A lot can be learned about a candidate about their biggest mistake. What I’m looking for when they talk about making mistakes is not about the mistake they made. I’m not looking for a big mistake versus a small mistake. I’m looking for how they recover from it.
Do they fail to take accountability and say, “it’s not my fault,” or “that wasn’t my job?” Or did they say, “Yup, I dropped the ball on this and this is exactly what happened, but here is how I learned from this and here is how I grew from this and here’s why mistakes are good.”
I’m looking for people who can have a positive mindset for mistakes versus people who think the world is out to get them and everything is their fault. That’s not what I’m looking for.
Now, if someone ever tells you, “I have never made a mistake,” then just end the interview right there. Send them out of your office gracefully because that person is not telling the truth. Everybody has made a mistake. But what you want to know is how do they grow from that? That is the biggest thing, what did they gain from that mistake, not what did they lose from that mistake.
It’s pretty easy to tell when somebody is being genuine versus when someone is kind of telling me what they feel is right. It’s kind of obvious when someone says the only mistake that they ever made was being just five minutes late one day. Okay, well we’ve all been late. However, when I have people who are really specific and you know that they can’t make that up that’s how you can tell if they are being truthful. I had a candidate tell me they were supposed to cut a number of limes for these drinks and they didn’t do it. They simply forgot and didn’t have time and it put them behind the whole night. That’s really specific and really detailed. So you can always tell when someone’s being honest versus someone who just kind of gave you an answer just to give you an answer.
Now, there have been times where people have told me they’ve made mistakes and I get a little nervous, but luckily there are other questions that I can ask them to kind of feel out their character.
There’s a difference between being careless and just letting the ball drop every single time versus making a legitimate mistake because maybe you didn’t know the proper procedure, or you were newer, or you were trying to just be a little bit faster in your work. There have been times where people have flat out been careless with our work, and it has been concerning to me, but for the most part, I asked the question, “do you make mistakes?” And I want a truthful answer, so I need to be comfortable with them making mistakes because they’re going to make mistakes here and I need to know how they are going to handle them.