What should you do when you get the dreaded ‘tell me about a failure’ question during a job interview? How you answer can be very revealing. Luis von Ahn, Co-Founder and CEO of Duolingo, a language-learning platform with more than 500-million users, provides some insight in the following clip from his recent appearance on The Tim Ferris Show.
The conventional wisdom is to be positive during an interview, but sharing your failure shows your authenticity and that you can accept accountability. You should also explain what you learned from that failure to demonstrate your ability to learn from mistakes and your capacity for growth.
Countless times, I’ve heard clients say to me “It’s just a phone interview.” Just a phone interview! Like it’s no big deal. Well it is a big deal, because if you don’t make it through what’s also known as the phone screen, you don’t get the face to face interview, which means you also don’t get the job.
The phone screen has become a rite of passage for someone making a career transition. Before a recruiter decides to advance your resume to his or her client, before an HR professional sends you to the hiring manager, before a hiring manager takes the time to meet with you in person, there has to be a phone interview.
In today’s competitive market, the phone screen is necessary to whittle down the pool of candidates. Without some sort of screening mechanism, no work would be done, there would just be interviewing. That means the phone screen is not to be taken lightly.
A common mistake made by job seekers is not taking the phone interview seriously enough. How do you prep for a phone interview? The same way you would get ready for a face to face encounter. Research the company, prepare to answer questions about your background complete with anecdotes, and have questions ready for the interviewer.
The disadvantage of a phone interview is you don’t have the visual cues like body language to see how your answers are going over. But there are some benefits. You can have notes in front of you that highlight your successes and why you’re a perfect fit for the position. In addition you can have your own questions written out so you don’t forget to cover everything.
Another thing you can do on a phone interview that you can’t do in person, without looking mildly insane, is to smile and stand up while you’re speaking. Smiling and standing dramatically improve your delivery. Smiling adds a positive energy to your voice while standing adds more power. They’re two simple tricks, but if you’re doing them and your competition isn’t you’ll be the stand out candidate.
There are two different kinds of people (actually, there are several different kinds of people, but for the sake of this post we’re going to focus on two types). There are the people that have always known, not only what they want to be when they grow up, (another question for the ages, asked both by career beginners and boomers) but at what stage of their lives they want to be there.
Then there are the people who don’t have a fixed path or objective. They’re people who sometimes happen across their careers serendipitously by exposing themselves to different courses in college and different jobs in the “real world”.
For the first group, the dreaded question of “where do you want to be in five years?” is easier to answer. They have a plan and a goal. They can answer the question and frame it so the answer dovetails with the goals of the organization with whom they’re interviewing.
Now, for the second group, that’s a much more difficult question to answer. I’ve had clients who are very envious of the first group, the ones that know exactly what direction they want to take. Members of the second group will often say to me, “If I knew what I wanted to do, it would be so much easier, I could just go for it.” And they could better answer the “where do you want to be in five years question?”
So for those of you out there who don’t know where you want to be in five years, a good answer would be to focus on the organization you’re attempting to join and how its mission fits with your own skills, attributes and passions. In other words, the answer could be along the lines of ” I want to be with a dynamic and growing company, where I can use my ability at doing X, Y and Z to help contribute to the company’s success.”
The bottom line when answering the question is to be authentic, highlight the skills that you bring to the table and demonstrate how your own personal growth will contribute to that of the company’s.