This is a humorous and sarcastic blog written by a paralegal in a mid-sized law firm in a mid-tier market. The goal is to share some of the pitfalls and foibles encountered in my own day-to-day experiences. Feel free to contact me at aparalegalslife@gmail.com with comments. Complaints, not so much :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Job Interviews

Going on a job interview is just as much about you interviewing a prospective employer as about them interviewing you.  Still, there are key things that any legal employer will hit on during interviews for any level of employee, and which you need to be prepared for.  I've worked for enough different firms, attorneys and managers over the years to have picked up on the right things to say, and the right way to say them. 

Above all, honesty is the key.  Honesty with some mild wit or a smile usually goes over well.  (If they don't seem to have a sense of humor whatsoever, RUN SCREAMING.  Firms without a sense of humor are not going to be a healthy place to work.)  If the question comes up, be honest about having made some sort of mistake, and how you went about correcting it.  But remember, any skilled interviewer has a sixth sense for BS.

Emphasize your ability to communicate.  Probably the most important skill one can have as a Paralegal is effective communication with everyone: Attorneys, other paralegals, the Courts, support staff, vendors, etc.  Poor communication is the root cause of so many problems we encounter.  Anyone interviewing you will certainly understand and respect that communication is key to being effective in this job.  Certainly any Paralegal with even a little experience can tell stories about how good communication has saved your butt, and bad communication has caused migraines and/or ulcers.

Also make sure they show you around during the interview, and ask if they don't offer to.  If you might be spending a third of your life somewhere, it's important to know whether you'll be comfortable.  Also, you can sneak a look at the faces of prospective co-workers and gauge whether they seem happy, content, overworked or zombified. 

Most firms have a website these days.  Paralegals do research, so do research on the firm both through their website and legal news sources.  Check out the attorneys in that office, and their backgrounds.  Dropping some hints that you looked into them before walking through the door shows that you are prepared and makes them less wary to do a "sales pitch" as opposed to a real interview.


Corporate Paralegal said...

We just went through the hiring process for a paralegal and I can tell you that honesty was a huge thing. The candidate we picked was very candid about not having worked for two years. Her one firm closed down and she just could not locate a job. With the past (and present) economy, that was completely excusable.

The other thing that we appreciated was her emphasis and demonstration of a willingness to learn. We don't expect you to come into this position knowing exactly how to do corporate work. It is unique. Don't try and sell me a story that you were all about corporate work at your old position. Instead, tell me that you don't know it (there is that honesty thing again) but can learn it.

Finally - you are so correct in interviewing the employer. Here is a little secret. I left things out of the information I presented when I interviewed candidates. I wanted them to ask me questions. If they did then I knew that they were paying attention - and that they would ask questions when they got into the job. If they said "No questions" then I realized that they were either not paying attention or were too timid to ask. Too timid is super bad in this profession.

Good luck Grumpy!!!!

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