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!

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