Acing the Interview: Practical Tips

The interview process is an area we can all relate to when deciding to change employers or career fields. As a manager, I have had the privilege of sitting in and conducting numerous interviews for open paralegal positions on my team. The landscape of interviews has drastically changed, as most are virtual or utilize the committee-style interview process – with a panel of interviewers.

Before any interview, you need to conduct your research, have your questions ready, and be on time. You would be surprised at the number of candidates who come in and do not have these basics. An interviewer may ask how you perceive the company’s position in its industry, who are the firm’s competitors, what are the company’s competitive advantages, and how it should best go forward. For this reason, avoid trying to thoroughly research a dozen different industries. Instead, focus your job search on just a few industries.

“So, tell me a little about yourself?” Many interviewers may begin interviews with this question. So, how should you respond in a manner that sets you apart from the competition? A micro-bio works, even though we may have the resume in front of us. Frame it around the resume. I always like to add, “As you can see from my resume, I am a graduate of XYZ university, I worked at ABC firm, etc.” This is your time to sell yourself and let the interviewers get to know you – especially why you are the best candidate for the job. Avoid discussing personal insights such as pets, favorite colors, or favorite foods. Would you rather have the interviewer writing down what kind of pet you have – or why the company should hire you? Telling the interviewer about yourself is your golden opportunity to really seal the deal. Consider responding to this question with something like: “Well, obviously I could tell you about a lot of things, and if I am missing what you want, please let me know. But the three things I think are most important for you to know about me are [your selling points]. I can expand on those if you would like.” Interviewers will always say, “Sure, go ahead.” Then you say, “Well, regarding the first point, [give your example]. And when I was working for [company], I [example of another selling point].” This strategy enables you to focus the first 10-15 minutes of the interview on all your key selling points. The “tell me about yourself” question is a golden opportunity.

One of the most common interview styles today is to ask people to describe experiences they have had that demonstrate behaviors that the company thinks are important for a particular position. Some examples of this are being asked to talk about a time when you made an unpopular decision, displayed a high level of persistence, or made a decision under time pressure and with limited information. I like this approach as it allows me to get a grasp of the way the interviewee approaches problem solving.

My company also uses the real-time approach, where we ask the interviewee to look at a sample of work that we perform on a daily basis. This could be an organizational chart or a fill-in-the-blank exercise, as this helps me gauge a person’s critical thinking skills. The take-away is to be prepared and make sure that you put your best foot forward. The goal is to either be offered the position or move to the next round.

Author Biography:

Airolyn Loggins, ACP, is employed as a Contract Manager at Hilton in Memphis, TN, where she acts as the Pro-Bono and Lunch & Learn Coordinator. Ms. Loggins holds a Bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies from the University of Memphis and a dual Master of Arts in Human Resources Management and Management and Leadership from Webster University. She is a Certified Paralegal, having passed the exam in 2008, and has earned the ACP credential in Discovery and Contracts Administration/Contracts Management. Over the years, she has served in various positions within the Greater Memphis Paralegal Association. She currently is a member of the Professional Development Committee.