The pandemic changed the way a lot of us think about how to work, when to work, and, perhaps most importantly, whether we are content with where we work. We’re seeing people pivot in their careers as they come out of this challenging time and ask themselves, “am I truly fulfilled in this role and with this company?”
With this in mind, I recently threw a question out to my LinkedIn network of rock star executives. I asked, “what is the one thing a candidate can say that would knock them out of the running for a promotion or job?” The resulting answers are a masterclass of what should, and absolutely should not, be said during the interview and performance review processes.
So, what was the number one phrase that will send your resume straight to the slush pile or your promotion down the drain?
When asked for a fault or a time when you failed and learned, you should never say, “I can’t think of one.”
Sandy Zannino, Founder and CEO of Innovative Auto HR, coined this phrase the “magic knock out answer.” Mac Mann, Director of Human Resources at Caf2Code LLC agreed, saying the worst thing a candidate can say is, “I really can’t think of a specific time I made a mistake.” Even if they do admit a time they made a mistake, if they don’t take ownership, that will “typically seal the deal on a rejection.”
Other experts agreed that blaming others for a mistake instead of taking responsibility is another big no-no. Usually, an answer like this leads to a direct pass.
“When an interviewee either cannot come up with something about them that they need to work on or gives a ‘fake’ answer to that kind of question (like, ‘I just work too hard sometimes.’), I find that disingenuous. I also think that it shows that the person is potentially not very self-aware and not open to continuous learning and training,” Ashley Beck Cuellar, Senior Account Manager at PERQ, said.
So now that we know what a candidate shouldn’t say, what’s the best way to answer this question?
Candidates and employees should be honest about when they’ve made mistakes and what went wrong. They should share what they learned from their experience and how they can carry this knowledge into this role or their next project.
In Mann’s ideal world, his next candidate will answer the question by saying, “I’m not perfect, and I make plenty of mistakes, but you have my word I’ll always tell the truth and constantly work to better myself and the company.”
Wow. We’re on board with this amount of self-awareness and honesty. Now go get that next promotion.
Laurie Halter is the owner of Charisma! Communications and host of the Carearing podcast, where she explores how leading females “rear” successful careers and home lives at the same time. You can reach out to her via LinkedIn.