Preparing for a Legal Job Interview - Four Tricky Questions and How to Answer Them

I have a legal job interview scheduled, and I’m nervous about some of the tough questions that I’m sure to be asked. How do I answer a seemingly no-win question like, “What is your greatest weakness?” What are some other common interview questions I should be aware of?

Besides giving the hiring manager a personal look at you, the interview is also your opportunity to expound on the information on your resume. And, of course, you’ll also undergo a line of questioning. To feel more confident during your legal job interview and to increase your chances of making a great impression, take a look at these four questions that hiring managers often ask candidates.

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”
    Although this request is ostensibly about you, what interviewers really want to know is what you would bring to the position and how well you’d fit in the firm. Stay focused on the legal job description. Start by highlighting your education and experience, and then mention only the skills, activities and personality traits that demonstrate why you are the best candidate. Don’t drone, and beware of divulging too much information. There are certain questions that hiring managers are legally unable to ask, such as family status and health issues; you don’t want to give them any reason to not want to hire you.

  2. “What is your biggest weakness?”
    This question seems impossible to answer without dooming your chances of success, but it doesn’t have to be a minefield. Use the opportunity to highlight your initiative and the problem-solving skills you’ve gleaned from your legal career. The best response is to mention a minor weakness that you’ve overcome, are working on (successfully) or is actually an asset. For example, you could say you tend to overanalyze, but then turn that around by recounting how by examining every aspect of a tricky case, you had a positive outcome. It goes without saying that you should never mention any personal problems or chemical dependency issues, past or present.

  3. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
    The wrong answer is “I don’t know.” You don’t want to give even a hint that you’re drifting in law jobs with no goal in sight. A legal job interview is meant to separate ambitious and determined applicants from so-so ones. Show your potential employer you’ve put a lot of thought into where you’d like to be in five years and, more importantly, how you plan to get there. Link that plan and determination back to how working for a firm like this one is part of achieving your legal career goals.

  4. “Why should we hire you?”
    This is a common last question during an interview. Use this opportunity to bring up any positives you haven’t yet mentioned, and summarize why you’re the best candidate for the job. In other words, make your closing argument. When selling yourself, do so with specifics. Give the hiring manager examples of how previous employers have benefitted from having you on their legal team. Show off your interpersonal skills by describing how you found a solution to a seemingly intractable problem, or used your excellent written or verbal communication to win a case. This is no time for modesty. Your job is to let prospective employers know that hiring you isn’t a gamble, but a sure thing.

By preparing thoughtful, coherent answers to these and other tough questions, and by practicing your delivery so your answers come off as naturally as possible, you will greatly improve the chances of acing your interview and advancing your legal career.