It’s fairly normal for interviewers to ask job candidates about their past mistakes and what they have learned from the experience.
However, it’s far less common for the CEO to sit down with a candidate and share their own missteps.
But that’s precisely what Janet Elkin, CEO of Supplemental Health Care, does.
“I like to know about things that have gone wrong,” she said in an interview with the New York Times’ Adam Bryant. “I’ll usually set that up by talking about mistakes I’ve made at the company.”
Elkin believes how you handle mistakes reveals your ability to grow and develop in a position and wants to know if candidates learn from theirs, or ignore them. By opening up about her past failures and gaffes, she sets the stage for interviewees to feel comfortable sharing, as well.
“I’ve made a lot of [mistakes], and they kept promoting me,” she says. “But the difference is that you learn from your mistakes, and then you go on because you want people to be willing to take chances on you.”
After sharing her own transgressions, Elkin asks candidates to reflect on a moment they wish they’d handled differently. “How they answer that speaks to how open they will be,” she explains. “If they tell me they have never made any kind of mistake, then they’re out of there.”
Elkin understands that everyone messes up — it’s part of any worthwhile process — and looks for employees that aren’t afraid to own up to it when they do. “Just be open and be able to acknowledge what didn’t go right so that you can make it better,” she says. “Something’s always going to go wrong, and you’re going to make mistakes. That’s OK, but you’ve got to go on and do the next thing.”
Click here to read the full New York Times interview.
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