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My favorite interview question

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Over the past 20 years I have interviewed thousands of people... college students, senior executives, and everyone in between.

I have used standard questionnaires, I have gone off the cuff (I don't recommend this, by the way), and I have used behavioral based questions. You know, the ones that start of with "tell me about a time when..." and the follow up questions to those that sound like "looking back, what would you have done differently (even if everything went great?."

These interview types all have their pros and cons. In fact, it is best to use a blend of unstructured questions (to develop a relationship and help put the candidate at ease) and structured questions (to enable you to compare candidates consistently).

Of all of the questions I have come across my favorite interview question is:

Tell me about the last mistake you made.

All hiring managers are looking to bring someone onto their team that is willing to learn. The confident leaders want their employees to take risks, but admit when they have made a mistake. The balance between having confidence and humility can be difficult to discern when interviewing a candidate and this question cuts right to that core.

Do I care what the mistake actually was? No. Just that the candidate has one... that they recognize that they could have done better and have learned from their mistake.

You can teach the skills needed to do a job, but humility isn't acquired in a class.


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