At times, knowing what not to say in a paralegal job interview is just as critical as knowing what to say. We understand that discussing your abilities, work ethic, and the value you can bring to a potential employer is beneficial. There are, however, some things you should avoid saying during the interview.
You should never mention five things during a paralegal job interview.
1- My Previous Employer Was a Jerk
Even if your previous boss was a jerk, expressing something like this sends a strong message to prospective employers. No one would say, “my previous boss was a jerk.” However, your interviewer may substitute alternative terms for that phrase. Here are a few examples:
- The attorney for whom I worked was a problematic individual.
- The office manager favored specific paralegals, which was detrimental to morale.
- There was a lot of office drama, which I attempted to avoid.
- I was critical of my supervisor’s management style.
Avoid expressing these things during the interview. They give the impression that you are willing to speak negatively about previous employers.
However, what if you genuinely worked for a law company led by a genuine bully who treated his people poorly? The law firm with which you are interviewing has very certainly heard tales regarding the management style of that firm. Even in a large metropolitan, legal firms typically include management and other people who have previously worked at other firms. They would be familiar with which firms have a reputation for problematic lawyers.
2- My five-year goal is to earn a law degree
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a lawyer as a paralegal. Working as a paralegal can be an excellent method to familiarize yourself with the law business between college and law school. However, disclosing this during the paralegal job interview is comparable to declaring, “I am only searching for a temporary position. Once I pass the bar, I will leave this job searching for another.”
Unless the job description specifically states that it is a temporary position, most law firms are searching for long-term employees. They are willing to invest in their paralegal careers. The manager interviewing you today may be the one who will invest time in training you. Then they turn around to see you leave a few years later to attend law school.
3- I Can Begin Immediately
If you are currently working, you shouldn’t think they don’t need you to provide a two-week notice to your employer. The interviewer may think: you’re having trouble at your job, or you’ll leave them hanging when you resign there.
When beginning a paralegal work, know you won’t be unable to use any vacation time for at least 90 days. The period between employment may be ideal for taking a vacation to begin your new career rejuvenated.
4- Avoid personalizing questions
The interviewer is almost certainly going to question you about yourself. This open-ended inquiry about yourself is frequently what throws folks off at the start of the interview. Avoid being perplexed as to what they’re seeking here. They are not interested in your personal life.
One approach is, to begin with, the present, move into the past, and conclude with the future. Bear in mind that what you genuinely want them to know is why you’d be a good fit here. This is why, before the interview, you should conduct research on the organization.
If you’re looking for your first paralegal position, here’s an example of how to use the present, past, and future:
I’m in the final month of my paralegal certificate program at ABC University. I’ve learned about a paralegal’s job in the litigation process (which is helpful if you’re interviewing for a litigation paralegal). Before that, I worked in the healthcare profession, where I gained extensive knowledge of medical records and terminology. I aim to use my professional experience and recent schooling in a role involving medical malpractice and personal injury litigation.
5- My Expected Salary is X
During a paralegal job interview, you should avoid confining yourself to a precise wage estimate based on your current salary. In today’s paralegal employment market, you should demand the compensation you WANT to earn to quit your current position. And that sum should not be calculated as a percentage increase over your existing wage.
Perhaps your present wage is too low.
Perhaps your current paralegal work offers a sizable year-end bonus, which you will forfeit by changing firms.
If you’re going to make a career change, make it worthwhile. Make it a significant one with a substantial income increase.
Some of these suggestions for what not to say during a paralegal job interview may seem self-evident. You would be amazed at some of what I overheard during interviews while working as a paralegal manager. That will be the subject of a future blog post: You hear some of the oddest things during an interview.