By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD, Executive Director, Legal Practice Group, Robert Half

When interviewing legal professionals for a position at your law firm or legal department, it’s important to cut straight to the heart of both their legal and interpersonal skills as well as how good they are at thinking on their feet.

Law school grades, resumes and references aren’t necessarily the best guide for assessing these core competencies. The interview, however, offers a precious opportunity to dig deeper into a job candidate’s experience and mindset.

Here are three exploratory interview questions that offer a different approach to assessing the skills of legal job candidates, testing their ability to problem-solve in the moment and allowing them to showcase their critical thinking skills.

1. “Tell me your strategy for decision-making when faced with incomplete or insufficient information.”

This question can help you assess the candidate’s problem-resolution skills. Strong answers will reveal how candidates thought ahead to resolve potential issues and interpersonal situations, including what they did to address their part in creating the situation and resolving both professional and personal aspects.

This question also demonstrates their ability to locate solutions quickly as well as their instinct for tapping the resources and team members around them to reach a positive resolution.

2. “Provide an example of how you have embraced digitization or new legal technologies in a previous role. How did that improve how you and/or your firm/department works?”

Given today’s increasingly digitized legal field, it’s important that interview questions address trends affecting the legal profession, including generative AI and automation and emerging legal technologies. Look for their ability to describe increased efficiency, a willingness to embrace change and an awareness of the ethical and inclusion issues surrounding the use of these new tools. Ideally, look for answers that show an open mind, and a willingness to learn how legal business systems can benefit from generative AI and other new technologies.

3. “Considering the growing regulatory scrutiny, data privacy issues and ESG initiatives in today’s legal environment, please describe a time you applied innovative thinking to address a big-picture issue like these.”

There is no shortage of change in the legal landscape. To gauge how candidates think on their feet, consider throwing one curve ball. These inventive interview questions require candidates to shift gears and display logical thinking on perhaps unexpected, abstract topics.

Other unexpected questions you could consider:

  • If you could alter one aspect of the current legal system or optimize a legal workflow process, what would it be and how would you go about implementing this change?
  • Can you recount an instance, either in your personal life or professional career, where you undertook a major risk? Did the outcome align with your initial expectations?

Sprinkle these questions into your list of competency-based interview questions to gain deeper insights into the candidates you’re speaking with.