Paralegal Interview Tips
While there is a lot of advice out there on how to answer interview questions, paralegal interview questions can be different from your typical interview. If you are applying for a paralegal position, preparing for your interview can help you lock down that job.
The paralegal field is becoming a very competitive one. Knowing how to make yourself stand out from the crowd and nailing your interview could mean the difference between getting your dream job and having to keep looking. Here are ten of the most common paralegal interview questions and advice on how to answer them:
What experience do you have?
Even if you have never had a paralegal job before, you likely have some relevant experience. The worst thing you can say in response to this question is “None,” not only because it does not make you attractive candidate, but also because it’s likely not true. If you’ve ever worked a job before, you have relevant experience.
Why did you decide to become a paralegal?
There are hundreds of different jobs you could have chosen. Why did you decide to become a paralegal? Most people choose this field because they are interested in the law, they love helping people, and they like the fast-paced work environment. Your potential employer is looking here for a reason to choose you over the other candidates. They want to see that you have passion for the paralegal profession.
One thing you want to avoid here is to seem as if you are just using this paralegal position as a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer. In my days as a paralegal manager, the last thing I wanted to hear as an answer was “Because I think being a paralegal will help prepare me for law school.” If I got that answer, I would usually pass on that candidate. As a manager, I don’t want to spend the next two years training someone who is going to leave in 2-3 years to go to law school.
Why should we choose you?
Use this paralegal interview question to let some of your personality shine through. This is a question that you are going to encounter in just about every job interview. Having a short, snappy answer prepared is integral to ensuring that they actually do choose you. Be honest, highlight your skills, and remark on how much you enjoy the work. If they get the sense that you are actually energized by the work you do, they are more likely to choose you over other candidates.
Are you a skilled organizer?
Organization is perhaps the most important skill that a paralegal can have. If you took a certification course or received a degree for this career, you probably took a class that taught you how to start and maintain an organizational system. Don’t be afraid to talk about instances in which your organization skills have increased the efficiency of or solved a problem for another firm or employer. Proving that you know how to keep both paper and digital data properly organized will make you an asset.
Are you familiar with the latest technology in the legal field?
There are new developments being made every single day in the legal career. This new technology, such as e-discovery, has changed the way that most law firms operate. If you do know how to use the latest technology, tell the interviewer. If you are not familiar with this technology, do not lie and say that you are. You can say, however, that you are eager to learn and have always been very adept at learning new technology.
Can you give me an example of a time you had to do a large amount of work within a tight deadline?
You will often be working under tight deadlines, no matter what type of firm you want to work for. Use this paralegal interview question to talk about an opportunity that allowed you to use your organizational, research, and analysis skills in order to help a previous employer. Remember, this does not necessarily have to be directly connected to the paralegal field. If you have worked other jobs, there is likely to be a relevant situation which would still allow you to highlight the skills your employer needs to know that you have developed.
What do you know about us?
Before going for the paralegal interview, you should do a little bit of research about the people you are going to be interviewing with. Even if you don’t know who the specific interviewers will be, you can do research on the firm or organization as a whole. Even just doing a simple Google search and reading their web page could be a great way to learn about the firm. If there are a news articles published about cases they have worked on, this is another good place to start.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Most law firms will interview at least three people when they are looking for a new paralegal. Even with just two competitors, if you do not stand out, you are going to fade into the background and the firm will hire someone else.
Don’t be afraid to tell your interviewer what specifically you like about the firm and what unique skill or trait you have to offer to their firm’s culture.
Do you have any questions for us?
When you go into an interview, you should have a few questions for your interviewers. Do not ask about time off, salary, perks, etc. Instead, ask about what educational or professional development programs they offer. Many firms encourage their paralegals to continue their paralegal training or to develop new skills. Showing interest in developing your paralegal career can make you an even more attractive option.
Finally, keep in mind that once you make it to the interview stage, you are in the final running for the position. Many times, the final decision comes down to: Is this person a good fit for the team we are hiring for? If you don’t land this particular position, there may be another position in the future at this same firm, but working on a different team and it will be a better fit for you and for the team.