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Potentially Tricky Interview Questions

Tell me about yourself.

This is the classic opener and gives the interviewer time to size you up -- if you let them. Give a brief overview of your career (prepared and rehearsed in advance), beginning with your education and taking them through key job changes. Add one or two major accomplishments and then turn the interview back to them.

What is your opinion of the last firm you worked for?

Say neutral or positive things, no negatives. Try to focus on situations in which you learned and/or contributed something.

What salary are you looking for? What were you making at your last firm?

Stress opportunity and potential. "What is your range?" "I think my experience would put me near the high end of your range, don't you?" SAY IT - ASK IT. Do not volunteer information about your past salary. Try to put the salary question aside. "Can we delay this until after we've looked at all the aspects of your current need?"

Have you ever been fired?

If yes, have a good explanation worked out and tested with friends.

What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

Go to your list of strengths and then tie each of them to an accomplishment. Look at your list of weaknesses and relate the weakness back to your strength.

Are you willing to relocate?

Do not pause - have your answer ready. "Yes, for a super opportunity. What did you have in mind?"

You've moved around. How long would you stay with us?

Again, this needs preparation. "I'm seeking a long-term opportunity where I can learn and grow. Does this come with the position we are discussing?"

What were your reasons for leaving each former firm?

Think this out clearly. Be positive about discussing former firms.

What motivates you?

Money, opportunity, flexibility, growth, a chance to learn, nice people, fair play... any others?

Why have you left (or want to leave) your present firm?

You know you are going to get this one, so here's your cue. Be positive.

How much did you generate last year? What were your billable hours?

Here is your chance to elaborate on your best accomplishments. Then follow up with, "Is that the kind of attorney you seek?"

How did your boss, associates and subordinates get along with you?

Have some examples of the kind of team player you are. This is a good time to bring up that you are a nonpolitical person in the office.

What are your short, medium and long-term goals?

Tie your answer to goals that could conceivably be realized in the interviewing firm. Limit your goals to just the short and medium range. Be realistic. A good reply is oriented toward growth in one's job through learning, experience and accomplishments.

Do you prefer working in small, medium or large firms?

Remember where you are when you answer!

Why do you want to work for our firm?

Your reply could be based on their reputation for clients, work product, technology, as a nice place to work and grow. Know their policies and potential for you.

Why should we hire you?

If you know the job requirements, and match up some accomplishments, say, "If there are opportunities to do that and more here, then this is a great fit. What do you think?"

What are you looking for with a new firm?

Be careful. Better know a little about the firm and the position you are after. If not, push in the direction of excellence based on former accomplishments.

What was your greatest success?

Pick one of your most significant accomplishments tied to their needs.

What has been your biggest failure?

Discuss this one with friends before the interview. If it can be something you were later able to correct, it becomes a learning experience.

What kind of day-to-day schedule did you have at your last firm?

Stress action, performance, and results rather than administrative work.

What were the most important problems you encountered at your past firm?

Use the ABC Principles and your will have some good answers. (Accomplishments = Benefit (Need): Do the Conversion)

Did you have any frustrations at your past firm?

Catch 22 question. Frustrations are a normal part of any job. Relate some of the bottlenecks you experienced, but more importantly, indicate what you did to overcome them.

Tell me some of the creative work you have done.

Creativity means how you developed an idea, a new theme or a new program and how it improved the firm's operation.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why or why not?

If you have been doing the kind of work you enjoy and have accumulated some accomplishments, you should consider yourself successful.

What can you do for our firm that someone else cannot?

By now, you should know the requirements of the job. Match your accomplishments against needs and mix with an interest in what you have seen/heard so far. As for the other candidates, you really cannot answer.

What do you like best and least about the position we are trying to fill?

You can choose the best. As for the least, "At this point, I see no important negatives, that's why I'm so interested."

How long do you think it would be before you could make a contribution to our firm?

Do not be in a hurry on this one. There normally is a period of transition to learn the ropes. "If the transition goes as planned, I would guess relatively soon. What would you expect?"

Are you considering any other firms at this time?

If you are, say so, but without detail. If not, "I have some irons in the fire" is enough.

What things do you feel most confident doing?

Stick to accomplishments. Think of their job requirements.

What would you like to improve upon personally?

Pick something that will not be a deterrent for this position. Better computer skills, speak better Spanish, or... ?

How many hours should a person devote to their job?

As many as needed to get it done and then some.

What things would you like to avoid in your next job?

Be on your toes. If there were politics in your past position, you might indicate that. Be careful.

Do you mind reporting to someone of the opposite sex or someone younger than you?

It is the job that counts. Stick to the job specifications and do not get sidetracked on implications.

Do you mind travel?

By now, you should know how much travel the job will require. Otherwise, it is a good time to ask. This could be a trick question if you have a family. Think it out.

What are the most important factors in (type of job you are going after)?

If you do not have a job description, you should ask for one so that you can reply item by item.

Do you mind taking some psychological tests?

If this is firm policy, you have no choice. However, try to arrange beforehand to see and review the results. This way, you will learn something about yourself.

Does your present firm know you are planning to make a change?

Be careful. Your answer could come back to haunt you. "I've grown just about as far as I can and see no further opportunities. At the appropriate time, I expect to let my firm know and, of course, when I'm ready to move, will do everything to make the transition as smooth as possible."

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