Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

Whether you need a litigator, a transactional attorney, in-house counsel, or another type of lawyer, the ability to work through any legal complexity—and ultimately develop smart recommendations and strategies are at the crux of the role. An effective lawyer can do so both confidently and efficiently.

What to listen for

  • Rather than focusing on the issue itself, look for a systematic approach to thinking through complexity.
  • In answering the question, the candidate may also reveal their philosophies about the law. See if these match your own.

Why this matters

Negotiation skills are paramount for all lawyers. What style of negotiation aligns best with this role—and with your company?

What to listen for

  • A stellar candidate demonstrates confident negotiation skills—and can showcase a strong track record of success.
  • Make sure that the style they describe fits into your company culture—if your company culture is based on teamwork and collaboration, a bullying style may not work.

Why this matters

It’s important to know whether and how this candidate might reconcile a conflict between their work and their personal beliefs. Do they have an “at-any-cost” approach to their role, or would they refuse to do something they considered unethical? Can they figure out a way to advocate effectively, while maintaining personal integrity?

What to listen for

  • See how the candidates reasons through their answer—and what this reveals about the soundness of their reasoning skills.
  • Bonus points for describing win-win scenarios.

Why this matters

This question helps you to understand both the candidate’s experience and their ability to effect positive change. You’ll also gain insights into their work style, personal goals, and passion for the job. Do they say “I” or “we” more often? Are they humble or hungry—and which matters more at your organization?

What to listen for

  • A sense of pride in work is important. Note whether the candidate takes full credit for the achievement or acknowledges the role others played.
  • Great answers speak to the candidate’s drive to promote justice, fairness, and morality.

Why this matters

Everyone makes mistakes, and lawyers are no exception. But this question is not focused on the error itself—rather, the lesson the candidate learned from it. Look for stories that show how a particular mistake earlier in the candidate’s career shaped how they operate today. Did they appreciate the opportunity to learn and improve, or is there another dynamic at play?

What to listen for

  • The best answers demonstrate that the mistake made this candidate a better lawyer.
  • If a mistake fails to come to mind, probe the candidate about regrets or misgivings.

Why this matters

Tough decisions are inherent within the law. Corporations regularly work with their outside counsel to strategize on key decisions.The candidate’s answer here will tell you whether they’re comfortable making their own decisions, even if they’re unpopular, or if they keep their eye on the company’s mission.

What to listen for

  • A willingness to communicate regularly with the company on all key decisions.
  • Strong answers demonstrate a unique mixture of conceptual skill and personal, even subjective, rigor.

Why this matters

This question will help you assess the candidate’s core values and whether they align with your company’s. Does the person care about making a positive difference in the world, and if so, does their passion reflect the mission and purpose of your business? Ideally the two will align.

What to listen for

  • Answers may reveal what they consider to be their greatest strengths, since they’re more likely to want to focus on a problem they feel they could tackle.
  • Look for cues that the candidate is excited about effecting positive change.

Why this matters

It’s difficult to distill an entire personality into so few words. But this question forces the candidate to think about who they truly are. Does their self-perception match how you see them? Are they realistic about their strengths? Does their personal “brand” align with your company’s culture?

What to listen for

  • If your candidate is highly self-aware, this may correlate with a high level of emotional intelligence.
  • Can they laugh at themselves, or do they seem stiff and serious about their perception?

Why this matters

Whether the candidate mentions a past manager, historical figure, or Fortune 500 CEO, their answer can tell you a lot about their work values, personality traits, goals, and more. There are no right or wrong answers, but notice candidates who respond thoughtfully, giving more weight to their reasoning than the answer itself.

What to listen for

  • Great candidates may value communication, relationship-building, and service orientation.
  • Enthusiastic answers could indicate an eagerness to have an impactful and successful career.