We’ve all had to interview over the years – some of us more than others. And we’re all very familiar with the common questions that you get time and time again that are used to hear how you communicate, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and whether or not you’d be a good fit with that specific organization. There are a myriad permutations of these questions, but they are all designed to evoke the same sort of information from the candidate – do you have what it takes to work for this company, in this position?
Some common forms of these questions are “Tell me about your biggest achievement” or “What is your greatest strength”, or sometimes “Where do you really excel?”. On the flip side you also hear “What is your biggest weakness?”, or “Tell me about a time you couldn’t deliver”. Rather than shuffling through your memory banks to come up with a good example every time you interview, it is possible to have several stories already keyed up in your mind with supporting details ready to go when responding to these generic, yet common interview questions. To do this, we have a process called “2 wins – 1 loss”.
To respond to the positive questions such as the “biggest strength” or “biggest success” variations, we recommend having mentally preparing in advance with two success stories from your past 2-3 years on the job. One story (win #1) would demonstrate your knack for solving tough technical problems with well thought-out solutions and being able to quantify the value to the business as a result. This would clearly demonstrate and showcase your expertise in your particular skill set.
The second story (win #2) would focus on how you’re able to rise above tough social situations. For example, how you were able to keep your project moving forward even though an adjacent group was not fully bought in to the vision. Or how you were able to accomplish business objectives working with diverse views and tough personalities on the team. This story should demonstrate your strong interpersonal awareness and skill in navigating the challenges in dealing with the human factor – which is critical at any company.
And finally the loss story. Rather than dodge this question, this can be viewed as an opportunity to show your humanity (we all make mistakes), but more importantly how we learn from our mistakes. So think of a time you made an obvious error that ended up costing you time or money on the work at hand. How did you identify this mistake, and beyond that, what did you do to correct it. Even better, if you were able to make it a clear lesson learned and teach other people on your team in how to avoid this type of mistake going forward, you have just helped reduce future risk to the business, and your mistake turned into direct value to the business. Being able to clearly pivot on how you and others have grown as a result of that mistake is key in the “loss” story.
Being able to articulate the 2 wins – 1 loss stories and sprinkle them through the interview can really help the overall tone and confidence of your conversation and can have a significant positive impact on the impression you leave them with. Knowing these kinds of questions will most likely come up during the conversation, it can be a great asset to be prepared in advance with the very best of what your experience has to offer.