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Interview question: "Can you tell me about yourself?" - How do we answer this question?

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On 1/16/2021 at 11:33 AM, FineCanadianFXs said:

my hope is that my legal career won't keep me from my obsession with collecting rare commemorative POGs--I loves me my precious commemorative POGS, especially my 1986 ALF POG featuring ALF, Max Tanner, and the whole Tanner family which I discovered at a garage sale in

On 1/16/2021 at 2:11 PM, FineCanadianFXs said:

Commemorative POG collector." then you will get questions like "okay, you have gotta tell us about your pog collection", and then you actually get to talk enthusiastically about the things you like and do. 

At this point, I feel obliged to ask: do you have a commemorative POG collection, how extensive is it, and where was the garage sale?

 

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18 hours ago, realpseudonym said:

At this point, I feel obliged to ask: do you have a commemorative POG collection, how extensive is it, and where was the garage sale?

Garage sale? Please. True collectors attend auctions.

 

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If some one I interviewed mentioned they’re really into Hollow Knight I would probably hire them on the spot so we could be done with the pesky work stuff and then spend the next hour speculating on when SilkSong is coming out. 

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3 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

If some one I interviewed mentioned they’re really into Hollow Knight I would probably hire them on the spot so we could be done with the pesky work stuff and then spend the next hour speculating on when SilkSong is coming out. 

I feel the same way about anyone who is really into canoe tripping, Neil Degrasse Tyson/astrophysics, or Harry Potter. If someone hits all three guaranteed hire back. I've asked in a couple of interviews, "so, tell us which house you would be sorted into at Hogwarts and why" and the replies have been entertaining. We do ask some serious questions too.

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When I ask this question in an interview, I'm looking for a candidate to explain what drives/motivates them and to explain why they'd be a good fit for my firm. However, I don't really want candidates to regurgitate their CV as I've already read it! So I think I'll just start asking: What drives and motivates you and why do you think you'd be a good fit for the firm? 

Interviews are stressful and I really want to get to know who the candidates are. It's not a test - it's an interview! That's why I try to review these forums around OCIs and hopefully adapt my interview practice. Now I know that I should be more direct 😛 

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21 hours ago, realpseudonym said:

Yeah, I agree. If they ask you about the white water kayaking on your resume, they're probably (a) somewhat interested and (b) trying to figure out whether having you as a mentee is going to drive them mental. So answer the question being asked. And answer like a person. You don't get bonus points for being able to pivot like a parliamentary secretary on Power and Politics.  

I really want to emphasize the bold above. And highlight that incessant pivoting won't just deny you bonus points: it can be a tremendous negative.

Many lawyers and law students -- even in practice where a job isn't on the line strangely -- have made pivoting to their work experience and accolades a default. It is annoying. It can alienate colleagues. Please not do this. Stop doing this if you've already started, it's not too late.

Importantly, it demonstrates a failure to listen and respond efficiently and appropriately, which is kind of a crucial legal skill. While I'm not yet in my career responsible for final hiring decisions, I've been consulted plenty about candidates I chatted with on the phone, met for coffee, or did a preliminary interview/Q&A with as part of a larger hiring process. My reputation is important and I don't recommend people with whom I wouldn't enjoy working myself. I also won't recommend someone incapable of basic listening and responding abilities. I'm not alone on either front. If it happens in a low-pressure environment, I'd be concerned about it happening when it matters. Just talk about kayaking and why you like it. 

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1 hour ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

I really want to emphasize the bold above. And highlight that incessant pivoting won't just deny you bonus points: it can be a tremendous negative.

 

100%. A few years ago, one student we interviewed had on his CV that he DJ'd on the side throughout law school. At the interview I asked him about it because we wanted to know: (1) whether he had a cool DJ name; and (2) what kind of music he liked.

When I asked him about it, he did mental gymnastics trying to contort his answer to how it was relevant to his work ethic or law. It was an immediate turn off. It was obvious from the question we were trying to make him comfortable and find out whether he would be a good fit with our quirky group. A question like, "so... what kind of music do you like?" shouldn't be answered like you're fielding questions from a panel of the Court of Appeal. It really tanked what otherwise would have been a fine interview.

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5 minutes ago, Viszlaw said:

100%. A few years ago, one student we interviewed had on his CV that he DJ'd on the side throughout law school. At the interview I asked him about it because we wanted to know: (1) whether he had a cool DJ name; and (2) what kind of music he liked.

Actually, I was just embarrased by my DJ name, DJ Tiesto 2: The Tiestoing.

6 minutes ago, Viszlaw said:

A question like, "so... what kind of music do you like?" shouldn't be answered like you're fielding questions from a panel of the Court of Appeal. 

This may sound crazy to some lawyers, but if the Court of Appeal asks "what kind of music does your client like" they also just want the answer to that specific question and probably don't want you to pivot back to your very persuasive submissions about statutory interpretation.

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56 minutes ago, Viszlaw said:

100%. A few years ago, one student we interviewed had on his CV that he DJ'd on the side throughout law school. At the interview I asked him about it because we wanted to know: (1) whether he had a cool DJ name; and (2) what kind of music he liked.

When I asked him about it, he did mental gymnastics trying to contort his answer to how it was relevant to his work ethic or law. It was an immediate turn off. It was obvious from the question we were trying to make him comfortable and find out whether he would be a good fit with our quirky group. A question like, "so... what kind of music do you like?" shouldn't be answered like you're fielding questions from a panel of the Court of Appeal. It really tanked what otherwise would have been a fine interview.

"Well, you see, spinning records is a lot like managing a bunch of files. You always have to keep up to date on modern music, the trends of the DJ scene, and keep track of all of the data in front of you. It's much like when [insert interviewer's name] was working on that recent appeal that I read about... [insert long story]...

anyways, my DJ name was Fee-Fih-Four-Twenty."

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50 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

Actually, I was just embarrased by my DJ name, DJ Tiesto 2: The Tiestoing.

This may sound crazy to some lawyers, but if the Court of Appeal asks "what kind of music does your client like" they also just want the answer to that specific question and probably don't want you to pivot back to your very persuasive submissions about statutory interpretation.

 

1 minute ago, setto said:

"Well, you see, spinning records is a lot like managing a bunch of files. You always have to keep up to date on modern music, the trends of the DJ scene, and keep track of all of the data in front of you. It's much like when [insert interviewer's name] was working on that recent appeal that I read about... [insert long story]...

anyways, my DJ name was Fee-Fih-Four-Twenty."

I also would have accepted DJ JurispruDANCE

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28 minutes ago, Viszlaw said:

 

I also would have accepted DJ JurispruDANCE

Quick! Trademark lawyers assemble and get a TM on that! 

Alternative suggestions would be all lawyer band named Force Majeure. Or a legal drag queen named Ms. Trial. 

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I just wanted to add a brief defense of my earlier claim that a good interview response requires answering the question and then (if possible) pivoting to a positive about yourself.

Based on what other posters have said, it seems that the legal profession leans more towards a casual conversation type interview where the interviewer just wants to get to know the job candidate. Your achievements on your CV apparently speak for themselves.  I did not know that since I am a law school applicant and thus have never been involved on either end of the hiring process. So be it then.

If you are still reading this post (LOL if you are 😃 ), then I'll share some of my own experiences in the job hiring process (none of them in the legal profession).

  • I was once (and this is one of several similar experience I have had) interviewed where I was given a list of 8 pre-written questions. I was told to answer each in sequence while a panel of 3 interviewers were clearly taking notes to score my responses. I was informed later that I did not get the job since another candidate had better credentials, but I was also informed that I did extremely well during the interview. This was an ideal situation for the strategy of "answer the question and pivot to a selling point about myself."
  • My current job of the past 7 months involved my boss asking me "Do you want to work for me?", to which I responded "I'll let you know in a week if I can't find anything better." I texted him my acceptance of the job offer a week later. That was the extent of the interview. I did not apply for the job and I did not submit a CV.
  • My job before that was an office job (writing technical manuals). The interview was somewhat casual, but I had to fight a bit in my answers to convince them that I had the skills to do well at the job. Casual questions to put me at ease were intermingled with some very aggressive questions such as "How can you claim to be qualified for this job when you have never used ABC software?" Ouch.
  • For my business (where I was doing the hiring), I actually didn't care too much about the job interview. It was all about the applicant understanding what the job entailed and being able to perform that job during a brief probation period.

So does the answer-and-pivot strategy when responding to soft interview questions have it's appropriate place? Yes. When being interviewed by a law firm? Apparently not. 

The takeaway of this long winded story (if there is one, lol) is that interviews come in all shapes and forms, so certain interview response strategies may be effective in certain situations. 

💩😎😇

Edited by SNAILS
clarity
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I trust the law students reading this know better than to tell a potential employer “I’ll let you know if I can’t find anything better.” 🤠

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Keep in mind that once you are in the interview, the employer belives you can do the job. Your resume, transcript, and cover letter told them so.

What the interviewer wants to know now is if they want to work with YOU. How do you come across? Are you on time? Appropriately groomed and attired? Did you treat the receptionist with courtesy and friendliness? Do you make eye contact, get a joke, know when to shut up? Do you seem like you actually want to work there? How to you respond to a challenging question? What are you actually like aside from your resume and grades?

THIS is the purpose of most interviews. So yeah, sell yourself - but keep in mind your grades and resume aren't all you are selling.

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23 minutes ago, Psychometronic said:

I trust the law students reading this know better than to tell a potential employer “I’ll let you know if I can’t find anything better.” 🤠

It would be fun to say that to Blakes for the flex though.

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I usually had a memorized, canned answer to this question that went something like the following:

"Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it's breathtaking, I suggest you try it."

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27 minutes ago, WicketStyx said:

I usually had a memorized, canned answer to this question that went something like the following:

"Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it's breathtaking, I suggest you try it."

 

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2 hours ago, SNAILS said:

Based on what other posters have said, it seems that the legal profession leans more towards a casual conversation type interview where the interviewer just wants to get to know the job candidate. 

Not universally. Lawyers may ask substantive and scenario questions during interviews. That's not unusual, given that they're trying to gauge candidates' judgment. But trying to force-feed positive qualities into your responses isn't going to help you with there, either. If you interview with the Crown and you get a question about section 11(b) delay, you need know the Jordan case and be able to apply it to whatever they've asked you about. If you answer by telling a story about how you've learned to be punctual as a small businessowner, then that won't reflect well on you.

It's probably true that in other interviews, candidates sometimes succeed by spouting bullshit about themselves for so long that the audience forgets the initial question. I mean, that was basically Trump's 2016 media strategy and he was President for some reason. But, for the purposes of legal interviews, assume that everything Trump did is off-limits. And assume that the interviewer actually wants an answer to the question they've asked. It should be a good conversation. Regardless of whether they're stylistically casual, good conversations require the parties to listen to each others questions and answer accordingly.

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Our interviews have always been a mix of casual and substantive questions. We want students to feel comfortable and I agree that if you've got the interview, you're likely smart enough to do the job well. However, we have had a few regrettable hires where a solid student on paper performed exceptionally poorly, so we try to pepper in some thought-provoking questions during the interview to see how they respond and whether it's all smoke and mirrors. 

My partner has an excellent bullshit detector. She once asked someone about how fast they can type (it was listed on their CV, which was stupid) and it did not go well... I would be happy to share some of our interview questions for fun but I'm sure there is a more appropriate thread for that.

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