Give Me an Example of a Time You Took a Risk & It Failed |

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This is a variation on “the failure question” geared toward people at a manager level and above.

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Now, I thought today I would do one of those tough interview questions. I've done variations on this one before. It's the failure question. It's designed to have you open up about yourself. You see, when firms hire people into leadership roles, they want to hire people, not only who can do the job, but who have a degree of emotional intelligence, who can understand the impact of what they do and own up to them. So this behavioral interview question goes, " give me an example of a time you turn you took a risk and it failed." And the key word in there is "failed" because it's a strong word. It's not a mistake you failed and they want to know that you can own up to your mistakes, you can own up to your failures and learn from them. It's kind of like the classic story from IBM, the old Thomas Watson story, about the person who lost ten million dollars in some business unit at a time when that was really a lot of money for them.He was asked why he didn't fire them and he said, "why would I fire them? The next person will get the benefit of the mistake that they made for me! Why can't I?" That's really what this question is designed to do is to get you– – to open up to your mistakes. So, the format is "The SOAR acronym--" What's the situation that you were in? What was the objective that you had? What was the action that you took and what was the result that you got? So, I'll give you an example of one. Doesn't mean that this is your story. Please .But use this is the type of example.
" You know, a few years ago. I took a position with an organization, moved across the country and I was hired to take over this new business area that they had and I stepped into the role, maybe with a bit of arrogance or cockiness about it, thinking that I could really make a huge impact on the organization.
And I misfired. The misfire was I realized after I was on board. Their were things I didn't know about the organization, about its capabilities and its investment in this business unit . . . And I was probably in over my head as a result. Now, I'm not blaming them. I just want to be clear about that. You know, I realized I stepped into a job that I didn't have all the information for and the result was we really couldn't deliver it and the result winds up being that, years later, when I step into new situations, I make sure that I'm covering all the bases and really understand what resources are available. So, then, in this way, I'm not flying blind anymore. I really know that, I can affect the change that they're looking for. I always know that there are surprises but nothing will ever be as big a surprise as that one."
So get the idea here. You're going with the situation, the objective, the action and the result . . . And owning up to your part of this. You have to do that. Without that piece,your answer has no meaning. It just sounds like you're blaming someone else and there's always a partthat involves you and the mistake that you made, even if it involves them like it did in the story. Like, I didn't have all the information about what was going to be available to me. . . . And that's your mistake. Follow?
I remember one time with a non-profit I was involved with, I was going for certification to run workshops for them. And the first time I sat before the group that certified people, I was told I wasn't ready for it.I was disappointed, to say the least and I came back and, again, attempted to get their okay to do it .
There was a point in the conversation where we talked about what had happened the first time. And they said, " are you saying that this wasn't your fault?" I said, "no. I've got a piece in this," and then I went through what the scenario was one more time and made it clear what my part was and that's exactly what they were looking for here. They're looking for you to own up to your part in the scenario, even if most of it involves them.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years.

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

He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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

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