Careers at LAO

Preparing for an interview at LAO

The job interview is your opportunity to present your experience, skills, knowledge and background and to convince an interview panel that you are the best candidate for the job.

Preparation is the key to success in an interview. By being thoroughly prepared you will:

  • be able to present yourself to the panel in the best light possible
  • be ready to present the best examples of your experience and skills
  • have more confidence an important ingredient in a successful interview

The best approach is to be as prepared as you can be for the interview, and to understand as much about the hiring process as possible. This toolkit has been developed to help job applicants be as comfortable as possible with the interview and hiring process, and to give their best performance at the interview.

This kit provides some helpful tips about how to prepare for an interview, and how to present yourself in an interview situation.

The Interview Process

What to Expect

An interview at Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is a fairly formal process with a predictable, structured format.

  1. The invitation:

    When you are invited to an interview, you will be told the time, date, and location, how long it is expected to take, as well as the names and titles of the people who will form the interview panel. You will be advised if there is to be a written test and if so, how long it will take.

    At this stage, you should take the opportunity to request any additional information that may be available about the position you have applied for, including a copy of the job posting, if you dont already have it.

  2. The interview:

    At LAO, the interview panel is generally composed of two to four people, including the manager of the position you have applied for. Other members might include a representative from the Human Resources (HR) department, other managers, or stakeholders who may have an interest in the outcome of the competition.

    There will be a series of questions designed to explore your skills, experience, and knowledge as they relate to the position you applied for, and to gauge your potential to take on the new role. Normally, the panel members will rotate asking you questions. The interview panel will be writing down your responses so that they are able to refer to them later in assessing the results of the competition.

    In an interview, you should expect a variety of questions, including:

    • General questions: the panel may ask for information about your work history, skills or knowledge.
    • Technical questions: the type of question seeks to test your knowledge of programs, policies, procedures which are related to the position.
    • Scenario questions: these questions present you with a hypothetical situation and ask you to suggest a solution. Scenario questions are designed to test your analytical and reasoning abilities, your resourcefulness and your creativity.
    • Behavioural questions: this type of question asks you to draw on your past experience to give an example of how you demonstrated a specific skill. These kinds of questions are also sometimes referred to as competency-based. These questions are specific, and challenge the candidate to provide concrete examples of their achievements in different types of situations.

    Each question is given a weight according to how the skills, knowledge, or experience being sought is relevant to the position. Each candidate is asked the same set of questions and scored using the same rating scheme.

    After the panel has posed all the questions, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

    The interview will wrap up by advising you of next steps and when you can expect to hear back about a decision.

  3. The Aftermath

    Occasionally, a second interview will be conducted with those candidates scoring highest in the first round. In this case, you may be interviewed by a different selection panel, although the manager of the position you applied for will likely still chair the panel. You will be asked a new series of questions, often focusing on particularly important skills or challenges of the position.

  4. The Result

    After all the candidates have been interviewed, and all other employment-related information has been collected through reference checks, the interview panel will rate and rank the candidates, using the predetermined scoring scheme.

    Reference checks are a way for the interview panel to confirm what you have told them and to ask additional information about you. Use the names of current and former supervisors and other individuals who are able to provide qualitative information about your employment history. You may be asked to complete a reference check consent form.

    If you are successful in the reference-checking stage, you will receive a job offer, both verbally and in writing, usually from the manager of the position you applied for.

    If you are unsuccessful in the competition, you will be advised, either verbally or in writing, either by the manager of the position or by a representative from the HR department.

Additional preparation tips

The position

  • Research the job and its requirements as much as possible.
  • Carefully review the job description and the job ad. Make particular note of the qualifications section of the job ad. These qualifications, along with the other job responsibilities and requirements noted in the ad, will most likely form the basis for the questions you will be asked at the interview.
  • Make sure you have an understanding of the key challenges of the position. If you have any questions about the job requirements or responsibilities, dont hesitate to contact the manager of the position for clarification.
  • If the position you are being interviewed is a Staff Lawyer position, it is part of LAOs Lawyer Workforce Strategy (LWS). Be sure to familiarize yourself with its objectives and be prepared to speak about the reason why you would be a good fit for the LWS.

Your skills and experience

The key to preparing for structured interviews is to focus on your personal experience, achievements, special skills, and how you acquired them. Many interview questions are designed to capture what you have actually accomplished, what your involvement was, how you acted, and what the outcome was.

  • Remind yourself of your skills, knowledge, work history and previous experience, and then think about how your qualifications relate to the requirements of the position. Think about the job responsibilities and qualifications, and think of some specific examples of how you demonstrated the required skills/experience in the past.

Preparing for the questions

  • Reviewed your skills and experience and write up your examples. Develop some mock questions related to the qualifications of the position.
  • You may be asked an opening question about your skills and experience and what strengths you bring to the job. To prepare, read the job ad and develop four to five points which link your strengths and experience to the position. The panel will have read your resume, so try not to just repeat whats in it. This is an opportunity to market your capabilities and demonstrate your understanding of the job.
  • Behavioural questions focus on examples of past behaviour, asking you to draw on your past experience to give an example of how you demonstrated a specific skill. Use the PAR system as a cue to remind you how to respond to these types of questions:
    • P: the Problem: describe the problem situation. Set the stage for the response by describing the problem/issue/opportunity/challenge. Explain what needed to be fixed, and why.
    • A: the Action: describe what you did in response. Be clear about your role, and why you took the action you did. Use I rather than we.
    • R: the Result: describe the outcome, being as measurable as possible. Tell the panel the result of your action. If the outcome was not successful, describe the lessons you learned as a result, and what you would do differently the next time.

Making a Good Impression

Its important to make a good first impression with the interview panel and to establish a feeling of rapport. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Smile. An interview is a stressful situation, and you may have to make a conscious effort to avoid looking nervous. A mock interview can help you become more at ease.
  • Greet everyone on the panel with a firm handshake.
  • Maintain eye contact as much as possible with the person asking you the question.
  • Speak clearly. Dont make the panel strain to hear your responses, and try not to speak too fast.
  • Feel free to bring water with you to the interview, or to request a glass of water before beginning.
  • Dress appropriately and professionally, but comfortably.
  • Be early for your interview, if possible. Never be late.

Interview Tips

  • The key to performing well in structured interviews is to focus on your personal experience, achievements, special skills, and how you acquired them. Many interview questions are designed to capture what you have actually accomplished, what your involvement was, how you acted, and what the outcome was.
  • As the panel is interested in what you personally did, try to use I as opposed to we. If what you did was part of a team effort, explain what your role within the team. While credit should be given to the team, you should focus your answer on your value-added contributions.
  • Listen carefully to the questions. Many candidates try to anticipate the full question, and respond without comprehending what is actually being asked. Ask to have the question repeated, or for clarification if necessary.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to bring notes to the interview for refer as you answer questions. Your notes should be memory cues only; you should never read a prepared response to the panel.
  • It is also acceptable to bring a pen and notepad to the interview. Feel free to jot down the questions if that would help you stay focused, or to take a moment to write out the key points you want to make in responding to each question.
  • Dont rush to respond to a question. Reflect briefly about how to phrase your response.
  • Be positive, but always honest. Dont apologize for a lack of experience. Focus on the experience you do have, and how it relates to the job requirements.
  • If you draw a blank for a particular question, ask the panel if you might return to the question at the end of the interview. Try not to dwell on missing an answer; focus on the next question being asked and on providing an appropriate response.
  • In order to answer the panels questions in a way that will put you in the best light, present your skills and experience that relate to the position:
    • Use concrete examples to demonstrate your skills
    • Tell the panel a story about when you used the skills
    • Use measurable results if possible to describe the situation
    • Tell the panel how a project or assignment turned out. Even if the result was not entirely positive, you can talk about lessons learned, or things you would do differently next time.
  • If you are not sure you have provided the interview panel with the information they were looking for, ask them. Check whether you answered the question they asked, or whether they need additional information upon which to assess your response.

After the Interview

Evaluating Your Performance

An interview is a great opportunity to learn about the recruitment process and to perfect your interview skills, regardless of the outcome. Here are some tips for evaluating your performance at an interview:

  • Immediately after the interview, take notes on what questions you were asked and how you responded.
  • Think about whether you used the best possible examples to illustrate your responses. Did you set the context clearly? Did you talk about your role in the situation? Did you describe the outcome?
  • If you feel you werent clear in your response, or didnt provide the best example possible, think about what you would say next time.