What Not To Say in a Paralegal Job Interview

Sometimes it is just as important to know what not to say in your paralegal job interview as it is to know what to say.  We know it helps to talk about skills, work ethic, and the value you can bring to a potential employer. However, there are also things that you should not say during the interview.

Here are the five things that you should avoid saying in paralegal job interviews.

1. My Last Employer Was a Jerk

Even if your old boss was actually a jerk, saying something like this is a big red flag for new employers. Now, obviously, no one would use that exact phrase, “my last employer was a jerk.”  However, there are other phrases that your interviewer could translate to that phrase.  Here are a few:

  • The attorney I worked for had a difficult personality.
  • The office manager played favorites with certain paralegals, and it was terrible for morale.
  • There was a lot of office drama that I tried to stay out of.
  • I didn’t agree with my supervisor’s management style.

Avoid saying these things in the interview because it makes you sound like you are willing to speak poorly about former employers. 

But what if you did actually work for a law firm that was headed by a real bully who treated the staff badly?  The law firm you are interviewing with has probably heard the rumors about that firm’s management style.  Even in a large metropolitan city, law firms usually have management and other personnel who have worked at other firms and know which firms have a reputation for having difficult lawyers.

2. My 5-Year Plan is to Become an Attorney

There is nothing wrong with being a paralegal who wants to become a lawyer. Working as a paralegal in between college and law school could even be a great way to get familiar with the workings of a law firm. However, revealing this in the paralegal job interview is akin to saying, “I am only looking for a temporary position, and once I pass the bar, I will be abandoning this job to look for a new one.”

Unless it is explicitly stated that this job is a short-term one, most law firms are looking to hire long-term employees who want to invest in their paralegal careers. So that manager you’re interviewing with today may be the person who will have to invest their time to train you only to have you leave a few years later to go to law school.

3. I Can Start Immediately

If you are currently employed, you should never say that you don’t need to give your employer at least a 2-week notice. The interviewer might assume one of two things: either you have drama at your current place of employment and you need to get out fast, or you will probably also leave them hanging when you resign from them too.

Another thing to think about when you start a new paralegal position is that you will probably be limited in using any vacation time for at least 90 days to 6 months. Therefore, the time in between jobs might be the perfect time to take a vacation so that you can start your new position refreshed and energized.

4. My Life is (This)

The interviewer is probably going to ask you to tell them about yourself.  This open-ended question to talk about yourself is what usually throws people off right at the beginning of the interview.  Don’t get confused about what they’re looking for here.  They’re not looking for your personal life story. 

One way to answer this is to start with your present, go into your past (a little!), and finish off with your future.  Remember, what you really want them to know is how you would be a good fit here.  This is why you must research the company before the interview.

Here is an example of doing the present, past, future method if you’re trying to land your first paralegal position: 

I’m in my last month of the paralegal certificate program at ABC University, where I’ve learned so many important things about a paralegal’s role in the litigation process (if you’re interviewing for a litigation paralegal position).  Before that, my focus was in the healthcare industry, where I had the opportunity to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge of medical records and medical terminology.  I hope to be able to use that prior work experience with my recent paralegal education in a litigation position that involves medical malpractice and personal injury.

5. My Salary Expectation is X, Since I’m Making X in my Current Position

During a paralegal job interview, you should not box yourself into a specific salary expectation based on your current salary. In this current paralegal job market, especially if you’re already employed, you should be asking for the salary you WANT to make in order to leave your current position.  And that amount shouldn’t be based on a specific percentage increase over your current salary. 

Maybe your current salary is below market.

Maybe your current paralegal position includes a sizeable year-end bonus that you’re going to be giving up by moving to another firm.

If you are going to make a career move, make it worthwhile and make it a BIG move and a big jump in salary.

Some of these tips on what not to say during a paralegal job interview might sound like a “given,” but you would be surprised at some of the things I heard during interviews when I was a paralegal manager. That will be a future blog post: You hear some of the strangest things during an interview.

things attorneys look for in a paralegal

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  • Robin July 9, 2021 at 2:04 pm Reply

    There’s a reason that I saw this today. Thank you for sharing – insightful to say the least!

  • Kellie English July 12, 2021 at 3:04 pm Reply

    Is there any course or program to help with your resume?

  • Rebecca Reidenbaugh January 30, 2022 at 2:26 pm Reply

    I found your site searching for a Billable Hours program. I have been considering returning to college for Certification as a Paralegal. Amazing, this is what they need to be teaching Students in Paralegal programs or at least suggest this in addition to CLE.

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