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Behavioral interviews are becoming increasingly popular in the legal industry. A behavioral interview seeks to discover how you handled yourself in certain situations at your previous jobs, or, if you don’t have a lot of work experience, in summer jobs or in internships and other school-related activities. The logic of these interviews is that past performance predicts future performance. So, if you were a strong communicator and a good time manager, worked well with others, met deadlines, and otherwise performed professionally, the reasoning is that you’ll do the same in your new job.
“You should prepare specific examples of behavior to evidence your skills and qualities,” advises Valerie Fontaine, senior legal search consultant at Seltzer Fontaine Beckwith. “Look for particularly challenging and difficult, as well as especially rewarding, examples to illustrate answers. Think about the rationale behind the question being asked. What qualification is the interviewer seeking? The interviewer may probe for negative experiences. If so, relate how you actually handled the situation, then explain what you would do differently and identify lessons gained from the experience. The outcome or result of the situation then becomes positive.”
Behavioral-interview questions vary based on the skill set and knowledge needed for the position (for example, environmentallaw versus intellectual property law), but one trait that all such questions share is that they will be more probing than traditional interview questions. Here are some typical behavioral-interview questions:
There’s no “right” way to prepare for a behavioral interview because you don’t know what questions you’ll be asked. But you can try to anticipate the types of questions that you’ll be asked by reviewing the terms that are used to describe the ideal candidate in the job ad (excellent multitasker, strong communicator, highly organized, etc.) and thinking of past experiences in which you’ve demonstrated these qualities. It wouldn’t hurt to visit the firm’s Web site to see how it describes the firm’s practice and attorneys (entrepreneurial, problem solving, etc.) and create responses that match these adjectives.
Another good approach is to review the list of questions above, find additional questions online and in interview books, and create responses in the form of short “stories” that present your actions in these situations in a positive light. Practice your responses until you’re confident that you can effectively answer similar questions during the interview.
Many people use the STAR interviewing response technique when answering behavioral-interview questions. This technique may also be referred to as the PAR (Problem, Action, Result) or SAR (Situation, Action, Result) technique. STAR is an acronym that gives you a reminder about how to respond to behavioral questions. Here are the steps in a STAR response:
The above was adapted from the Vault Guide to Law.
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