Should You Discuss Your Mistakes at Interview?
Leaving a potential employer with an overwhelmingly positive impression might be seen as the ideal outcome for any interview. They gave you the floor to sell yourself, you knew what they wanted to hear, and you sold your skills flawlessly.
A+ for impact but maybe only a B+ for authenticity.
To me, an interview is an opportunity to open up with a future employer, and show them what you are all about, but at the same time, you can’t afford to give them the impression that you are concocting some sort of fantasy. Corporate life has both sweet and bitter moments. The making of a successful person is how they react to the less than pleasant stuff.
You have to sprinkle in some of your wobbly moments. Being vulnerable enough to talk about what didn’t quite go to plan shows that you would be equally open when future mishaps come along. No one wants to work with someone who sweeps bad news under the carpet. The moment that something goes wrong, you have to be up front and centre, dealing with it. Someone came up with the phrase of “wearing your mistakes on your sleeve” – I’m not sure that I would be that brazen about it, but I would certainly suggest that there is a time and a place for it in any recruitment process.
This is where vulnerability gets a little tactical.
As any recruitment process comprises of multiple stages with different people, it might not be the best idea to lay all your “I’ve made all these mistakes and learned from them” cards on the table. A candidate chooses how to tell their stories in response to the varying questions, and if they repeat the same negative stories on multiple occasions to different people, this might indeed create a less than favourable picture.
A better approach might be to ration your tales of failure, opening up just a little at the start of the process and then increasingly as the interviews go on. You can afford to show your maximum vulnerability with your future boss – they want to get to know the “whole” you, after all, but it might not make sense to spill your heart out to the HR manager in a first competency-based interview. Again, there is a time and a place.
I’m not sure about you, but I warm to the people who have the guts to admit that they have mucked up. We’ve all been there, and we can all empathise. Anything to get someone seeing the world from your perspective is a good thing, and a common experience of misery can often get the interviewer nodding and relating to your situation. You don’t want to come across as a charity case, but if this is liberally sprinkled in with tales of heroism, you will come across as a far more rounded (and probably nicer) person to be around.
No one is perfect. The last thing that you should do at interview is pretend that you are.