What Does a Hiring Manager Look for in a Paralegal?

Paralegals are the backbone of the modern law office. They are responsible for keeping operations running smoothly day in and day out, which is why legal hiring managers can be tough during the interview process. They want to hire the best man or woman for the job, making it imperative that paralegals understand exactly what employers are looking for in the paralegal field.

Overall, they want diplomatic, professional and hardworking individuals who have relevant experience in or around the field. Every employer has a set of criteria they use to evaluate job seekers during the interview process, though the precise details vary depending on the size, nature and working environment of the firm. Despite this variance, here are a few of the main categories legal professionals consider before hiring any paralegal.

Education and training

It is uncommon to land a solid paralegal position without having a degree or certification in a relevant field. This is why having the right educational experience is so crucial to helping you stand out from the rest of applicants and thrive in your new position. Many prospective paralegals opt for graduate programs. A master’s degree in paralegal studies curriculum includes topics such as legal research and writing, litigation, administrative law, and much more.

This rigorous curriculum offering could better prepare them to balance the theory, philosophy and history of law with practical skills. The best hiring managers don’t want to just see that you earned your degree, they want to know how this degree has prepared you to enter the field

Paralegal interview

Relevant skills

Hiring managers want to know that you have the right skills to excel in the given position. This is especially important if you are new to the field and will be primarily reliant on your education and skills, in addition to your personality, to land you the job. Highlight your relevant skills in your resume and cover letter, but don’t forget to bring them up again in the interview process.

You want to affirm that you do have the right hard and soft skills to succeed in the position. Every firm is different in what they expect from their job applicants, but the vast majority are on the same page when it comes to required skill sets. Here are a few necessary skills most hiring managers will be looking for during the interview process:

  1. Organized: This is one of the top skills for any legal position, especially for paralegals. You will be responsible for managing and analyzing case files, which means you cannot leave any room for error in regard to organization.
  2. Communicator: As a paralegal, you will need to interact and communicate with a wide variety of individuals on a daily basis. Whether you are writing emails to judges or speaking with clients, you need to be able to effectively communicate your message.
  3. Team player: It is not likely that you will be working on projects and cases alone. Every paralegal must work alongside an attorney, while many also work with other paralegals and legal assistants. This is why it is critical that you must convey that you are a good team player during your interview.
  4. Critical thinker: Large parts of a paralegal’s day are spent reading, writing and researching for various cases. Legal professionals expect their paralegals to have critical thinking skills, which is why it is important for interviewees to speak to this skill in the interview process.

Professional demeanor

You know that appearances matter a great deal during any job interview. While your choice of wardrobe and how you style your hair will convey your seriousness about wanting the position, your hiring manager will be judging other factors about your look and demeanor as well. For example, they are not only paying attention to what you say, but how you say it.

At any law firm, attorneys and legal professionals are expected to exude a certain degree of professionalism. As such, the hiring manager will likely be assessing your professional demeanor during the interview. They have already seen your resume and cover letter, so they may know why you want the job and how you are qualified for it. The interview is a time for them to see if you would be a good professional and personal fit for the office.

Engaging, inquisitive attitude

One of the most important qualities hiring managers are looking for is your desire to work at their firm. This is why it is so essential for you to pay attention to how you are acting and if you exude a positive, engaging attitude. If you seem overly confident or unenthusiastic, they may assume you don’t want the position. They don’t want to take the risk on someone who seems only ambivalent about working for their office.

In order to convey that you want to work as a paralegal, pay attention to more than just your words. As a majority of communication is nonverbal, what you could think you are saying with your words could not be what you are projecting with your body language and tone. With this in mind, maintain eye contact, keep your voice upbeat, be confident without arrogance and ask your interviewer intelligent questions.

People working

Industry or transferrable job experience

If you are new to the field, your hiring manager will not expect you to have years and years of industry experience. They will, however, hope that you have transferrable job experience you can apply to the position at hand. Training employees costs time and money, which may make employers hesitant to hire someone with little to no industry know-how. This is why it is recommended for paralegal job seekers to have a solid educational background and volunteer experience.

If you are looking to make a career change or further your career advancement opportunities, you should consider George Washington University’s Master’s in Paralegal Studies online program. As one of the few paralegal master’s degrees in the country, the program will equip current or future paralegals with the hard and soft skills, experience and knowledge related to the industry. Contact one of our representatives today to learn more about our intensive curriculum offerings.









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