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Posts Tagged ‘interview questions’

The One Job Interview Question Hiring Managers Must Ask

There is one job interview question recruiters and hiring managers must ask. And the answer should be a deal-breaker.

The most important job interview question for any role in every organization: Tell me about a time you received negative feedback.

This is NOT the same question as tell me about a weakness. Or tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. Those are also important job interview questions to ask. But they’re not the most important question.

Let’s assume everyone you interview is age sixteen and older. Unless your candidates live in a cave, never speaking to anyone, it’s not possible to arrive at age 16 without having received negative feedback. The feedback can come from a friend, teacher, or parent. It doesn’t need to be work-related.

The point of the question is to discover whether the candidate is open to feedback. People who are not open to feedback are extraordinarily difficult to work with. They aren’t coachable. Any type of feedback they receive will result in resistance and defensiveness.

Employees who aren’t open to feedback won’t change or improve their behavior, regardless of how effective a manager is. Instead of listening to feedback and taking corrective action, employees who are not open to feedback will tell managers why they are wrong.

Everyone you interview has received negative feedback at some point. The question is whether or not candidates were receptive to the feedback. People who aren’t open to feedback won’t be able to answer your question.

If candidates can’t tell you about a time they received negative feedback, ask a follow-up question. Your job as the interviewer is to give candidates every possible opportunity to be successful. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, ask the interview question in two different ways, until you’re certain the candidate can’t or won’t answer the question.

If candidates can’t tell you about a time they received negative feedback, ask what their reputation is at their current job or was at a previous job. Candidates probably won’t be able to answer this question either. Most people don’t know their reputation at work.

Even if a candidate doesn’t know with certainty their reputation at work, the answer they provide will give you a sense of how self-aware they are. People who are self-aware are more open to feedback and are easier to coach and manage than people who are not self-aware.

I eliminate candidates who demonstrate they aren’t open to feedback, whether I’m hiring for Candid Culture or for one of my clients. I don’t care how credentialed or experienced the candidate is. If candidates aren’t receptive to feedback, they don’t get a job offer. 

Your First Impression May Not Be Correct

You’ve undoubtedly heard that it takes fewer than 30 seconds to form a first impression. The question is how frequently is your first impression wrong?

If the person sitting next to you on a plane doesn’t speak to you during the entire flight, you may initially think they are unfriendly, only to strike up a conversation as the plane is landing and find out that’s not the case. If a job candidate is outgoing, you may decide the person has good people skills, only to experience contrary behavior when they start the job. If someone is late to arrive for an initial meeting, you may decide they have an issue with time management, versus they were just running late that day.

Your first impression may be right, and it may be wrong, but it takes more than 30 seconds to be sure.

If you’ve participated in job interview training, you were probably trained to look for contrary evidence when forming an opinion about a candidate. Looking for contrary evidence is an attempt to disprove your first impression. If you quickly dismiss a candidate for lacking knowledge of your industry, you should ask interview questions to disprove your opinion before making a final decision.

Why not follow this practice in all settings? If you initially decide someone is trustworthy and reliable, spend more time with that person to be sure. If you quickly decide someone is unhelpful and uncommitted, give the person additional opportunities to behave differently before making a final judgment.

Snap judgments eliminate lots of great people and experiences from our lives.

Unfortunately, just as we prematurely exclude potential employees, friends, and life partners without having enough information, people do this to us as well, which is why it’s important to know the first impression you, your department, and your company make. If you don’t know the first impression you create, there’s nothing you can do to shift behaviors that may be costing you friends and customers.

When I was new to a job, early in my career, I asked my new coworkers to give me feedback if they saw me do anything that got in the way of my being successful at work. They agreed. But when they had negative feedback, they didn’t give it to me, they told my boss instead. That’s when I got the hard and painful lesson that people have a tendency to talk about us, not to us. It’s also when I began asking the people closest to me, who I know love me and care enough to tell me the truth, the first impression I create.

Opinions are formed quickly and they’re hard to break. Give people more than one chance and see how they show up. And know that many people will eliminate you, your department, and your company after just one interaction. So, find out the impression you create, giving you the power to do something about that impression.

Download some of the questions I ask to learn my reputation.

Giving Feedback is Hard – Setting Expectations Is Easier

Setting ExpectationsMy last few blog posts focused on giving feedback. The posts were designed to help managers get ready to write and deliver performance appraisals.

Giving feedback will always be hard. No one wants to hear that she isn’t doing a good job, thus no one wants to tell her. Part of the performance appraisal process is setting expectations for the next year. And asking for what you want, before problems happen, will always be easier than giving feedback.

If you’ve seen me speak or attended one of our training programs, you received a list of Candor Questions designed to eliminate the guessing at work. They may have been questions for leaders, managers, strengthening business relationships or managing careers. Regardless of which Candor Question Cards you received, the goal is the same. Ask more. Assume less.

The most frequent request I get is for feedback training. Managers tell me, “The communication in our company isn’t good. Can you help our managers and employees be more candid?”  And I tell business leaders, “I teach people to be more comfortable giving feedback. But why start with something hard? Why not start by asking more questions and getting to know people better, which is much easier and will reduce the number of feedback conversations you need to have?”

When we know what people expect, we can give people what they need. We make fewer ‘mistakes’, requiring fewer feedback conversations. So start with what’s easy. Ask more questions.

Start with what I call Introductory Candor Questions

  • How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail or text message?
  • Are you a detail-oriented or a big-picture person? How much information do you want to receive and in what format?
  • What are your pet peeves at work? What would I do that would be frustrating, and I’d never know it?

Then move on to Candor Questions for Managers:

  • What had you choose to work here, and what would make you question that decision?
  • What kind of work do you love to do most? What kind of work do you like to do least?
  • What do you wish I would start, stop, and continue doing?

You can download samples of our seven types of Candor Questions here.

People are not us and don’t do things the way we do. Don’t assume someone will create a report as you would, participate in a meeting as you would, or dress for an event as you would. Setting expectations before the event of what you want, gives them a chance to be successful.



Giving Feedback is Hard – Asking for What You Want is Easier. By Shari Harley.

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