Plaintiffs and defendants, judges and advocates. Everything that happens in the court seems to turn around them. But there are always some people working in the background, employees a common eye cannot see, people we won’t hear about in the news. Criminal and civil justice system is no exception.
Court clerks provide support to judges and attorneys. They take care of secretarial and administrative duties, and may also record the minutes of court proceedings. This job offers decent monthly payment and a job security second to none, and now we will look at some questions you may face while interviewing for it. Enjoy.
Why do you want to work as a court clerk?
You can say that you’d love to play your part in the justice system. You understand that each employee is important, and courts would hardly function without clerks. And while you were not lucky (or ambitious enough) to study Law and become a judge or an attorney, you still want to participate.
With your excellent administrative and clerical skills, you find this position a perfect match. You read the job description carefully and you are confident that you’ll handle the duties to a great satisfaction of court officers.
Can you tell us something about your working experience?
Walk them through your resume. Try to speak clearly and systematically so they can sense that it will be easy to talk to you in the job, that they won’t struggle working with you.
If possible, refer to any administrative or secretarial duties you took care of in your former jobs. And if you have no previous experience, talk about you excellent skills with MS Office, typewriting skills, and ability to learn quickly.
You can also tell them a short story of your working life, jobs you had, courses you attended, things you responded for, and how all of it prepared you for the job of a court clerk.
This is a repetitive job. What would motivate you to try hard each day?
Clerical jobs are indeed repetitive. You can say that you see the meaningful purpose in your job, and that you believe you will form a good team with other clerks and officers. Feeling responsibility for each other and not wanting to let your colleagues down, all of you will work hard.
Alternatively you can talk about goals you have in your private life, things that help you wake up and head to work each day. Maybe you want to provide for your children, or save money for the house, or anything.
One way or another, they should get an impression that you have a reason to work, that you do not go to job just because everyone else does the same thing. Ensure them that something drives you forward and will help you overcome an eventual crisis of motivation.
How do you imagine a typical day in this job?
You have a few options for a good answer. One is saying that you will simply follow the orders of court officers, form morning to afternoon, and help with anything they may need in the office. Different things happen in courts and in the background, and each day may presents some new challenges.
Another alternative is describing a day from the moment you enter the office. For example that you’ll check the agenda for the day, consult your superior, make a to-do list, and will work accordingly, whether in your office or directly in the court room, depending on where they need you at the moment.
Third option is listing some common duties court clerks are responsible for:
- answering calls and emails
- helping with the daily agenda
- performing simple accounting duties
- answering official correspondence
- research and document information for judges
- prepare and distribute court orders including probation orders, sentencing information, and court summonses
How would you rate your skills with MS Office (with other software, for example specialized accounting or scheduling software)?
You should show confidence in your computer skills. Tell them how long you’ve been working with MS Office (or with an equivalent), and be sure to mention all parts of the software package you’ve ever worked with (Excel, Word, Outlook, etc).
You can also say that judging by experience, you typically learn to work with new software quickly. Even if they have in the offices some accounting or scheduling software you have no experience with, you are sure you’ll quickly learn how to work with it effectively.
Special Tip: You can download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Describe a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.
Everything has a deadline in a justice system, though these deadlines are often relatively benevolent. You should pick a situation with a positive outcome, one when you demonstrated that you can prioritize your work, and push forward if necessary (working overtime), trying to to meet a deadline.
Ensure the hiring managers that you understand the importance of meeting deadlines in courts, and will do everything within your capacities to not fall behind with your work.
How quickly do you typewrite?
In this case you should be modest. Interviewers may easily test your typewriting skills with a simple exercise later. They will give you one A4 of formatted text and ask you to type it into MS Word or other word processor. If you claimed to manage 300 characters in a minute and then struggled to make fifty in a test, they would not hire you–because they would not trust your words anymore.
If you can’t typewrite quickly at the moment you can say that you try to improve on your skills, practicing at home, for example for an hour each evening. Nothing like a perfect clerk exist. You have your weaknesses just like everyone else, but you at least try to get better.
How do you ensure you make no mistakes in your work?
Mistakes can prove costly when we talk about court proceedings. Ensure the interviewers that you double check all important documents. You can also say that you excel in paying attention to details, and rarely make mistakes.
And when you make one, because it happens to you just like to any other clerk in the world, you do not hesitate to admit it. You correct it, and you try to learn from the situation, in order to not repeat the same mistake again and again.
Other questions you may get in your interview for a court clerk job
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- What are the most important details of a court order?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
- Do you have any experience with accounting or with recording transactions?
- How do you prioritize your work?
- Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to someone. How did you get your message over?
- What would you do if you faced a conflict of personal and professional interests in your work?
- Tell us about a time when you showed initiative at work.
- Describe a time when you struggled with motivation. How did you overcome your crisis?
- Tell me about a time you had to comply with a policy or procedure that you did not agree with.
- What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced at work?
- Do you have any questions?
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Try to make a good connection with your interviewers
At the end of the day, you do not need superior intelligence or ten years of experience to do a good job as a clerk. You will learn the basics during the employee training, and you will surely improve as time progresses.
People leading the interviews are aware of it, and when deciding about hiring you, their personal preferences may play a big role. Do they enjoy the time they spend with you in the interviews? Can they imagine sharing the same office with you, or going for a lunch with you?
Court officers spend a lot of time with their clerks, and logically they will prefer to hire someone they feel good around and comfortable with. Try to be nice, attentive, listen carefully, keep an eye contact. Try to be a good companion, show the right body language.
I do not want to indicate that this alone will suffice to get a job of a court clerk, but it can definitely make a difference between you and the second best job candidate.
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a court clerk job belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You will typically face several tricky scenario-based questions, and you may compete with several other people for the job, since clerical jobs in the governmental agencies are always popular.
Prepare for the questions you may get, polish your knowledge of MS Word before the interviews, and do not forget to try to make a good connection with your interviewers. I hope you will succeed and wish you good luck!
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