He was interviewing for his first job out of school, and the interviewer asked him the standard, “Why do you want to work here?” question. He meant to answer “to gain hands-on job experience.” But unfortunately, his actual answer left out a word. Since this is a clean newsletter, we’ll let you figure it out.
The reality is that everyone makes mistakes, and things happen that we didn’t intend. It is how we deal with those mistakes that are a true test of an individual’s or even a company’s character. For example, in the early ’80s, when cyanide appeared in Tylenol in select cities, Johnson & Johnson removed all Tylenol and took full responsibility, even though it wasn’t actually their doing. As a result, their company’s reputation was even more solid than before the incident. Of course, recent situations have tarnished that reputation, but the Tylenol situation is still the gold standard.
This is why my favorite interview questions are, “What was the biggest professional mistake you ever made? How did you deal with it, and what did you learn?” This question really helps you understand how an individual processes information, reacts to stress and how they learn. What if they say they never made a mistake? They are either lying or ready for the big one to happen, most likely right after hiring them.
By the way, the colleague didn’t get the job. Still, he changed his answer to “gain entry-level job experience,” a safer response for future interviews!
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