I remember trying to incorporate over coming a difficult situation in an interview and it didnt help me one bit. I told them how difficult it was to be in jail for 6 months on an ag assault charge that I would ultimately beat…but I didnt get invited back.
Mine is similar too- but I never noted it without being asked. And if you are in the hunt for first or second job- it would come up since it would likely be demonstrated on your resume. When an interviewer asks and you elaborate its you providing information they are asking for, if you bring it up yourself it may come across negatively as if you’re defensive- have a chip on your shoulder.
I will bring it up if it helps and is relevent with the position, but if you are applying for like a finance position, the interviewer is not going to give a rats @$$ that you had an alcholic abusive father or other hardships. Frankly it will probably put him off.
cfagoal2 Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > the interviewer is not going to give a rats @$$ that you had an alcholic > abusive father or other hardships. Frankly it will > probably put him off. +12
Some candidates are always better than others. Period. You won’t find a situation like two candidates with the exact same qualifications then pick the one that has a “good” story, it never happens. The fact is many candidates can’t even walk through their resumes. A great story/personality doesn’t give you any edge. Maybe if you are applying for a volunteering job or for non-profit, but not in finance/Wall Street. I’ll take a big P/L over a big heart any day.
Bottom line, if the interviewer asks about adversities you’ve overcome, the person who talks about how they traded out of a $500 million Citigroup position in September 2008 with the market in free fall is going to get the job over the person who was dodging bullets in the inner city during the credit crisis.
A lot of people don’t know much about interviewing candidates and are spending most of the time covering their butts. “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” seems to work in the hiring process too. If you hire a Harvard grad, and the guy turns out to be a crook, somehow one can say “Who could have known, he was Harvard and everything,” and it sounds plausible. If you hire someone from Peoria University and something goes wrong, people can point to the interviewer and say “What the heck were you thinking? You turned down a Harvard guy for this?” So, particularly for interviewers that aren’t going to be your main manager, most of it is just butt-covering. So it’s true that brand name credentials go far. However, a good interviewer should be looking not only to control risks, but also to maximize value. That means taking a look at the whole person, and the fit for the culture and the role that they are filling. I respect good credentials, but it’s clear that they mean more if they weren’t just handed to them from a legacy family or a purchased or otherwise cheapened. It’s like a risk-adjusted return. You measure what a person has accomplished based on the resources available to them and the difficulty of the task, and then ask if they can perform similarly for you. Taking the name-brand guy is often a safe strategy because it is generally difficult to get in to a name brand university, but you may get more value by looking at someone elsewhere. What this suggests is that you should probably save your “how you can overcome all obstacles” story for your main hiring manager. And yes, make it as positive and uplifting a story as possible. If you sound like you’re whining or have a chip on your shoulder, that might cause a problem.
I agree with what nequity, Carson, and bchadwick have pointed out. Further, I assumed that that the original poster was qualified for the job he’s interviewing for; at that point, the rest comes down to fit. Employers will generally pick the person they think is most qualified for the job (as well they should), so I don’t think there’s any argument about that. However, if you have two candidates that are roughly equal in qualification and personality fit, employers will often select the one that has the best “story.” So, what does one’s “story” mean? It depends on the individual. In the original poster’s case, it’s about overcoming personal and financial challenges, and being resourceful enough to make things work on his own. Thus, if there’s a time and place to tell your “story” about overcoming adversity, it’s perfectly reasonable to talk about a life-changing situation. Many of the top business schools ask the same question and while there are a number of people that may have been fed with a silver spoon since the day they were born, there are plenty of other people that have overcome serious hardship to make a life for themselves. Thus, a story about overcoming challenges is perfectly appropriate in my view; and if by chance you’re interviewing at a place that’s so white-collar that they want someone that comes from a lineage of millionaires as opposed to someone that’s going to hustle, then you’re pretty much out of luck anyway to begin with. I also think this situation is unlikely to happen in latter rounds because it’s not that hard to sniff someone out and realize they’re not from the “old boys’ club.” People in that social echelon will know whether you have that pedigree even before you have a chance to tell your “story,” so that’s not something I would personally worry about if I were the original poster. He’s likely past that point in the recruiting process already. Anyway, that’s my perspective and ultimately it comes down to how comfortable you are with telling it. A story about overcoming adversity shouldn’t be confused with a sob story. The fundamental difference between the two is that someone telling a sob story hasn’t successfully resolved the challenge, whereas someone telling a story about overcoming adversity clearly has. I see that some others have different opinions about this, and I’m sure you’ll run into situations like this. Different employers look for different things. However, if you tell your story in an effective manner, it can say a lot about your perseverance, resilience, and so forth. And I would feel comfortable recommending this strategy because (1) I have used “overcoming adversity” stories in my interviews; (2) I have made excellent hiring decisions based on candidates that have told such compelling stories; and (3) I have successfully guided other candidates towards attaining desirable internships/employment opportunities based on this advice. I think that most people in charge of hiring will choose the person with the better “story” if their qualifications and personality fit are essentially equal. Hope this helps.
Would “Your Stories” fly for the MBA applications?
It seems apparent to me that you would want to find out the corporate culture and then highlight the aspects of your life that would help you to fit into that corporate culture. IE “go getter” or “relatioship builder”. “Business integrity” vs. “close the deal”. This should be apparent on company website and newsclippings in the media about their strategic goal. Mine has shifted 180 since I have been here so what made me successful means I may no longer be a fit. Or you could go with SMIRKS story and look up the CEOs political campaign contributions. If they are Democrats, then tell your gang story as it appears from his post that all inner city gang members are Democrats.
phBOOM, it’s hard to say how much one factor counts versus another in business school applications and interviewing. However, for some of my applications and interviews, I did have to tell a story about overcoming adversity and I drew upon situations relating to my personal life/upbringing. I’m satisfied with the results I’ve achieved so far, and for the places where I did not get into school or did not get the job, I’m pretty sure it was due to other factors other than my personal “story.” I’d like to share one other personal anecdote, and perhaps this will provide some real-life color, rather than just trying to provide generalized advice here – hopefully this will make my point stick a bit better. Anyway, I was interviewing for an equity research job at Lehman Brothers when I was 21. I come from a different situation as NSteen1987 in that I was fortunate enough to attend a top American university. However, it was also similar in the sense that I did not have much family financial support; in fact, once I had gotten into high school, my parents determined I was “on my own” and thought it would be a good lesson for me to learn how to be responsible for all of my life’s expenses. At that time, I resented this decision as I sometimes felt that I had been abandoned; now looking back, the whole experience taught me a lot about myself, namely how to be self-sufficient and just how far I can push myself when I really want to. The lady I was interviewing with was very senior research personnel. I knew the interview would be more behavioral in nature. One question she asked me was something to the effect of, “So, it seems like you’ve achieved a lot in your life so far…things must come pretty naturally to you, huh?” The question caught me off-guard a bit; part of me wanted to just pound my chest and exude the type of confidence that one so often expects from people in finance. However, I knew that wasn’t who I was, so I carefully explained that my achievements were the result of hard work and perseverance, much more so than being in the right place at the right time. It certainly wasn’t a “sob” story, but I wanted her to perfectly understand that things *don’t* all come naturally to me and there’s a lot I had to work for. I wasn’t born into “pedigree” so to speak. I explained to her that while I knew I was young enough to know that I’d be facing a steep learning curve in equity research, I was also mature enough to understand that 10% of life is about the luck and opportunities you’re given, and the other 90% is about what you make of it. *This* is the type of story I’m advocating for anyone that’s facing a situation where they want to talk about overcoming challenges. The message you want to demonstrate is your resilience, perseverance, and courage. The Lehman lady told me that was one of the most genuine things she’d heard a freshly minted graduate say, and that one of the things she liked most about me was the balance between confidence and humility/hunger. I did not end up completing the interview process at Lehman as I ultimately elected to accept an offer at another firm, but I’m pretty certain that things would have progressed well. Anyway, I realize I’ve written a lot about this topic (despite the fact that my posts on this forum have gotten progressively less frequent), but I think that *most* people are *not* born into pedigree and have to face challenges in their life. As such, I believe that overcoming obstacles is an incredibly important aspect of our lives, and we should learn to embrace such stories and feel comfortable with sharing them with employers to the extent that they demonstrate the types of personal qualities that employers value.
^ I like how you phrase and portray your story. Don’t mind if I borrow some of your words for my bschool interviews, that is if I get any invitations. Peace!
I say copy whole thing, it worked before, it will work again!
No problem, guys. As always, I’m happy to help. Best of luck with your interviews – please share any and all success stories here!
My feeling is that alot of you guys’ opinions reflect recruiting process/mentality in America. I live in Continental Europe, and I have to say that it’s hard for me to imagine these types of conversations in an interview. Maybe it’s because the separation between private/profesionnal life is clearer here, or because people don’t talk about their personal past/life with strangers. As far as I’m concerned, outside of the hobbies that I have written on my CV and things that are clearly relevant for the position, I would be very uncomfortable about talking about my personal life with recruiters. As for the “fit”, I think it comes from the feeling the recruiter gets from you, and not from facts about your past. Anyways, maybe I’m wrong. I have only been involved in ok jobs and not top jobs, maybe they get that inquisitive for the latter on both sides of the Atlantic.
Everyone here is guessing what the recruiter wants anyhow. How the hell do you know what i’m looking for? You’re only telling me what you are looking for if you were interviewing. As you can see there are lots of views on what works. Expect the same in every interview. Some you will win and some you will lose. That’s why you have to play lots of games and luck in. Same with hitting on women really.
^^ That’s probably the wisest post on this thread right there.
SMIRK Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > > +12 How’d you arrive at that…twice? +pi numi Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > One question she asked > me was something to the effect of, “So, it seems > like you’ve achieved a lot in your life so > far…things must come pretty naturally to you, > huh?” The question caught me off-guard a bit; part > of me wanted to just pound my chest and exude the > type of confidence that one so often expects from > people in finance. However, I knew that wasn’t who > I was, so I carefully explained that my > achievements were the result of hard work and > perseverance, much more so than being in the right > place at the right time. > > It certainly wasn’t a “sob” story, but I wanted > her to perfectly understand that things *don’t* > all come naturally to me and there’s a lot I had > to work for. I wasn’t born into “pedigree” so to > speak. I explained to her that while I knew I was > young enough to know that I’d be facing a steep > learning curve in equity research, I was also > mature enough to understand that 10% of life is > about the luck and opportunities you’re given, and > the other 90% is about what you make of it. > Numi, first off your posts are definitely solid and it’s clear you put a lot of thought into where you’ve been and where you want to go. I think it’s a great answer for the interview question because in my eyes it uses the classic rhetorical device of changing the subject through setting a definition in your own terms. That is, defining what she meant by “naturally” as “was handed to”. In my definition, “naturally” is somewhat synonymous with “easily, because I’m talented” and I think that can be true of people who have overcome challenges or worked hard. I think naturally is a relative word. Naturally could mean “gifted”, but it is much safer to not emphasize your talents and instead emphasize modesty given the way she phrased the question. Numi made sure to avoid directly responding to whether or not he is gifted, since you lose either way (i.e. either appearing arrogant or saying you are not gifted). The “I worked hard and overcame adversity in the course of accomplishing a lot” story doesn’t say if things were easier for you than others, but it does misdirect beautifully and show your modesty. Using your post of an answer from an MBA interview as the model “overcomes adversity” answer to an interview question, however, does not 8-|
I personally would never peddle my life story to get a job, have some dignity man. Nobody cares anyway, at the end of the day the question is will you make money for the firm than you will cost them, period.
I like this thread so I’m bringing it back. I don’t think there’s a cut and dry answer for this as it depends on the interviewer. I have had some interviewers (mostly women) that did really want to find out the “distinguishing factor” of a candidate. This is aside from other interviews I’ve had in which the interviewer didn’t really give a d@mn about your individuality and was only concerned whether or not you fit in with the corporate culture and get the job done. I don’t want to sound sexist, but from from my experience, all the women wanted to know “your story”… It can be because I am a woman minority. I personally don’t volunteer my story in interviews because it’s embarrassing. For men interviewers, they generally did not ask and/or care about “my story.” They cared more about other factors such as your competence level and personality (and/or looks). I’m not saying this is true across the board. I can say that when I conduct interviews, it’s more aligned to the job and not really a sob story. As aforementioned, interesting facts are good to a minimum. Admin essays are totally different. I put in my sob story there and it gets me places. However, if it’s a non-competitive program, I have literally spend only 30 minutes on the essay questions and it’s mainly naming my credentials.