Your firm never had paralegals before, and now you’re the manager in charge of hiring them. The first thing to know is that paralegals, who are trained in substantive law, perform different functions than secretaries, who handle clerical tasks. Instead of dwelling on the applicant’s typing speed, your interview questions should find out how closely the paralegal’s training and ability match the core skills for these professionals identified by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. (See Resources.)
Asking personal questions helps you to learn more about the paralegal than what appears on the resume, according to Highere. The much-feared “Tell me about yourself” helps to determine whether the applicant’s personality fits the company’s corporate culture. Likewise, asking paralegals to assess their strongest and weakest skills gives insight into an applicant’s honesty and ability to self evaluate job performance. To know if the applicant is motivated, employers ask, “Where would you like to be in five years?” and “What are your professional goals, and how did you establish them?” Hiring services such as Filcro Legal Employment Agencies advise paralegals to keep responses short and related to skills necessary for the position sought.
Questions about work and educational experience are useful for learning about a paralegal’s interests and achievements. Asking “What accomplishments in your prior jobs have given you the most satisfaction?” and “What subject did you like best in school?” can determine if the paralegal’s interests are in line with company goals. More specifically, you can ask the paralegal to describe a recent experience of having to quickly draft a key document using original research. A strong candidate, says Best Job Interview, will outline the steps taken and the methods used to apply legal principles to the particular facts of a case.
Finding out whether the paralegal has taken the time to research your company is one of the most important questions you can ask, according to Filcro Employment Agencies. For one thing, it shows if the paralegal really meant it when she wrote on her resume that her employment objective was to hold a position with your company. The applicants to take seriously are those whose responses contain specific knowledge of the company’s reputation, history, size and stability.
Legal hiring managers need to make sure that the paralegal’s abilities and work habits will help sustain the firm’s needs. When discussing skills, it’s fine to ask if the paralegal can handle common administrative tasks. However, attorneys typically are more interested in whether the paralegal has substantive legal knowledge and analytical ability relevant to the type of law the firm practices. This explains the reasoning behind questions like, “What is the most recent skill you have learned that relates to intellectual property?” and “What laws do you need to know to prepare a bankruptcy petition?” When asked how he would approach a difficult legal matter, a qualified applicant will give a response that demonstrates skill in organizing data, prioritizing issues and making independent decisions based on relevant information.