Ep.629 Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter discusses answering a question an interviewer might pose asking you To discuss a professional failure you have had.
Today, I'm going to talk with you about a new hot question in interviewing, It's a variation on an old one but had it has been taken to a much more extreme level.The original question was, "Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Tell me about a mistake you made and what you learn from it."
That was the original framing of the question. Now, let's see how it is being taken to an extreme.
"Tell me about a professional failure you have had (Notice how are no longer talking about a mistake. We are talking about a failure. Something far more extreme in everyone's mind). Tell me about what you've learned from it (okay, that part is the same). Tell me about what you could've done differently." That last part. It's a whole new dimension.
In answering the original one, I used to tell people to talk about something that the screwed up at the beginning of their career. The ideal things to talk about something where you learned it doesn't pay to just buckle down and work harder. You learn that what's most affected is communicating your difficulty, making sure you ask for help and that, at the end of the day, no one is surprised if things don't come in on time.
Today, when we are asking about failure, I want you to think seriously about this. I don't want you to go back to that beginner scenario because that is a weak answer to me. What they are looking for is something far more self reflective. They're not looking for you to confess that you are the most incompetent employee at your last 2 organizations. They are asking about a specific instance where you struggled.
You might talk about something where you were assigned a responsibility, perhaps, didn't reach out early enough to get consensus on some of your thoughts, tried to force things through that word really wanted and learned from this the importance of getting consensus from key stakeholders. That's always a good answer to work with. If you are in your 50s or older, you can talk about this when you are in your 30s, and this was your 1st leadership role. If you're in your 40s, you can talk about something more akin to what I suggested earlier...A time earlier in your career where you needed to learn how and when to communicate, the impact that that had on the organization, project, others,, and how egregious mistake it was.
Part of the way that you answer this is theatrically. You can make it seem as though you have a canned answer. You have to act as though you are agonizing over this because part of what they are looking for is a personality type that has a degree of self reflection. You can't answer this question by saying, "I never failed anything in my life. I have been an A+ performer every step along the way. There has been no instance in my life, no instances in my circumstances professionally where I messed up."
Steve Jobs failed. Barack Obama failed. Donald Trump failed. Everyone fails. The question becomes, what have you learned from it and what could you have done differently To avoid the worst circumstances from the failure.
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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a leadership and career coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.
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