- Obtain a Certificate or Degree in Paralegal Studies. I just wanted to start with the most basic of requirements.
- Tailor your resume to every different job you apply for. Make sure it is written in the language of the job you are applying for. Keep the jobs that are related or appropriate (we typically do not need to know you worked at the local swimming pool one summer 15 years ago).
- Keep your resume to one-page. Do not forget to include any legal database training, legal writing experience and internships. Regardless of how short they were; it shows direct experience in the field.
- Prepare before going to a job interview. Look at the law firm’s website. Find out everything you can about that firm or organization ahead of time. They are taking time out of their schedule for the interview, so should you.
- Prepare two or three questions to ask the interviewer, and make them relative to the position and if possible also specific to the company. That way, when they ask you “Do you have any questions” you don’t sit there with a blank look on your face. This will also show you took time out of your schedule to prepare for this interview.
- Dress appropriately. You would think this would be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many applicants go to job interviews wearing jeans, inappropriate clothing, slippers or have an unkempt look in general. Basically, if you look a mess why would an employer think your work was going to be anything other than a mess.
- Don’t be too flashy. Remember that many lawyers are more “old-school” in their appearance. In court you must dress professional and conservative. Try to keep a conservative look on the day of your interview. You should compare an interview style with how you would dress for church. Cover up tattoos or piercings with appropriate clothing, at least for the interview. Remember you are trying to get the job, not make a fashion statement.
- Bring at least two copies of your resume. Even if you already sent in your resume via email, you should still bring at least two copies with you. It shows the ability to think ahead and be prepared.
- Be polite, personable, energetic and easy going. Do not try to “impress” the interviewer and show you know more than they do. Do not try to “handle” the room or take charge of the interview and do not act “arrogant.” All of those behaviors will appear aggressive and if you’re argumentative on an interview they will assume you’d be worse on the job.
- Always follow up after the interview with a thank you email. Do not try to write a book, just a one or two liner thanking them for taking the time to meet with you is sufficient. If it’s too much they’ll think you’re being pushy, but if you don’t send anything at all they’ll think you’re not interested. It’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and over-the- top.
Tina Staples, Director
Paralegal Institute of Washington, DC