This month we spoke with Cheryl Probert of Bayer Canada on how to discuss weaknesses in the job interview.
Many people have a hard time discussing their weaknesses and mistakes in an interview, so a candidate's response to this question is always interesting.
For most people, their initial reaction is to say (either jokingly or not): Oh, I've never made a mistake! If they truly stand by the statement that they have never made a mistake, I would question their honesty and their level of awareness of their own behaviour.
On the other hand, what I'm looking for in a good response is for a candidate to tell me about a mistake'we all make them!
I'm looking for plenty of detail:
How was it found? Did you identify it yourself? Or did someone else find it and tell you about it? Discussing how the problem arose shows awareness and the ability to take criticism.
How did you fix it? What was the impact of the error? Who did you have to communicate with? How did you communicate? This demonstrates how the individual works in a team and, possibly, how the person handles stress and pressure.
What did you learn? And, more specifically, what did you learn that will help you prevent or mitigate future mistakes? I want to know that a person can problem solve and create solutions.
I may help the candidate along the way to get to all those details by asking probing questions, but it's this kind of information that provides valuable insights into how someone may handle a difficult situation in the future when they make a mistake. Remember that behavioural interviews are intended to help an employer predict future behaviour based on past behaviour, so I expect candidates to come prepared with specific situations they can discuss in detail, including the mistakes they've made.