Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions

Published: Mar 06, 2024

 Education       Grad School       Interviewing       Job Search       Law       
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While more traditional conversational interviews still happen at some firms, over time the trend is for an ever-increasing share of law firms to rely primarily on behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interviews seek to discover how candidates either have handled or would prospectively handle themselves in concrete situations, such as jobs, internships, or school activities. The logic of these interviews is the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you have previously demonstrated strong communication, good time management, solid teamwork, and general professionalism, it's a reasonable assumption that you’ll continue to do so in a new role.

Behavioral interview questions may vary based on the skill set and knowledge needed for the position (for example, environmental law versus intellectual property law). However, all of them will probe your past performance, and you will do best to give a careful, thoughtful response that demonstrates your strengths and/or how you grew and learned from a given situation.

Needless to say, you should prepare to encounter these kinds of questions prior to any legal job interview. One approach, as you review sample questions, is to 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.

The most commonly accepted template for these answers is the STAR technique. A STAR response includes the following steps:

1. Describe the Situation you were in, including the role and any relevant context. Be brief, but communicate all the details an interviewer needs to understand.

2. Concretely describe the Task you had to accomplish within the context you've established.

3. Detail the Actions you took to complete the task.

4. Describe the Results that occurred because of your actions.

Practicing these strategies with real questions is critical to your success at an actual interview. Here is a sampling of some possible behavioral interview questions:  

  • Tell me about the highest-pressure situation that you’ve dealt with in the past six months.
  • Describe a challenge that you have faced and how you dealt with it.
  • Share an experience in which you dealt with a difficult co-worker or teammate and how you handled it.
  • Can you provide me with a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic to solve a problem?
  • Describe a situation where you faced a tight deadline and how you worked with members of your team to meet it.
  • Share a situation in which you were asked to do something unethical or with which you fundamentally disagreed and how you resolved it.
  • In your last role, what was your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time in which you made a mistake, and how you rectified it.
  • Have you ever been involved in a situation in which you and a boss or other colleague had a disagreement over a strategy? How did you resolve it?
  • Can you describe a situation in which you needed to brainstorm differing or conflicting ideas with others in order to help accomplish your goals?
  • Can you tell me about the biggest work-related mistake you've made, and how you remedied it?

This post is based on an article from Vault's Career Guide to Law.