How to Evaluate a Legal Support Candidate’s Communication Skills

Communication skills – writing, speaking, and listening – form the core of successful legal support work. All good legal support candidates know this and take pains to prepare for communication-related questions during the interview.

To obtain a more comprehensive view of each candidate’s communication skills, employ the following methods during the interview process:

  1. Summarize each candidate’s application materials. While preparing your notes and questions for each interview, reread the candidate’s cover letter and resume, briefly. Then, turn them face-down on your desk and write a one-sentence summary of the candidate’s materials in your notes. If the summary comes easily to mind, the candidate has demonstrated the ability to make a written point clearly and concisely – skills that are essential when legal support staff prepare letters and other documents. If you struggle to summarize the candidate or cannot remember what you have written, the candidate’s writing skills may leave something to be desired.
  2. Ask for writing samples. One way many law firms and legal departments evaluate candidates’ writing is to ask for samples of relevant documents. If you ask for samples, examine them for clarity and precision of thought as well as for their substantive quality. Is this the sort of work you would be proud to send with your organization’s name on it? If you received this document from opposing counsel, would you pay closer attention, realizing that your adversary not only knows the topic but can also communicate it with great rhetorical force?
  3. During the interview, focus on the how as well as the what. All hiring managers pay attention to what candidates say when they answer interview questions. To discreetly evaluate a candidate’s speaking skills, however, notice how the candidate responds as well as what they say. Does the candidate think before responding? Is the response clear and straightforward? When the candidate has finished speaking, can you clearly summarize in your own mind what was just said – or are you left confused by a rambling answer that seemed to have no central idea?

At Kent Legal, our recruiters strive to match experienced legal support candidates with the Toronto law firms and legal departments who will benefit most from their skills and abilities. Contact us today to learn more.

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