Here is good post from the blog "bNet", published by CBS Interactive ten months ago, Jeff Haden discusses his 4 essential job interview questions. He says that interviewers should cut past the canned questions and the prepared answers and get to the real meat of you, the interviewer by engaging in a conversation around fact based questions, with lots of follow up. His message is directed at small businesses and at interviewers.
You are going to be faced with this kind of interview in the future, especially with law firms and especially with a move towards more detailed examinations of candidates by the larger firms. We are now in a very selective hiring environment. Being prepared for this kind of approach will help you to stand out.
How to prepare for this? Focus on your work experience in advance, and think of specific examples for each that you can discuss in detail. Sometimes just having thought about it in advance helps you to be prepared. Even if you don't get asked these questions, you should be able to engage in your own discussion with the interviewer where this kind of detail will be valuable.
Here are the four questions he suggests an employer ask candidates - I have included the analysis for the first question, and you can go to the link to see the analysis for the remaining questions.
1. “Tell me about the last time a customer or coworker got mad at you.”
Intent: Evaluate the candidate’s interpersonal skills and ability to deal with conflict.
Remember, make sure you find out why the customer or coworker was mad, what the interviewee did in response, and how the situation turned out both in the short- and long-term.
- Red flag: The interviewee pushes all the blame — and responsibility for rectifying the situation — on the other person.
- Good: The interviewee focuses on how they addressed and fixed the problem, not on who was to blame.
- Great: The interviewee admits they caused the other person to be upset, took responsibility, and worked to make a bad situation better. That’s the trifecta of answers: You are willing to admit when you are wrong, you take responsibility for fixing your mistakes, and you learn from experience. (Remember, every mistake is just training in disguise as long as the same mistake isn’t repeated over and over again, of course.)
2. “Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.”
Intent: Evaluate the candidate’s ability to reason, problem solving skills, judgment, and sometimes even willingness to take intelligent risks.
3. “Tell me about a time you knew you were right… but you still had to follow directions or guidelines.”
Intent: Evaluate the candidate’s ability to follow… and possibly to lead.
4. “Tell me about the last time your workday ended before you were able to get everything done.”
Intent: Evaluate commitment, ability to prioritize, ability to communicate effectively.