9 Qualities of Exceptional Legal Job Candidates

By Robert Half on June 30, 2022 at 12:15pm

Tell us about an exceptional legal job candidate you recently interviewed and what quality made this person so memorable.

We asked several talent and recruiting managers with the legal practice group at Robert Half to address the question above, so we could gather their best insights on what attributes make a legal job candidate exceptional. Based on their responses, here are nine qualities you’ll want to showcase in interviews for legal jobs and throughout the hiring process:

  1. Exemplary communication skills
  2. A passion for the profession
  3. Attentiveness in listening — and precision in answering
  4. Responsiveness
  5. A professional demeanor
  6. The ability to build rapport
  7. Adaptability and flexibility
  8. Transparency
  9. Authenticity

1. Exemplary communication skills

The most memorable legal candidate I interviewed was an exceptional communicator. During our initial call, he was clear about what he was looking for in our partnership and transparent about his availability. During the interview, he articulated his best skills, shared clear reasons for leaving past employment and explained the types of opportunities that interested him most. He listened as I shared how I could support him and asked clarifying questions to ensure we were on the same page. His ability to explain what he wanted gave me clear direction. He now has the job of his dreams!

Raquel Flores, vice president

2. A passion for the profession

I recently spoke to an outstanding contracts administrator. What made this candidate stand out, besides her excellent skill set and tenure with several well-known corporate legal departments, was her sheer enthusiasm for contracts and her career progression.

At Robert Half, we have access to thousands of candidates, but the people who stand out the most are those who have found their calling in legal and truly love what they do. If a candidate is passionate about their line of business and has excitement in their voice when they discuss what they like to do, I can, in turn, advocate on their behalf and bring our clients along on the wave of excitement!

If you’ve found something that you love to do, convey that to us, and we can match you with your dream job and walk with you along your career path!

Megan Usovsky, senior recruiting manager

3. Attentiveness in listening — and precision in answering

I recently met with an impressive commercial real estate paralegal who has exceptional listening and communication skills. During the interview, she first listened to the full details, skills and requirements of the job, and then concisely and precisely explained how her experience and skills translated perfectly to the job description and the company. The candidate succinctly articulated how she resolves conflict through effective face-to-face verbal communication. Her calm and deliberate communication skills got her the job!

Mala Saraogi, director of permanent placement services

4. Responsiveness

A great attitude goes a long way, but so does responsiveness. The candidate I have in mind was truly excited about finding a new job! He wasn’t simply looking for a remote position or a way to double his salary. He wanted a new challenge and a way to build on his experience with an opportunity to advance his career.

When I reached out to schedule an interview, this candidate got back to me within two hours and suggested a video meeting. During our initial interview, he smiled and was eager to hear about our process. He also provided me with letters of recommendation from previous supervisors, which I was able to send to my clients. I sent him to an interview, and he got the first job!

Emily Clark, recruiting manager

5. A professional demeanor

I interviewed a phenomenal and bright litigation paralegal who presented herself professionally. She had worked with a well-known law firm for 10 years, working her way up from an entry-level role. I knew she would get any job she wanted, but she was apprehensive about interviewing since she has been with one firm her entire career.

I quickly scheduled the first interview and coached her through the interview process. She got the job! She then referred me to three other candidates who I was able to place as well. There is truly nothing more rewarding than placing a great referral and working to create happy candidates!

Marina Wikner, vice president

6. The ability to build rapport

Being professional and personable during an interview is a great way to build rapport with a recruiter. Employers appreciate candidates who are knowledgeable and professional, and who can connect on a personal level. Clearly communicating why one is interested in a position brings additional value to an interview. Sincerity increases rapport and is a great way to stand out among other candidates.

Fana Belcher, talent manager

7. Adaptability and flexibility

I recently interviewed an exceptional candidate who was new to the job market after her employer made cutbacks in their legal department. She left a previous position after six years for this new opportunity, which turned out to be a disappointment.

This candidate had an excellent skill set and a pleasant personality, and after listening to her story, I was determined to match her with her next opportunity. She was flexible, great with following up, open and able to adapt quickly to different environments (from working remotely to working fully in the office).

It didn’t take long to place her on a short-term assignment while keeping her in mind for something more permanent. By the time she had wrapped her short-term assignment (on a Friday), we already had her lined up for a long-term assignment (starting on the following Monday!).

This candidate remains memorable to me because of her adaptability, flexibility and great communication throughout the process.

Jayne Thompson, practice director

8. Transparency

I recently interviewed a litigation paralegal who left a boutique law firm in Southern California due to a lack of growth opportunities. During our conversation, she articulated her experience by sharing her story and how she developed her skill set. She communicated exactly what she was responsible for in each of her past roles, highlighting her career progression and what she wants to do next.

This candidate also asked thoughtful questions about contract employment with Robert Half and what it could mean for her. She was honest about interviewing for other roles, which allowed for an open dialogue. Her humility and transparency about her concerns, hesitations based on previous experiences, and ultimately, her goals were refreshing. She was a joy to work with — and place!

It makes a great difference when you share your experience and aspirations and let those around you help you get there. Stay open and honest, and committed to your growth!

Nur Sher, practice director

9. Authenticity

I’ve met with many legal candidates and hiring managers during my eight years with Robert Half. However, the candidate who really stands out to me is a contract manager I met this past year. From her interview, I could see she brought a wealth of knowledge to her craft, a passion for the legal field and clear communication skills. At the same time, she was authentic and unafraid to show her funny and quirky personality. She was well-rounded.

Not only was this candidate clearly a standout in terms of her skills and experience, but it was clear she was also someone others would really enjoy working with and could rely on as a colleague and partner. After our interview, I made it my mission to find her a job.

Many times, we forget that a great interview is really just a great conversation between two people who are deciding whether they would enjoy working together for a long time.

Jennifer Shin, director of permanent placement services

9 Qualities of Exceptional Legal Job Candidates

Robert Half recruiters (top row, from left): Emily Clark, Fana Belcher, Mala Saraogi, Nur Sher and Megan Usovsky; (bottom row, from left): Jennifer Shin, Jayne Thompson, Raquel Flores and Marina Wikner.

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