C Suite Interview Questions: Tell Me About a Mistake You Made

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
I don’t think this question will be that hard for most of you but it is important to be convincing as you talk about what you learned from this.

I Hate Cover Letters

Here’s a fun C Suite interview question. Tell me about a mistake you made. And no one likes owning up to a mistake. But you know, you got to do this. So the first thing starts off with choosing the right mistake. Now, obviously, you’re not going to talk about the one where you caused your firm to lose a huge amount of money, or you bankrupted your organization. You’re not that stupid, are you?

So I’ll just simply say, maybe you talk about a miscommunication or misunderstanding, or you operated at too higher level and trusted the details to someone else without follow-up, or you miss a deadline. You know, I don’t want to say these are trivial things, but they are less critical things than getting into a fight with someone or doing something destructive that wound up costing the firm 10s of millions of dollars.

So lay out the situation clearly. A and if we were working with a formula, it might be the SOAR framework situation– objective action result or situation obstacle action result. And I’ll just simply say, lay out the situation. What was the mistake you made? What did you do that proved problematic? How would you address this mistake in the moment. What did you do? And from there, it’s what you learned from it. How you’re going to avoid this going forward? And thus, this isn’t a hard question. But you can have to, you’re gonna have to act or perform in a particular way, in order to deliver the right results.

So it could be something along the lines of ‘This brings me back. And there was a time, I’d say about 10 years ago. I was new at a VP role where … and then you lay out the situation. And then you roll your eyes a little bit, you shake your head. And notice there’s a theater of this. You can’t just be factual. You have to be a human being, and then come back to the eyes and conclude by talking about the learning from this. How you’ve done things in the future to avoid recreating this. No problem like this has ever occurred. You haven’t completely delegated. You made someone report to you with what their progress was, to use one of those examples.

I learned my lesson big time, beause I took a lot of heat for that mistake, and deservedly so. So part of that is owning up to it. So not a tough question. It is one that is a common one to be asked by the search firm, or the search committee.

I’m Jeff Altman. Hope you found this helpful. Visit my website, TheBigGameHunter.us. There’s a ton there in the blog that will help you. In addition, you can schedule time for interview coaching with me, schedule time for any aspect of the job search lifecycle to get advice about that. Find out about my courses, books ,and guides. There’s a lot there to help. Also connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/TheBigGameHunter. If you don’t want to go over to my website now, at a minimum put that address in your phone, TheBigGameHunter.us, and in the notes field, put the phrase ‘job search blog’ so you can return to it a later day.

Have a terrific day and be great!

Interviewing and Hiring Leaders


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2400 episodes.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? People hire me to provide No BS career advice whether that is about a job search, hiring better, leadership, management or support with a workplace issue. Schedule a discovery call at my website, www.TheBigGameHunter.us 

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