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Basics of Paralegal Interview

published February 07, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 28 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
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Those who leave the interview to fate seem to think that the interview is just one long series of questions and answers. The winning presentations are most often given by paralegals who understand the basic structure of an effective legal interview.

Basics of Paralegal Interview

The warm-up

The warm-up is actually the most important part of the interview. It comes first and it is the mood setter. A good beginning will have a positive effect on the whole interview. The first five minutes of an interview are the most important. This is very much like a blind date, for it is the first few minutes when people are sizing up, getting feelings, and getting comfortable with one another.

If you know how to exude warmth, this would not be a bad time to glow.

Interviewers get nervous too. If you can do your best to let them feel at ease, you will be getting the qualification mechanism working right away. It is only natural to like someone who has made you feel at ease. You gain if the interview goes well. This is when your enthusiasm headlights should be on "high beam." Gooey, gushy, and syrupy do not work, but there should be "warm" in the warm-up as an insurance policy for a successful interview.

Their question and your answer

This is the part of the interview that many consider to be the entire interview. They pass the warm-up and go straight to business. The question-and-answer period should be as friendly and warm as possible.

Now we'll discuss typical kinds of questions you will get, but you must also consider the logical points of interest people will find in your resume, bio, and cover letter. Also, look at yourself honestly.

Consider where your gaps or weaknesses are, and where potential areas of concern might lie. Do not assume that because someone is focusing on a gap or an area of weakness that they do not favor you. If a person is hoping to hire you, they may be particularly interested in potential weaknesses so that they can make a good case for you in a later meeting.

Remember, the more you have dealt assertively with gaps and weaknesses in your bio, the less you will have to entertain questions about it in the Q&A.

The following is a list of often-asked interview questions that you may want to consider before each interview.
  1. Why do you (with your background) think you can be a paralegal?
  2. Have you ever done this type of work (practice area) before?
  3. Why did you choose the field of law?
  4. Tell me about yourself.
  5. Why do you want to be a _ paralegal?
  6. Why should we hire you?
  7. What is your greatest strength?
  8. What is your greatest weakness?
  9. Five years from now, where would you like to be?
  10. Do you really think you can handle atleast desirable feature of job)?
  11. You seem to have changed jobs a lot.
  12. How do you feel about a (male/female) boss?
  13. What kind of person bothers you?
  14. Why have you been out of work? (Gaps)
  15. How are you with office politics?
  16. How do you react when things get stressful?
  17. If someone yells at you, what do you do?
  18. Will you really work for this kind of money? (Asked of transi tional people)
  19. Do you want to be a lawyer?
  20. How many years are you willing to give us?
Your questions, their answers

There is nothing wrong with coming in with a pad of paper and pen. If you have questions written down, this shows a degree of preparation that bespeaks professionalism and seriousness. Usually a good interviewer will answer most of your questions before you get a chance to ask them.

One good global question that a paralegal can ask which seems natural and logical is, "How would you describe this firm's style as a home for a future employee?" or "What's it like to work here?" You should also ask specific questions you have about the nature of the practice and job. This will demonstrate your interest in the details of the position.

Questions that relate to the firm and the job description should be asked early in the interview process, demonstrating your interest in making a strong individual contribution. The area of job benefits may arise early as a standard part of the employer's presentation. Since the interviewee does not want to give the impression that they are only interested in the benefits, questions about benefits should be saved until the end of the interview process, near or at the tendering of an offer.

There are many questions you should be aware of and ready to ask-questions about compensation, overtime, billing rates (hard requirements and soft requirements), vacation, sick time, benefits, and times for review. Remember, never accept a job if there is any area of concern you have not explored. This is your responsibility. Ask the question in the interview or forever hold your peace. One person I counseled accepted a job based upon an assumption of paid overtime. But there was none-the firm paid no overtime. This disgruntled her. She said, "It just makes me mad that I failed to ask. It's not that I have to work that much OT."

The Positive Conclusion: With a Bang, Not a Whimper Studies show that most interviews wind down in a kind of anticlimactic fashion. They go out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Again this is the responsibility of the interviewee. If the interviewer orchestrates the interview to a resounding conclusion, that is good for you the interviewee, because you get a chance to repeat how much you enjoyed the talk, seeing the offices, and describing your background. But, if the interviewer does not know how to tell you that "It's over," you should grab the reins and positively conclude. Do it with a short recap of your qualifications and a truly sincere statement about wanting to meet them again, or even how you would like to have the job. This is the close. Salesmen know this word very well. You, at least, should end with a declarative statement of interest. This and the warm-up are very much the blind date part of the interview, and they tend to be neglected. In fact, the worst interviews do not have a warm-up, questions from you or a successful conclusion, but are simply Their Q and Your A.

Sense of responsibility

Because hiring is both subjective and objective, much of interviewing is out of our control. New paralegals must say: "I can affect certain things in this interviewing process, and there are many things I cannot affect. I am going to affect what I can affect." The stage, the dialogue, the plot are all fairly predictable; the most important variable is your performance.

It is surely the main thing you can affect. As Shakespeare said through Cassius in "Julius Caesar":

Men at some time are masters of their fates:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

You can be the masters of your fate by preparing for the interview.

And then, all the while, we can still live with the way the "cards are stacked." Consider that the interview is a card game. Imagine for a moment that you saunter into Dodge City and walk into the Long Branch Saloon. Kitty is smiling as you come in. Everyone at the card table is staring at you; their cards are against their chests. You sit. They know your name; you are introduced to them. As you set your weight into the chair, they say, "We'll tell you the game 'bit by bit.'" You smile and pick up your cards. The interview begins.

In spite of all variables that you cannot control, you still must embrace the interview process, as if you are fully and actively the master of your fate. It does not help to feel passive and fatalistic.

See the following articles for more information:

published February 07, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 28 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.