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Knock Their Socks Off! Seven Important Interview Tips For Paralegals

Posted by Gail Armatys

Sep 11, 2012 1:11:00 PM


Tina Ghanavati Director of Career Services resized 600

 Tina Ghanavati

Director of Career Placement Services

You’ve finally landed a big interview. You’re ready to knock their socks off, but how? Most will advise you to do your homework, but what does that mean, exactly? In paralegal school, it means learning the right answers for an assignment or test. In an interview, however, the preparation process is much more extensive. No procrastinating. No winging it. You get the job (pass) or you don't (fail). Here are some surefire ways to ace your interview…

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

For a paralegal interview, that means researching everything you can about the institution or firm: its specialty areas, the attorneys, and the specifics of the job that you are seeking. Next, conduct a more comprehensive online search of the firm, reading the annual reports, press releases, and any other relevant articles.

-- Drive to the office the day before to be sure you know exactly where to park and will arrive on time the day of the interview.
-- Bring along multiple copies of your resume and any work samples.
-- Prior to the interview, check in with people you are planning to list as references.
-- Gather the contact information of pertinent people and send a ‘thank you’ note as soon as possible following your interview.

2. When in doubt, don’t wear it.

While you won’t lose points for wearing a classic suit to an interview, you can lose major points for accidentally wearing the wrong outfit for the proposed paralegal job.

3. Come up with a quick response for every question asked. 

Practice answering with a smile on your face and in a strong, confident voice. Always make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. Often when we are thinking, we look away and unconsciously frown. Be enthusiastic when answering questions. Practice interviewing with a friend, family member, or even in the mirror ahead of time and it will be much easier when you're actually in a job interview. Additionally, reviewing typical interview questions you will probably be asked during a job interview will help give you a framework for your responses and will help calm your frazzled nerves, because you won't be scrambling for an answer while you're in the interview hot seat.

4. Be positive.

It’s never an appropriate time to share negative information about your former supervisor, co-workers, clients, etc. Speaking ill of your former employer could automatically take you out of contention for the job.

5. Ask questions.

Some of the negative feedback I’ve received from hiring managers is that the applicant does not ask questions. Asking thoughtful questions during an interview not only shows your interest in the job, it also proves you have researched the firm and attorneys.

6.  Provide samples of work when appropriate.

Graduates from the Center's programs typically complete one or more binders full of documents relative to classes taught within their program.  Employers discern quickly the high quality of work you can do by reviewing the binder.  Making impressive work samples available for review  can make a difference in the outcome of the interview...seeing is believing.

7. Follow up promptly.

Sending a written note or email expressing your interest in the job and thanking the interviewer for his or her time is another indicator that you really want the job. An employer once told me that they hired a graduate because she was the only one that sent a handwritten ‘thank you’ note.

So, unlike an assignment or test, consider the interview as a courtship or dance. If you are prepared, polished, and present, you're more likely to develop the chemistry and make an impression that will land you the job.

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Center for Advanced Legal Studies offers Career Placement Services to graduates upon successful completion of their program.  Tina Ghanavati is the Director of Career Placement Services and has vast experience coordinating interviews for employers and graduates of our paralegal programs.

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