The Legal Interview Question: What Are They And How Do You Answer Them?

I’d describe a legal interview question as one that might appear a bit unusual but is actually acceptable. Depending on the specific job you are interviewing for, the industry you work in, and depending on the employment laws that apply in your country or region, the wording of such questions and the ability of the interviewer to ask these sorts of questions might differ.

Questions that you can typically be asked during interviews are certainly legal of course ie. questions related to your previous experience, skills, accomplishments.

But what if you are asked a question that you might not be sure how to answer but is actually quite legal and is one that you need to properly answer if you wish to get the job?

Here are some examples of subjects that I would classify as legal interview question material:

Your ability to legally work in the country

Depending on where you live, there might be some legalities regarding how an interviewer can actually word this question but in the cases I’ve seen, it is certainly a fair and legal interview question. The company wants to know if you are legally able to work in the country and if not, are they going to have to help get your work papers and if so, how much will it cost and how long will it take? If they need to hire someone in the next few weeks and your work visa will require 3 months to process, they may not wait around for you. In my experience, this is an important and legal interview question faced by people who have just moved to a new country to work or are planning on moving to a new country to work.

Questions about your educational achievements and/or relevant certifications or training

Asking about your education and/or certifications isn’t unusual of course but your future employer might actually ask to see proof of your degree or certification. I have seen some employers who will request a photocopy of educational achievements especially if the education is a specific requirement of the job and/or if they’ve been burned by people lying about their level of education in the past. If your educational achievements are from a foreign country, you may also be asked for proof.

Moral of the story?

If you are “a few credits short of a degree” then you don’t have a degree! Don’t state that you have a degree if you haven’t completed one. I have seen so many job candidates state in their resume that they have a degree but word it in such a way that makes me quickly realize they don’t actually have one. When I ask for clarification, they admit they are “a few credits short of a degree.”

If your degree is pending or if you are in the process of completing it, state the expected date of graduation so there is no risk of confusion as to your level of education at the time of applying for the job. Don’t get caught in a lie because when it’s found out, it will most likely ruin your chances at the job.

Your ability and propensity to travel

Some positions require a significant amount of travel and this is a typical reason why people burnout and quit jobs requiring their employers to hire a replacement. In other words, if travel is an important and significant part of the job, expect to field questions regarding your willingness to travel.

Be honest. If they tell that you travel is 75% of the job and you really only want to travel 25% or less, what is the point in saying that this level of travel is acceptable? I’ve seen people accept jobs where the high amount of travel tires them out quickly and causes them to quit.

Your ability to work overtime, shift work and/or weekends

Your work hours are certainly something that you want to get confirmed with an employer before you are hired without necessarily making it look like you are a clock-watcher and are trying to figure out exactly how many hours you’ll be in the office each day! Having said that, I have dealt with companies that do specify work hours that can be considered a little bit out of the ordinary, especially companies that work with divisions in other countries and/or time zones and might require you to work outside of the “typical” 9am-5pm work hours.

Your criminal record (if any).

This is certainly a very important question if you work for (or would like to work for) a company where security clearance is part and parcel of the position. Again, depending on where you live, there might be legalities regarding how the question can be worded but in my experience, this is a perfectly legal interview question.

Local laws might dictate what constitutes a legal interview question and which questions are off limits.

Some of these questions might be necessary depending on your industry and level of position.

If you are interviewing for a job in a different country, you will need to gain the legal ability to work in that country first so this is obviously a concern for a potential employer if gaining this status might take you months or more.

If you were interviewing for a position that involved security clearance, any criminal record would obviously be an important consideration for the hiring company.

Before you attend an interview, try to have a clear idea of any possible legal interview question that you might be asked given the job you are applying for, and given the industry you work in.

5 Tips For Employees Facing Security Clearance Issues

The following are 5 easy tips for federal employees and government contractors to consider when they face potential problem areas in the processing of their security clearances. Usually, an applicant first discovers a potential problem when they begin to review the principal form used to apply for such clearances, the SF-86 / e-QIP. Quite often the issue arises from a review of a question that cannot be answered with a clear “no.” (example: Have you been arrested in the past 7 years?).

Some quick tips for a clearance applicant include the following:

1. Be Honest: This is one of the most basic and important tips. It is often not the underlying issue that results in a security clearance denial (example: an arrest for driving under the influence), but rather when the clearance applicant is not truthful about the incident. It is a lot easier for an attorney to mitigate security clearance concerns involving an arrest, than it is to defend against an allegation that an individual was not honest in their initial application.

2. Advance Preparation for Security Clearance Problem Areas: If an individual is aware that there could potentially be a security clearance problem areas in their application they should plan in advance how they will respond to questions about the issue. This can even include obtaining documentation regarding a potential problem area in advance to mitigate the security concern early. The individual should be prepared, in advance, to address any problem areas instead of attempting to do so at the last minute.

3. Take Time to Properly Complete the Application: We often see a number of problems and even denials of security clearance applications where a federal employee or government contractor did not take enough time to read and answer all of the questions carefully. This is critical. In some cases, if an applicant does not take the time to read the question and answers “no” when they should answer “yes” the investigator could assume that individual was attempting to hide information from them. It pays to carefully complete the security clearance application.

4. Prepare for the Clearance Interview: If an individual knows that there is a good chance that problem areas exist in a security clearance application, the person should expect to be asked about the areas in advance by the investigator that is assigned. These interviews can vary from an hour to several hours depending on whether security concerns exist. Preparation (and practice) for the interview can help iron out any problem areas in advance and will provide confidence to the applicant when the time comes to meet with the investigator and to explain their responses to the problem areas.

5. Get Legal Advice Early: An individual has the best chance of resolving clearance problem areas when they get legal advice early when a suspected problem area exists, instead of waiting. Doing so also tends to cost less than trying to rectify a problem later in the process after a denial has been issued. It is our experience that some security clearance problems that we see which could have been resolved early (but were not) require significant efforts to reverse later in the process.

There are many considerations for a federal employee or government contractor when potential problems arise in the security clearance process, but I hope that these 5 tips are helpful. Each case varies so it is important to discuss any individual cases with a knowledgeable lawyer familiar with security clearance law. Please be advised that the information in this article is strictly for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Office Clearance – Make Sure the Company Hired Ticks All the Boxes