Interview techniques and tips for those seeking a position as a paralegal

By Amanda Hamilton, CEO of National Association of Licensed Paralegals

woman shaking hands, job interview, strengthsWhether you are looking for a job within a law firm or a paralegal position in another setting, everyone knows that attending a job interview is a nerve-racking experience!

But job interviews don’t need to be terrifying.  With some understanding of the process and some preparation, you can reduce your nerves and put yourself in the best position to shine.

Firstly, relax! Easy to say I know, but bear in mind that you wouldn’t have got this far unless your qualifications and/or previous experience hadn’t already spoken for themselves. Therefore, you should accept that you’re there on merit just like everyone else being interviewed.

Secondly, it’s now down to whether your face ‘fits’ what they need and want. This may be something that is completely out of your control since you don’t have a clue what they are looking for beyond what has already got you this far.

Thirdly, because you can’t predict what they want, you need to be yourself and show off your personality and character.

In my time as an employer, I have interviewed many applicants. Let me tell you about one job I was interviewing for. These were applicants going for a paralegal administrator’s role.

Applicant one had had a week to prepare for the interview. She hadn’t taken any care in how she looked nor in the clothes she wore. She addressed me (her interviewer) as ‘Dear’. Having asked her whether she knew what we did, she shook her head. I gave her a brief synopsis of our organisation, at the end of which, I asked her if she had any questions. She answered by saying: ‘Yes. How much are you going to pay me Dear?’

Applicant two also had a week to prepare for the interview. A law graduate, she came in, sat down, didn’t say anything. Her head was down and in answer to my question whether she knew what our organisation did, she shook her head. After proceeding to give her a brief outline, I asked her whether she had any questions. She shook her head. The interview was over.

Applicant three strutted into the interview room and lazily draped himself over the chair. He was not dressed appropriately. He did not acknowledge me in any way other than by saying ‘awlright’. The interview was over almost before it began although I went through the motions.

Applicant four had no legal training but looked great. She had no office experience but came across as very open about her lack of experience and being willing to learn very quickly. She had a great personality and had checked our website so was aware of what we did. She got the job, remains in our employ after five years and has become a senior member of staff.

So here are my tips to shine in your interview:

  1. Make the interviewer’s job easier. Give them the information they need in your CV and covering letter and let your desire for the job shine through. By the time you get called for interview it should just be about ascertaining your character and personality and whether you are the right fit for the role and organisation.
  2. Do your research. Look at the company website. Who are their big clients? What areas of the law do they specialise in?
  3. Prepare some sensible questions in advance. There must be things you’d like to know – after all, if you get offered the job, you need to know that accepting it is right for you. So, think carefully about what you need to know and write the questions down.
  4. Interviewers usually make up their minds about you within the first 30 seconds of seeing you. So, make a good impression from the start. Dress appropriately, say good morning/afternoon, and make eye contact.
  5. Eye contact enables an interviewer to perceive a great deal about who you are, so use it appropriately. Staring hard and aggressively at the interviewer is as bad as avoiding eye contact altogether.
  6. Show your enthusiasm for the job. No one wants to employ someone who appears not to be bothered about getting the job! Employers are looking for people who are keen, enthusiastic, and have an energy for the role. That doesn’t mean you need to be jumping up and down with desire, but you do need to show you truly want the job and you need to be able to explain, succinctly, why you want it.
  7. Who you are, as a personality, is important for the interviewer; it will tip the balance between you and another candidate with similar (or perhaps better) qualifications and experience. Help make the interviewer feel comfortable. I know that sounds backwards, but if you can build rapport with the interviewer(s) and help them relax too, then you’re well on your way to getting the job.

By preparing properly and following the tips above, you’ll put yourself in the best position to get the job. But remember, you are not right for every job and every job is not right for you. So, if this isn’t the one – move on to the next.

Amanda HamiltonAbout the author

Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.

Twitter: @NALP_UK


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