It’s the follow up question that’s revealing!

julie zhuo

I’ve done a lot of interviewing over the years and tend to read a lot about interviewing techniques to improve my mentoring. One of the most common questions of corporate interviewers is “Tell me about a tough situation you’ve encountered in your career.”

But Facebook executive Julie Zhuo has a great followup question that is far more revealing. She’s profiled in the Inc. article by Betsy Mikel Facebook Exec: 1 Interview Question That Instantly Reveals Someone’s True Colors. As usual, the sub-title summarizes the article: How the candidate answers can either seal the deal or be a red flag. Zho looks for a “learning mindset” in job candidates. She’s made hundreds of hires over her years at Facebook, where she started as an intern 10 years ago. 

Here’s her followup question:  If you could revisit that experience, what would you do differently?

While there is no obviously right answer, there is one obviously wrong answer: that you would’t do anything differently because everything that went wrong was outside of their control.

There’s a right answer, of course. It’s to present lots of ideas of how you might tackle things differently the second time around. “I get really excited about that candidate because they’re showing a lot of productivity, and they’re showing that they can learn really quickly,” Zhuo explains.

I’d add that presenting lots of ideas also shows good problem solving skills and creativity, something I looked for in the candidates I interviewed.

There are a couple of other pieces of worthwhile advice in the article, including encouraging hiring managers to hire strategically, not opportunistically. And to hire holistically, looking at the future of your team, not just at how the individual might be a fit for the company.

The bottom line of the article is also the bottom line when it comes to hiring:

“Hiring well is the single most important thing you can do,” she says.