One way to begin this is answer is by saying that you’ve gained a lot of experience leading teams and groups in college and in your past jobs, and have encountered this situation a few times. Then you could say that you’ve found the key first step to dealing with an underperforming colleague was honest communication. After that, here’s what a good answer might look like:
“In one of my past experiences, I met with the co-worker privately, explained my concerns about the quality of his work, and asked him to explain the cause of the problem. You’d be surprised at what a little honest one-to-one conversation can do. The co-worker said he knew that his work had been subpar lately but was afraid to address the issue with me and other members of the team. He told me that he simply felt overwhelmed by the project and that his concentration might also be affected by the fact that he had just become a new father and was only getting three hours of sleep a night. (In other situations, employees have told me that they didn’t understand the assigned tasks or that they were having trouble with a difficult colleague who was a key member of the project team.)
“Once the channels of communication were open, I then devised a solution to address the issue. In this instance, I reviewed the project with the co-worker and asked him to identify any problem areas. I also allowed him to work a flexible schedule that better fit with his new role as a father. I then revisited the project with the entire team to ensure that all aspects were understood, the deadlines were realistic, and work duties were fairly allotted among the staff. The project was completed on time, and the ‘problem co-worker’ prospered as a result of the more open lines of communication and the adjustment of his work schedule.”
This question does not mean: “Tell me about your life history, beginning with where you were born, how many pounds you weighed at birth, where you went to elementary school, and what your relationships are with your parents and siblings. ” Instead, what it really means is: “Tell me more about you as a person.
This is not a fluff question meant to trip you up by surreptitiously getting at some weakness of yours. Instead it's used to find out if you really do learn from your mistakes and, if so, how you learn from them, as well as how you might be able to grow as an employee and thus help the company to which you're applying.
It’s no secret that being a lawyer is a tough gig, whether you have several years of practice under your belt or you’re just familiar with pop culture references. The combination of late nights, tough clients and partners, and demands for perfection are not exactly a walk in the park.