employee you become. I also don't know that work-life balance and mental health are necessarily connected.

I agree about the tie clip and watch but I am not a fan of men using gaudy accessories and thinking they are dressed up. And sure, once you're hired, you can wear funny socks in some offices, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to do it at the interview. 

Agree. There's a huge difference between discussing work-life balance in an interview and asking about it once you've been offered a job. 

Also, I actively roll my eyes when law students ask about work-life balance in any setting. It's both a stupid question and one that's unlikely to result in any meaningful information. I wanted to gouge my eyes out when I heard students ask that question at career panels, and I know several lawyers at my firm who also want gouge their eyes out when a student asks that on the phone/at a cocktail party/during an interview. 

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Just now, BlockedQuebecois said:

Agree. There's a huge difference between discussing work-life balance in an interview and asking about it once you've been offered a job. 

Also, I actively roll my eyes when law students ask about work-life balance in any setting. It's both a stupid question and one that's unlikely to result in any meaningful information. I wanted to gouge my eyes out when I heard students ask that question at career panels, and I know several lawyers at my firm who also want gouge their eyes out when a student asks that on the phone/at a cocktail party/during an interview. 

It's just an impossible question to answer, and people have so many different reasons and motivations for asking it. If you want regimented regular hours, you're unlikely to find that on the lowest totem pole of a law firm, but beyond that, there are too many variables. I don't know who gave students the idea that this was a useful question to ask.

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7 hours ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Agree. There's a huge difference between discussing work-life balance in an interview and asking about it once you've been offered a job. 

Also, I actively roll my eyes when law students ask about work-life balance in any setting. It's both a stupid question and one that's unlikely to result in any meaningful information. I wanted to gouge my eyes out when I heard students ask that question at career panels, and I know several lawyers at my firm who also want gouge their eyes out when a student asks that on the phone/at a cocktail party/during an interview. 

Yeah, so stupid a subject that the regulator of our profession sees it as specifically worthy of CPD.

https://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147501816 (5.0)

Edited by EMP

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39 minutes ago, EMP said:

Yeah, so stupid a subject that the regulator of our profession sees it as specifically worthy of CPD.

https://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147501816 (5.0)

The LSO is well known for never making stupid decisions, so you’re right. You win, clearly students should ask all about work-life balance during their interviews. 

As per the LSO CPD list, here are some other things students should definitely ask about during interviews:

  1. Understanding power and privilege 
  2. The impact of daily verbal, behavioural, and environmental indignities
  3. The LSO statement of principles requirement

I’m sure EMP will join me in encouraging students to explicitly ask about these subjects during their upcoming OCIs and interview week :) 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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1 hour ago, EMP said:

Yeah, so stupid a subject that the regulator of our profession sees it as specifically worthy of CPD.

https://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147501816 (5.0)

Well, it's a bullet point in a list without much detail provided. But just because something is a CPD topic does not mean that it is a valuable question for a student to ask in an interview. Work-life balance in the context of practice management for a lawyer running a practice has some meaning - for a student coming out of law school who has no idea what legal work is like yet, it may not. I am of the opinion that the opportunity to ask questions is one of the best chances you have to sell yourself in an interview, and while work-life balance questions may not be seen negatively, they're throwaway, fluffy questions that squander that opportunity. Most lawyers are going to tell you there is work-life balance and they value it - you learn nothing about them and thye learn nothing about you.

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If there's actual work-life balance at a firm, people will boast about it. If it is a sweatshop they won't volunteer anything or use weird euphemisms ("fast paced!"  "good experience!") and will react like BQ when you ask about it. 

Edited by Eeee

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And also, what is work-life balance? It may be different for you than it is for me. Maybe for you it’s not having to work on the weekends. Maybe for me it’s only having to work a couple of hours on the weekend. 

Everyone has different priorities and it’s pointless to ask about them in a 17-minute session where there are probably more pressing things to talk about. 

Not to say that work-life balance isn’t important. Nor am I suggesting that it isn’t worthy of consideration vis a vis mental health or general wellbeing. But I think there are places to talk about that sort of thing and OCIs are just likely not one of them. 

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8 hours ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Agree. There's a huge difference between discussing work-life balance in an interview and asking about it once you've been offered a job. 

Also, I actively roll my eyes when law students ask about work-life balance in any setting. It's both a stupid question and one that's unlikely to result in any meaningful information. I wanted to gouge my eyes out when I heard students ask that question at career panels, and I know several lawyers at my firm who also want gouge their eyes out when a student asks that on the phone/at a cocktail party/during an interview. 

Totally agree - if you ask me whether my firm offers "good work life balance" - I'm going to say "absolutely" and my wife is going to give me one big eye-roll and say "you have no idea what it means to have a work life balance". I think a good balance means I get to have two Saturdays off a month and 4 weeks vacation a year (on which I'm actively checking my email, not because I have to but because I want to). 

I love my work - absolutely love it, and so for me "taking a break" isn't actually balancing - if I'm away from it for too long I get anxiety. I like working here early in the morning and later at night because I feel productive during those times. Yes, sometimes I do leave the office at 3pm on Wednesday to spend time with the family - and I like doing that too (and I'm happy that my firm could really care less when I leave so long as the work is getting done). But honestly,  if I wasn't married and I didn't have a family I would definitely be here 24/7 and still profess that I have excellent work life balance. 

1 hour ago, EMP said:

Yeah, so stupid a subject that the regulator of our profession sees it as specifically worthy of CPD.

https://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147501816 (5.0)

Oh yes, the good ol LSO and their "work life balance". I had to laugh when I was in the office completing the 6 hour mandatory "work life balance" module during articles on a Sunday... 

Edited by TheScientist101
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1 hour ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

The LSO is well known for never making stupid decisions, so you’re right. You win, clearly students should ask all about work-life balance during their interviews. 

As per the LSO CPD list, here are some other things students should definitely ask about during interviews:

  1. Understanding power and privilege 
  2. The impact of daily verbal, behavioural, and environmental indignities
  3. The LSO statement of principles requirement

I’m sure EMP will join me in encouraging students to explicitly ask about these subjects during their upcoming OCIs and interview week :) 

My claim was not that students should ask the question in all interviews. Nor that the LSO only makes smart decisions. My point is that if a student does ask a question on work-life balance, to consider that inquiry as “stupid” or to negatively assess the student as a result (which effectively the OP endorsed), is the wrong response.

It is legitimately a relevant topic to the practice of law. The inclusion of the subject in CPD, profession-oriented publications, and so on is evidence of that. It is not unreasonable for a prospective employee to raise it, if only to see how a prospective employer approaches the subject. It may not be what you would do, people may have different views on how to bring the subject up, but the question should not be viewed as an indication that a student is uncommitted or will not do the work.

 

Edited by EMP

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3 minutes ago, EMP said:

My claim was not the students should ask the question in all interviews. Nor that the LSO only makes smart decisions. My point is that if a student does ask a question related to work-life balance, to consider that inquiry as “stupid” or to negatively assess the student as a result (which effectively the OP endorsed), is the wrong response.

It is legitimately a relevant topic to the practice of law, its inclusion in CPD, profession-oriented publications, and so on is evidence of that. It is reasonable for a prospective employee to raise it. It may not be what you would do, people may have different views on how to bring the subject up, but to dismiss it out of hand as an indication that a student is uncommitted or will not do the work is wrong. 

 

Here's the thing - this thread was started to advise students about improving their applications/interview techniques. The consensus among professionals is that generally speaking, if a student is given a 17 minute OCI (or a 45 minute in firm interview) and they use that time to ask generic questions such as those directed to the firm's work-life-balance, that type of inquiry isn't going to put them above the rest of the competition.

The interviewer isn't necessarily going to be thinking "hmmm, I really like candidate A, but they asked about work life balance so we have to nix them", but rather "I like X, Y, and Z candidates better than candidate A because they asked more interesting questions during the interview". 

The right response here, and the key message is - if you want to maximize the impact of your interview, don't ask about work life balance. There are far more interesting and more valuable questions you can ask that will make you more memorable (in a positive way) to the the interviewers. 

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