Here are back-to-back questions. They will generally be asked of people at a manager level and above. The less experienced you are, the more they are going to tolerate an ordinary answer. The way it will be asked of you is, “Tell me about your best hire.” Everyone can point out the best person they’ve hired. If you are a phony and trying to claim that you are a manager and you really haven’t managed people, they will expose this just with this question. For most people who are at a manager level, the best hire, for people or VP level, C suite, you need to have the best hire story available that will be spectacular.
But when they switch over to the question of, “Tell me about your worst hire,” the more junior you are in the pecking order, the more they will tolerate an ordinary answer of, “You know, there was this person I thought would be exquisite and they turned out to be pretty average.” They will then probe as to how you missed on this person, where did the breakdown occur and what they are looking for (and is true for the next level, as well) is the ability to be reflective, be self-critical and show the sort of emotional intelligence that demonstrates that you do a postmortem after bad choice. I can talk about it objectively without feeling threatened.
By the time you get to the C suite, your answer needs to be nailed down pat. I’ll simply say that you tell them the true story. I’m confident you can tell it in a way that demonstrates that you are someone who can be reflective, self-critical, and talk about how you missed on this individual. Don’t be afraid to go into detail without going overboard. You don’t want to do a half-hour self-assessment. 15 to 25 seconds of how you missed on this person. How they package themselves. How they got through your subordinates and how you missed in the person. I know this is early going to the depth OR missing on a few questions because you projected certain attributes onto them that they didn’t have. You’ve learned your lesson from that and you moved forward from there.
The more senior you are, the more there is the expectation of emotional intelligence that is demonstrated in the interview. Like I said, if you are a manager or a lead level, you can get away with the pedestrian answer like, “I made a mediocre hire.”
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT 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, all 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 more than 1800 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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