You are a professional woman presenting your background, pitching yourself for an interview or your business for a sale or partnership affiliation. It’s going really, really well. Through it all, you’ve been poised, energetic, and confident that you will meet your goal . . . and then NO! The questions about failures, disappointments, and conflict knock your dreams of success out of mind. Suddenly you’re not quite sure how well you’ll answer these tough questions. Are you sweating yet?
Many women in business have difficulty with negatively charged behavioral questions. But by understanding why the people asking the questions are interested in the answers, you can turn your failures, disappointments, and challenges into an advantage. All you need is understanding and a strategy.
Understand the WHY
Why the questions about failures and weaknesses? They want to expand on what they already know about you, find out who you are today—and how you will perform tomorrow. After all, the skills and traits necessary to overcoming obstacles and facing challenges—head on with dignity, grace and success—cannot possibly be revealed through a conversation about things that succeeded without incident. It is the challenges and adversities that truly develop the winner and leader within each individual.
Prepare for the WHAT
You wouldn’t enter a marathon without training first, would you? Preparing specific disappointment, failure and conflict-resolution examples will boost your performance in the interview. You don’t have to know WHAT questions the interviewer may ask, but speculation will help.
Here’s are some questions we’ve heard recently:
- “Describe your most memorable professional failure or disappointment.”
- “Tell me about the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your life.”
- “What kinds of conflicts have you experienced at your current place of employment?
- “Who was the most difficult boss of your career—and why?”
You’ll see that some of the behavioral questions asked are the same ones you heard last time you interviewed for a job—and maybe even the time before that—but the rules of answering have changed quite a bit. Fast-track and high-potential professionals should no longer share their minor, short term weaknesses. You must be prepared, practiced, and comfortable discussing the big stuff: life’s disappointments, troubled business cycles, challenges with large-scale change, etc. It’s worth it: these answers will help you land the position and responsibilities you want, help you climb the corporate ladder or secure your chair in the executive suite.
Show Them HOW
Your goal is to demonstrate HOW your ability to sustain performance in the face of obstacles—both personal and professional makes you a real asset to their team.
Show your interviewer how you have faced adversity and won and you will reveal your true potential and fit for the organization. If you can find humor in your errors, show it! Your laughter will demonstrate your honesty and positive attitude. But be certain to describe a lesson learned. By discussing how the experience changed the way you work, lead, or manage, you are highlighting your intelligence, adaptability and growth potential. Most importantly, though, your forthrightness and honesty will reveal your sense of accountability, an important personality and leadership trait. The humility you demonstrate will be worthwhile too. It’s what employers are looking for in the future leaders their organizations.
So don’t sweat these difficult interview questions next time. Your unique answers actually reveal much more about your capabilities than a long list of achievements and accomplishments. In the work world, the most consistent winners accept and even utilize failure as a competitive advantage.
In other words, winners always fail.