Remember that you have already begun the interview, so let the interviewer set the pace and begin the serious questioning. Below is a list of questions you may be asked, so be prepared to answer them. As you review this list, you will notice that some of these questions are broad and general. It is your job to answer them as specifically as you can, relating your answers to the position for which you are being interviewed.
The questions may be asked in any order. Usually, an interviewer will want to get some background information first. That may not be the case in your situation, however. It is also important to recognize that not all interviewers are good interviewers. Some may be prepared, and others may not be. You may have an interviewer who knows the job and is eager to get the very best person. The questions may be incisive or thought provoking. Other interviewers may not be interested or even competent. So it's important for you to assess the situation as soon as you can. Doing so may help you to understand how and why certain questions are being asked and help you to understand the role of the interviewer.
Later, we will throw some light on the list of illegal or discriminatory questions that can be included during an interview
! If you are asked these questions, try to give a general reply that will reveal your professionalism. If you confront the interviewer with the illegality of the question, the situation may become unpleasant. Remember that you do not need to accept this position; however, it is important for you to be graceful and professional in your behavior. If you know how you will handle any illegal questions before the interview, your anxiety level will be minimized.
You will also be wise to prepare answers (although that does not mean formula answers) to typical questions that are often asked. Below is a list of such questions.
Questions You May Be Asked During an Interview
- Tell me something about yourself.
- Why did you decide to become a paralegal?
- What made you change fields?
- Why do you think you would like to work for us?
- What is important to you in a job?
- What do you think determines a person's progress in a company?
- How do you feel about traveling on the job?
- What about working overtime and on weekends?
- What are your own special abilities and skills?
- What is your major strength?
- What is your major weakness?
- Can you take instructions and criticism without getting upset?
- Do you prefer to work individually or with others?
- What type of boss do you prefer?
- Have you ever had difficulties getting along with your bosses?
- How do you like routine work?
- Are you a detailed person?
- What motivates you in a job?
- What was the best part of your last job?
- What was the worst part of your last job?
- Where do you think you'd like to be five years from now?
- Are you interested in going to law school?
- How would you describe yourself, if you were another person talking about you?
- You seem overqualified. Do you think you would be happy in this job?
Questions You May Ask During an Interview
Do not hesitate to ask questions you may have about the job. You might prepare a brief list. It will impress the interviewer that you have thought about the job and the company before coming in. While you may want to jot down a question or two during the interview, make certain that you do so discretely. Pulling out a memo pad at the beginning of the interview to take notes will not impress the interviewer.
Below is a list of questions you may ask. Add your own questions to the list, or modify it to fit the situation and the position.
Questions You May Ask During an Interview
List your own special interests, concerns, or questions you may have about the job:
- Is this a new position?
- If so, why is this position needed?
- To whom would I report?
- Will I be working for more than one attorney?
- What are the minimum billable hours for paralegals?
- How many hours do the paralegals work, on average?
- Is traveling involved?
- Are paralegals considered part of the support staff or the professional staff?
- Is clerical help available?
- What are the major responsibilities of the job?
- Will I have an opportunity to meet with other paralegals currently working in your firm?
- Is there any kind of paralegal orientation for newcomers?
- What access will I have to a library for LEXIS/NEXIS or WESTLAW?
- Will there be someone to train me in new areas?
- Does your firm encourage continuing education and professional development?
- What major problems would I encounter on this job?
- When do you think you will be making your hiring decision?
Difficult Questions You May Be Asked During an Interview and How to Handle Them
Federal regulations prohibit an interviewer from asking questions that indicate discrimination in the hiring process. This does not mean that these questions will not crop up in some form. Be prepared, therefore, to answer these questions in a way that will serve you best.
For example, if an interviewer asks you about your family responsibilities and care of your small children, if you have any, make certain that you convey that you have already prepared for their care should any problem arise. The same holds true if you are asked about your marital status or plans for having a family. Make your answer brief, but focus on the importance of your professional commitment at this point.
If questions arise about your willingness or availability to travel or work overtime (if that is a part of the job), again stress how you (and your spouse and family) have thought about this possibility and have agreed that it would be possible for you to handle such situations, providing you have time to make any arrangements that would be necessary.
Any questions about your spouse's profession, salary, interests, or career goals should be answered in a way that divulges the minimum amount of information.
Legally, you are not required to answer any questions that are not directly related to the job and that may demonstrate some form of discrimination, such as questions relating to age, race, politics, or any issues concerning your family or personal life.
The more you can anticipate difficult questions and prepare for them, the more your anxieties will be alleviated before going into the interview.
What would be the most difficult question (or you to answer)? One that you hope will not be asked? Plan on how you would answer such a question. If you are not asked, the issue becomes irrelevant. If you are asked, at least you will have considered an appropriate response.
For example, are you concerned about long gaps in your employment history? If so, think about how you have kept yourself abreast of current issues; have developed skills in various volunteer positions; and attended workshops, lectures, and continuing education programs.
Do you feel that age is a factor for you? Think of all the positive characteristics that you can bring to a job such as maturity, reliability, decisiveness, good judgment, an awareness of people, and the ability to handle conflicts. In other words, once you convince yourself you could be an asset to a firm, you can convince an employer with much greater ease.
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