Many legal professionals are familiar with the interview question that asks for an example of when they’ve encountered a particular situation or issue. The follow-up question is then typically how the professional handled it. This type of questioning is known as behavioral-based interviewing. It is critical for all types of legal professionals to understand: (1) this interview technique; and, (2) what information to include within an answer to a behavior-based question. This is true for attorneys, paralegals, legal support personnel, and legal administrators.
What is Behavioral-Based Interviewing?
This Q & A technique uses questions that call for a legal professional’s explanation of a past behavior in a specific situation. In particular, behavioral-based questions ask for:
- A situation in which the candidate acted;
- An explanation of what the professional did; and,
- The results of those actions.
The subject of these questions touches on the most important qualities related to a position – either with a firm or a corporate legal department.
Some examples of behavioral-based interview questions include:
- Give me an example of a time when you worked under enormous stress. How did you handle it? What was the result?
- Provide a situation in the past where you had a conflicting viewpoint with a superior. What did you do? What was the outcome?
- Tell me of a time when you built a successful relationship with a client. How did you do it? What was the effect?
What Information/Answers Should a Candidate Provide
As behavioral-based interviewing uses past situations that are specific to candidates, the exact answer to behavior-based questions will be unique to the professional being interviewed. With that said, however, there are certain categories of information that a candidate should include within answers to this interviewing technique. Some of the most important things for a candidate to include in an answer are a showing of his/her abilities to:
- Remain calm and make rational decisions in stressful or adverse conditions;
- Provide high caliber customer service;
- Commit to the expectations and values of superiors;
- Clearly communicate information to a variety of individuals (from clients to colleagues to supervisors to those being supervised);
- Effectively manage and cope with change;
- Make good decisions using knowledge, experience, and research;
- Earn the trust of others; and,
- Build effective and lasting relationships.
Also note that in answering behavioral-based questions, legal professionals must take some time to find a right situation within their past that will help them best answer the question. Candidates cannot really fake the answer to these questions because they are based on specific instances in a person’s vault of experiences. While many professionals may be nervous in an interview, they have to find a way to remain calm and think of an example that will have the best chances of conveying the types of information above.
We all know that interviews can be difficult. Legal professionals have to prepare for them in order to succeed. This preparation should include a candidate looking at his/her resume and considering what past experiences cater to answers to behavioral-based questions (e.g., was a particular position more stressful than others; or, was a former job more client-based than others). Please note that in this preparation, if you ever have any questions, you can always contact us for help. After spending nearly 30 years in the business of legal staffing, LAW DAWGS knows a thing or two about interview questions and answers.