An HR exec who's worked at Starbucks and Coach was recently asked a surprising question by a job candidate that rocketed them to the top of the list

Courtesy of Traci Wilk‘To me there’s nothing more important than self-awareness,’ said Traci Wilk, pictured.
  • Asking some interview questions about how you’ll fare at the company, given your relative strengths and weaknesses, can be helpful.
  • That’s according to Traci Wilk, senior vice president of people at The Learning Experience and a former HR exec at Starbucks.
  • A recent job candidate asked Wilk about the challenges facing them on the job, knowing they don’t have experience in that specific field.
  • Wilk said it simultaneously showed vulnerability and confidence, two valuable traits in an employee.

A job interview is a chance to flaunt your skills, your professional accomplishments, and generally just how great you are.

But Traci Wilk wants to see something more.

Wilk is the senior vice president of people at The Learning Experience, an early education and childcare franchise. She has also led human resources departments at Starbucks, Coach, and rag & bone.

Wilk told Business Insider about a recent job interview she conducted for The Learning Experience in which the candidate was unusually forthcoming – and it worked to the candidate’s advantage.

The candidate didn’t have experience working in a franchise or in the childcare industry. So she asked Wilk, “Knowing that I don’t have the experience in this type of industry or this type of business, but I bring all these other types of skill sets to the table, what do you think my major challenges will be in getting immersed into the company, should I get the job?”

Wilk was pleasantly surprised. “It showed a high degree of vulnerability to say that there were some skills that she was missing in coming to the organisation.”

What’s more, Wilk added, it showed that the candidate was genuinely interested in what it would be like to work at this specific company. “She really wanted to understand what she was going to be up against,” Wilk said.

The candidate’s question, Wilk said, “caused me to be very reflective” and “it led to a really great conversation.”

Read more:

An executive coach says practically everyone forgets to ask the job interview question that exposes a big red flag

Interestingly, research suggests that highlighting potential reasons for the employer not to hire you can be beneficial. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, professors Tanya Menon and Leigh Thompson recommend “calling out the elephant in the room.”

Indeed, one 2014 study suggests pointing out that your appearance is atypical for this company, but that you can do the job anyway, can help the hiring manager overcome their stereotypes. (Still, it’s unclear whether this strategy would work as well outside the lab.)

Wilk understands that many people may be hesitant to acknowledge their shortcomings in an interview. But she said that, for her, the person who displays this kind of vulnerability “jumps ahead to the top. To me there’s nothing more important than self-awareness. If you can ask that question in the [interview], it shows there’s a confidence that is very appealing.”

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