Although most firms encourage their interviewers to be politically correct and follow a standard interviewing protocol, government agencies, which have an abundant applicant pool, are less concerned about scaring off candidates by asking challenging questions. This means that their questions can be much less predictable and much more challenging.
Hypothetical questions and requests for impromptu performances are not uncommon, so do not be surprised if you get thrown a curve ball. For example, your interviewers may ask you to deliver a brief opening statement, quickly write a short piece on a certain subject, or discuss whether you would disclose incriminating evidence to your opponent after close of discovery. Government lawyers often ask challenging questions in efforts to test your confidence, skills, and preparedness. In large part, these questions are designed to analyze your performance under pressure and (less often) evaluate your actual skills. So focus on giving well-structured, coherent, and confident answers without sounding nervous or unprepared. Here are just a few examples:
- • How would you handle the pressure of having to argue three cases in one day?
- • In two minutes or less, discuss all the legal issues you see in [insert top news story of the month here].
- • How would you feel about prosecuting a single mother of three?
- • Opposing counsel takes a personal shot at you by saying something defamatory in open court. How do you respond?
- • What is the single most important reason why we should hire you?
As you can probably tell, most of these questions do not presuppose any particular response. They are asked to put you on the spot and to see how you fare. Nevertheless, there are wrong answers to some of these questions. For example, saying that you will be reluctant to prosecute a sympathetic witness or will respond with a hostile attack to the opposing counsel's attack may raise the interviewers’ eyebrows. Try to approach these questions from your interviewer's point of view, and do your best to show you can withstand the pressure.
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