I lost the count of the interviews I have been called to assist in my career. After a while you realize how stereotyped they are in most of the cases. People try to tell you in less than half of an hour how good they are at something.

You want to have a successful interview? Tell me what you did wrong!

Let me understand what experiences have you done and how you built up your know-how. What your mistakes did teach you.

It is unluckily to happen for you to repeat the same mistake again. If you understood the reason of your failure and you managed to turn a flop into a success, then we have something to talk about.

A young Project Manager recently did come to me asking for some suggestion to get out from an embarrassing situation, I asked him if he met any other PM’s. The day after, he was back on my office thankful for the help and the heads up from his colleagues. Naively he asked me if he could have attended a course to learn how to deal with that kind of situations. I told him the Senior PM did exactly the same mistake in the past and someone helped him. There is no shame doing something wrong for inexperience. Very experienced people are still vulnerable to unpredictable problem.

Tell me what you did wrong, so I can understand what you will possibly do right now.

When someone does mismanage a project causing a company some loss, you cannot let that guy to go. Instead you have to use this experience to avoid the recurrence of the same mistake. This is how a company invest in training. Some money is in courses, others on time spent coaching, but the most effective training budget is represented by a controlled project’s leakage. Of course a Manager’s task is to control this and avoid it if possible, but in one way or the other, you cannot micro manage everything (you want not to!). The delegation of responsibility has a curve cost’s that is high as it starts, but it moves down overtime to an effective and controlled performance. When you let someone go due to a mistake, that cost your company some money, you are actually paying from your own pocket training as a benefit to his next employer; moreover you have to invest again to train another person. Why you want someone else to take benefit from your expensive experience? Should you not take advantage of the lesson learned for the future? Companies are hungry for people that has been left behind by shortsighted managers.

So please, don’t be shy of what you did wrong, that is your best presentation to someone that understands how the business works.

Stop and think for a second, on what base we should select a candidate between three people applying for a position and all of them with the same degree of experience on the CVs? All of them coming form the same kind of school, all with five years of experience in the field on the same equipment. One of them has a story about one or more events where problem affected a project and they managed to find a solution. Don’t list your knowledge, sell your capability and earned experience in problem solving instead.

On your next job interview, let people know what you are not going to do wrong again.

Having said that, people do not expect to see a resume of failures, but you need to have a story to tell about your experience: Your capability of problem solving, Leadership and team management during an interview. Be prepared to show how you have turned a failure into a success.

At the end of the day, knowing by memory the list of all the ingredients for a meal, it doesn’t make you a good Chef…