At interviews, the best type of employee is the one that helps other employees succeed. When problems arise, employers want to see that you know how to deal with the problem, and that you use your problem solving skills to handle it yourself without being a tattle tale.
Behavioral Interview Question: Give me an example of a time you discovered an error that been overlooked by a colleague. What did you do? What was the outcome?
All behavioral questions come with a giant warning: Do not, under any circumstances, say terrible things about a coworker. No one wants to hire a complainer. No one wants to hire a mean person. No one wants to hire someone that looks like they’re going to be creating problems in the workplace.
That means that you have to choose an example that isn’t too serious (ideally a mistake anyone but you could have made) and that you dealt with it in a way that the colleague would have appreciated. Here are some examples of diplomatic ways you could have communicated the error:
- You could have fixed the error because it was minor, and simply informed the coworker.
- You could have asked the coworker to check something with you, because something was confusing, and help them see it themselves so they have time to fix it.
- You could have taken credit for the error, and asked the coworker to help you fix it. For example “I think I made a mistake, I noticed that XYZ happened. Can you help me fix it?”
- You could have politely mentioned it to the coworker first, and offered training or created guidelines to help ensure that these errors did not occur in the future.
The second and fourth options are likely the best, but any of those four will do. As always, ideally you have your own stories, and you simply spin them to match one of the four diplomatic problem solving strategies above:
“Right before I was going to make the survey live, I noticed that the date on the follow up surveys was accidentally set to the same date as the initial survey, which would mean that every recipient would receive the survey, the follow up survey, and the second follow up survey within minutes of each other. Since I was new I didn’t want to start telling people how to check for errors, so I asked the coworker that made the mistake a question as if I was confused about it, as in: ‘Do the follow up surveys reset their dates automatically after the survey has been sent, or do we need to change these?’ Having realized their error, they promptly fixed it successfully in time, and to avoid the error in the future I said ‘wow! Good thing we caught it. How lucky! Since I’m new, let’s come up with a list of error checks that I can look for in the future.”
No, you don’t have to have an answer that makes you sound like this much of a model employee, but that style of answer is what’s going to really impress employers, and help them see you as someone that will be able to handle almost any situation.
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