Even if you’ve aced all your paralegal studies courses, facing your first interview can be tough. You need to start somewhere so you can work on your current skills, build new ones and gain valuable experience, but many places view new paralegals as an investment. Only the right candidate justifies the risk, so use these seven tips to demonstrate you’re the one worth betting on.
Prepare as much as you can
Research skills are strong in a successful paralegal, and you need to put yours to work in interview preparation. Research all you can about the firm, including its attorneys, its specialized areas and the details of the specific job you’re aiming for. Review press releases, annual reports and anything else relevant to the firm you can find.
The checklist below covers even more preparation you can carry out to ensure you’re on time and completely ready.
• Drive by the office the day before your interview so you know exactly where you’re going and where you can park. This helps ensure you’ll be on time.
• Bring any work samples and some copies of your resume.
• Check with the people you’re planning to use as references before the interview so they know to expect contact.
• Get the contact information for the relevant people at the firm so you can send a follow-up note as soon as possible after your interview.
Watch what your wear
Consider a classic suit or staple work-appropriate outfit, especially if you’re not sure about the firm’s dress code. While you may want to show off your personality, most law firms take professional appearance very seriously. If you wear the wrong outfit, you can seriously hurt your hiring chances.
Practice questions and answers
Practicing interview questions and your responses can make you more confident when you’re doing the real thing. Work on creating clear answers to some common questions, such as “What can you bring to our firm?” and check whether your replies are in a confident, strong voice. If not, work on that. You’ll also want a firm handshake and should be able to make eye contact when speaking to the interviewers. Make a list of possible questions and ask family or friends to do some practice runs with you.
Keep it positive
There’s never a good time to share a negative experience about a firm you interned at. When you speak ill of past employers, the interviewers may decide you’re simply not a team player and not the best fit for their firm.
Ask some questions
Asking questions will get you the extra information you need, and this will also show the interviewer that you’re interested in the job and researched the firm beforehand. Make a brief list of questions you have about the firm and the position you want, and don’t be afraid to ask other things if something pops up during the interview that you want to know more about.
Provide work samples if necessary
Create a binder of work samples from any internships and your paralegal college studies. Seeing is believing, so use your highest-quality samples in your binder to give your prospective employer a glimpse of what you can do.
Follow up as soon as possible
Send an email or note reiterating your interest in the position and thanking your interviewer for her or his time. This can make you stand out these days, and it really drives home how much you want the job.