Paralegals and the Job Search: How to Ace the Toughest Paralegal Interview Questions

During an interview you need to be able to quickly and efficiently sell to the potential employer what you can do for him or her that the other candidates may not be able to do.

To get your strengths and skills across efficiently takes practice. Paralegals have to make sure that they do not talk neither too much nor too little, that all of their explanations are clear and precise, and that their vocal delivery is enthusiastic, focused, and shows a high degree of confidence and professionalism.
The goal of this article  is to help paralegals practice their responses to the crucial, tough interview questions, so they can create an outstanding lasting impression with the interviewer.
—— Know your resume ——
A frequent complaint among recruiters is that many candidates show up with wonderful resumes but cannot back up the claims that they make on their resumes. Thus, before heading to your interview, remember the following principles:
  • Everything on your resume is fair game and you need to be able to speak about anything on your resume in depth.
  • You must not exaggerate, if the interviewer feels you have inflated your credentials, you could jeopardize your candidacy.
  • You need to be able to relate the information on your resume to the job you are applying for.
—— How to take control of the interview with open-ended questions ——
One of the key best practices in paralegal interviews is the ability to take control of the interview or at least to shape its direction.
You usually receive wonderful opportunities to do so when you are asked open-ended questions such as “Tell me about yourself”.
You can use that kind of question to paint a picture of your winning three or four qualities and move straight to the strengths that distinguish you.
—— Turning around questions about your failures and weaknesses ——
In many cases, during an interview, you are asked at least once to talk about a failure or one of your negative personal qualities.
Greatest weakness/failure question: What to avoid
  1. A failure that is very recent.
  2. An example that cost your employer a client or hurt his/her reputation or that was financially costly.
  3. A failure that puts in question some of the skills or qualities required for your current job.
  4. An example where you cannot elaborate on what your learned.
  5. A failure that reflects a weakness regarding the skills needed to succeed in the job that the interview is for.
How to skillfully turn around and elaborate on one of your most valuable paralegal qualities and experiences
  1. Spend only a small amount of time addressing your failure.
  2. Talk about the lessons you learned.
  3. Spend the reminder of your time mentioning an example of when you succeeded by applying the lessons you learned from the failure or weakness you have mentioned.
—— Other tough paralegal interview questions ——
Can you explain these poor grade(s)?
Try not to be defensive and acknowledge or explain the poor grades without trying to make an excuse for them. Then shift the conversation to focus on your most recent record of achievement to assure your interviewer of your current focus, dedication, and abilities.
Aren't you overqualified for this position?
You can focus on explaining how you see room for growth in this new position and point to attractive factors of the company (culture, environment) that make the position attractive and, again, take the chance to steer the conversation directly to your winning skills.
Describe a situation in which you faced an ethical challenge and how you resolved it?
Avoid conveying information that could create the impression that you engaged in unethical behavior. Probably the best way to handle this question is to highlight a situation where you chose to address an ethical issue openly and initiated a dialogue that led to steps towards resolving or managing the ethical challenge.
Why do you want to leave your job?
Remember never to disparage your current or any past employer. The best answer is probably to say that you determined that you had grown as much as you could in your current job and that you are now ready for new challenges.
—— Some final thoughts ——
Paralegals, during your job search and interview process, think about each question as an opportunity to showcase at least one accomplishment or strength, with every answer building momentum toward convincing the interviewer that you deserve the job and would help your interview succeed and/or shine a good light on him/her for selecting you.
And don't forget the importance of enthusiasm! Many recruiters report that, all things equal, they will choose the candidate that is truly excited about the new job and has is most fired up about the position.
Good luck to all of you!

5 Tips for Paralegals to Help You Ask For and Receive a Raise

You have been with the company for a good while. You are a top performer, have contributed to the bottom line of the company substantially, even had a superior performance review. Yet your paycheck has remained unchanged. A raise should happen automatically, shouldn't it?

Not necessarily. Bosses aren't in the business of handing out large pay increases, even to top performers. They want to get the most work out of employees for the least amount of pay. Most businesses try to obtain services as inexpensively as possible, including labor. It's yet another way for the business to maximize profits. Chances are good that at times you will only receive more money if you ask for it, however, if you are lucky enough to get a yearly review with the boss you may get a raise then. 

But what is the best way to ask for a raise and receive it? The following are some tips to follow to help you ask for a raise and increase your odds of receiving it.

1. Choose your moment wisely. 

Monday mornings are generally not the best time to ask for a raise. Send an email requesting a meeting in advance. Consider your boss's schedule and body clock. If the boss needs 3 cups of coffee before becoming coherent, odds are mornings should be avoided. Likewise the busiest time of the day or month is not good. But, have you just received a commendation or accolade? Just worked on a winning trial? Or recently presented extraordinary research or work product?  Strike while the iron is hot and your successes are fresh in your bosses mind. 

2. Do your research. 

Before asking for that raise, investigate the financial health of the company or firm. What do the quarterly earnings reports say? Have there been recent layoffs? Is the firm growing and hiring?  Check into what other paralegals in your city are earning based on the years of experience they have and compare that to your earnings.  Temper your expectations and raise request accordingly.

3. Build your case with numbers. 

Show your value and worth to the company by creating a list of your accomplishments in the past year, especially those that have impacted the bottom line. Document cost saving measures you have implemented, new accounts you have brought in, or clients you have brought in.  Note any successful case outcomes such as a winning trial or any team or individual projects that did well. I would also suggest mentioning extra time worked on projects or trials as a way to show your commitment.  

4. Plan in advance how you will respond if you are turned down. 

Whining, sulking, storming off or quitting probably are not appropriate responses. Ask your boss a few questions such as  "What do I need to do to get the raise I think I deserve?" or "How can I improve upon my work here at the firm?" Do not feel like it's the end of the world.  If timely raises for work well done aren't coming, there is the alternative of looking elsewhere for work. 

5. Keep an open mind and come with alternatives. 

Extra vacation time, tuition reimbursement, childcare and healthcare expense reimbursement, flextime, and telecommuting options are viable replacements to a raise when money is tight. For example, I personally would rather have a few extra days off with pay than get a raise, and that is exactly what happened on my last job. I asked for an received 3 extra paid days off per year.  Suggest to your boss those alternatives to a raise that you find appropriate for the type of job and position you are seeking. 

During the meeting, remember to stay focused and calm.  Be confident about the good work you have done for the firm.  Keep eye contact and remember to be courteous.  Remember, if you are performing above standard, the timing is good and the company is doing well, you should easily be able to get the raise you want. 

Be A Better Paralegal 10 Day Challenge-Day 5-Working Well With Others

Whether you work in a downtown high powered law office or you work in a factory, you still have to deal with office or workplace politics. Politics at work are commonplace and people engage in the behavior for both financial and emotional reasons. If you are there, then you must play to some degree and must learn how to navigate your way through the muck, learning how to play the game.

When working with countless types of different personalities for 8-10 hours a day, conflicts may arise at times. Getting along with certain coworkers can be challenging, if not impossible. Workplace relationships have a significant effect on how you behave - good relationships can make the workday more enjoyable and help you become more successful, while bad relationships can be distracting and a waste of valuable time.
To nurture the good relationships and steer clear of the bad ones, there are certain behaviors to embrace and others to avoid while at the workplace. Below are 7 tips on how to get along with your coworkers: Communication is key
The best way to get to know someone is to spend some time together and talk to them. Find something you share in common - do they have kids, workout, like sports, visit the same coffee shop, etc. However, refrain from using the information obtained from gossip about fellow coworkers, which is known to bring people together but has a negative effect on the workplace atmosphere.
Keep your emotions in check
Avoid displaying negative behaviors, such as physical discomfort, avoiding eye contact, or even hostility, when face-to-face with a coworker you don't particularly like or care for. Learn how to control your emotions, agree to disagree, and most importantly be respectful regardless of your true feelings.
Be helpful
Find ways to go above and beyond your core job functions. Keeping your head down and just doing your work for 8-10 hours a day will not get you very far. Offer to help an overwhelmed coworker, bring in baked goods, or simply hold the door or elevator.
Smile and say hello
One of the easiest ways to keep positive energy going is to smile and say hello to everyone. It's a great way to start a conversation with a coworker you don't know very well or it merely acknowledges them during a busy workday. Make it a goal to be remembered as positive Polly not negative Nancy.
Work on your social skills
A large part of getting along with coworkers is being able to read the social signs. Particularly with group discussions, analyze the situation and conform accordingly. In other words, gauge your audience first, then modify your persona just enough to form a bond. The opposite would be to expect the social situation to conform to you, which can lead to social awkwardness and uncomfortable situations.
Never assume
You know the saying about making assumptions... Before overreacting to any given situation, remember to remain calm and get all the facts first. Get clarification (in a non-hostile manner) from the parties involved and try to gain some perspective as to where your coworkers are coming from because it might have nothing to do with you. Only after taking some time to process all the information should you react using the proper chain of command.
Avoid office politics
It's best to sidestep office politics all together. Do not get caught up in the perplexing game of picking sides, identifying the good guys and bad guys, or brown nosing. It's best to stay neutral and focused, and always be yourself. In closing, remember to consistently practice good office etiquette each and every day. It might make the difference between starting a good relationship with a coworker or bad one with a coworker that will eventually need to be addressed. Do you have any tips to add or any funny anecdotes to share of coworker relationships gone wrong? How was the problems solved, if at all?
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