The information gathered during an interview is essential for making a well-informed hiring decision. Unfortunately, many employers don't spend enough time preparing for these important meetings. A little planning goes a long way toward helping you hire the right person – and reduces the risk of choosing the wrong one.
Before meeting with job applicants, create a standard list of appropriate questions, and prioritize them by topic. Most interview questions fall into three general categories: job-related accomplishments, experience and skills; business aptitude and problem-solving abilities; and interpersonal skills.
Job-related questions help you determine whether a candidate possesses the necessary background for the position. Examples include: "What have your primary responsibilities been?" and "What skills would you like to develop?"
Questions that assess practice area expertise, business aptitude and problem-solving abilities allow you to evaluate a person's strategic and creative thinking, general legal knowledge and project management skills. Typical questions might be, "How would you research antitrust precedents for a pending merger between two insurance carriers?" or "What resources would you marshal to oversee litigation support for an upcoming insurance defense case?"
Interpersonal Skills To obtain further insight into a candidate's character or his or her knowledge of the legal field, consider asking the following questions:
Questions relating to interpersonal skills help you evaluate a candidate's sense of teamwork, honesty, career goals and ability to work under pressure. Typical questions might include, "How do you handle conflict?", "How do you cope with stressful situations and multiple tasks?", "Why do you want to leave your current job?" and "What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?" Because you're also trying to ensure a good fit with your firm, you might also ask, "What sort of work environment do you prefer?" or "What kind of atmosphere brings out your best performance?"
- "What is your opinion of the role of technology in the legal field today?"
- "What practice areas of law do you expect will be thriving this year?"
- "What do you think your current (or past) firm could do to be more successful?"
While you want to make it clear you're not looking for proprietary or specific information, you are looking for the candidate to display a clear understanding of the firm's mission and goals, as well as whether he or she thinks in terms of those objectives. Inability to answer these types of questions may signify a lack of interest that could carry over into your firm.
By planning the questions you're going to ask beforehand, and having a sense of what you hope to learn from the answers, you strengthen your chances of making the best hiring decision.