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  • Have you ever really made a mess of something at work?

  • A potential employer might ask about this in an interview to hear about how you handled it,

  • to understand more about you as an employee.

  • Today we'll study how to talk about mistakes at work in a way that can still impress your employer.

  • We're going to study four job interviews, a teacher, a doctor, a social worker, and a marketing expert.

  • We'll study how they answer common interview questions

  • to figure out how you can form your own compelling answers.

  • At the end, there will be a lesson for my non-native English speaking students

  • on some of the idioms that came up in answers.

  • The prompts we'll study today are: tell me about a mistake you made at work and how you handled it,

  • talk about a time you exhibited leadership in your current position,

  • and tell us why you're the right person for this job.

  • Everyone makes mistakes from time to time,

  • and you can still really impress your interviewer when talking about something you messed up.

  • Let's hear how Adrienne, who works in marketing in the performing arts, handled this prompt.

  • A couple years ago, I was working on an email blast for a major initiative at my company

  • and this was one of those emails with an incredibly large list. We had about

  • thirty to forty thousand people receiving this email.

  • And even though we had a team of people checking and rechecking to make sure that everything was accurate,

  • once we hit send, and it was already out,

  • we received a message back from one of the people who received it that the link was incorrect.

  • And that is just the worst thing as someone sending out emails as a marketer, just to know that

  • you've messaged all these people to try to get them to do something, and the link is not the right link.

  • So immediately, I went and I spoke with my boss about it and we had a conversation about what was most

  • practical, as the next step to try to resolve this,

  • and we agreed that we should send out a follow-up email to people

  • to just let them know oops we we apologize that we sent the incorrect link, here's the correct link,

  • and thank you so much for your understanding.

  • And it worked out. It's funny how I sort of had forgotten about that until this question.

  • But it felt like such a big deal at the time.

  • So now, I'm a lot more meticulous with checking links

  • even when I know an entire team of other people have already tested and approved all of the details.

  • This is great. She gives one really specific example, and talks about how she resolved it.

  • She went straight to her supervisor and they discussed it together.

  • Let's also talk about what she doesn't do: she doesn't blame someone else for this.

  • It could be tempting to say something like

  • the person who was supposed to check all the links didn't do her job”.

  • But remember, part of what someone is looking for here is how you talk about your mistake.

  • Blaming others or speaking ill of others will likely reflect poorly on you.

  • Don't dwell on whose fault it was.

  • She then goes on to talk about having learned a lesson from it:

  • she says she's now even more meticulous about checking the links in emails.

  • Let's hear how Jeff, a doctor, answered this question.

  • So one of the mistakes that I made at work was not

  • getting an important certification that I needed to do my job in at the appropriate time.

  • Part of the reason behind that was that I was so busy doing many, many other things

  • that I didn't give it the priority that it needed.

  • It was an obvious important thing to finish in order to complete the work,

  • or to do the work that I that I have to do on a daily basis.

  • The way I rectified that was to realize that you can't just wait until the very end to kind of get things done.

  • You need to put steps in a process and finish those steps

  • as sort of mini goals in order to reach the final goal.

  • I also developed a priority list for my work, kind of listing from one to ten,

  • the things that I really need to focus on every day, every week, every month in order to get things done.

  • I'm impressed with the system Jeff put in place to make sure a mistake like this doesn't happen again.

  • His system is detailed, and he described that detail.

  • Make sure you talk about what you've changed since making that mistake.

  • That can really impress a potential employer.

  • Dan is a social worker.

  • Let's listen to how he answered the question.

  • So as a social worker, I think one of the things that's the hardest about my job is knowing when to say 'no'

  • and how to do that in a professional manner.

  • Recently, I was working with a family, who elderly couple,

  • the the husband was bed bound with severe memory deficits, and the elderly wife was his only caretaker.

  • And doing home visits with them,

  • it was very touching and heartbreaking to see that she was doing her best to take care of him,

  • but really wasn't successful, and wasn't able to do it well.

  • She did not feel that way, she felt like she was doing what she needed to do for her husband,

  • and she wanted to keep him in home as long as possible.

  • And I tried to meet her where she was and

  • to be there and be as supportive as possible in finding any kind of

  • outside services that would help her take care of her husband.

  • Ultimately, all of the things that I found didn't work for her, for one reason or another,

  • and later, another social worker who became involved,

  • reported the case to adult protective services,

  • which then initiated a court proceeding that then forced her to get him moved to an assisted living facility.

  • This seems kind of like a kind of a harsh thing to do but in hindsight,

  • it's what needed to happen, and it probably should have happened earlier,

  • than me trying to help her find solutions that that worked for her, because

  • it became clear that the longer that we work together, that she was.

  • There was no solution that worked for her. And she felt very trapped but just couldn't agree to anything.

  • So the courts coming in to help solve this was really the only way to go and I,

  • I think I should have recognized that earlier.

  • Here, as he talks about a mistake he made, Dan also really lets me know about one of his strengths.

  • He really wanted to work with this woman, to meet her where she was, and he tried everything he could to do so.

  • He was very empathetic, and as social worker, that's an important trait to have.

  • In the end, the situation had to be handled differently.

  • But I appreciate that what led to this mistake was Dan's big-heartedness.

  • As you think of past mistakes at work, try to think of ones that lead to specific,

  • real changes that you can talk about.

  • Try to think of mistakes that came from something like

  • too much empathy or working too hard

  • rather than being checked out or not engaged in what was happening at work.

  • Another common interview question is leadership.

  • Tell me about a time you exercised leadership, or showed leadership, at your job.

  • Let's listen to how Adrienne, Dan, and Jeff answered this question.

  • In my last position, an area of leadership for me was when we

  • moved the entire organization over to a new online ticketing system.

  • And so this is a major undertaking that intersects with colleagues in a lot of different departments,

  • who have a lot of different conflicting priorities.

  • And so I, in order to push this through and get this ticketing system online,

  • I had to initiate conversations with colleagues in all different areas,

  • and really understand what they needed and what they were afraid of, and

  • try to make them comfortable with this new system,

  • and make sure that we had very clear timelines for them to submit all the materials that they needed to submit,

  • so we could make sure that they were covered with this new system.

  • And so it worked really well to just have really clear lines of communication,

  • and I was the one point person to really make sure that everything was happening on deadline.

  • Adrienne used the phrase 'point person'.

  • This is the main contact, the leader.

  • So there were various different departments involved,

  • and she was the one person who was talking to all of them, keeping track of all of the parts of the project.

  • This is a great example.

  • It's a big project, there were many people involved, and she does mention that she established very clear

  • communication and that the deadline was met.

  • So as a supervisor, I had a staff of nine, and in a previous position, I was working with the staff to try to

  • find ways to encourage them to promote their own learning, and to help them find leadership

  • roles within the organization.

  • So the organization I worked for had a lot of staff,

  • but we're having trouble finding people who were ready to move to the next level,

  • manager, administrator level positions.

  • So I was instrumental in helping to bring a program on board in which we identified

  • staff members that we then called senior staff, and gave them extra roles.

  • So on my team, I had a senior staff member who was responsible for helping me run team meetings,

  • helping me gather data, planning for team events,

  • looking at metrics, being part of performance improvement projects.

  • And I worked more one-on-one with this person

  • in our supervision to talk about ways in which they could really focus on their leadership style,

  • learning from other leaders,

  • being comfortable enough to ask questions in a safe environment where they could

  • really start to look at their job as a stepping stone to the next job.

  • And I'm happy to say that the

  • person that I worked with then got promoted on to a management position afterwards.

  • GreatDan has an example where he was specifically leading a team.

  • He started a program to help meet one of the company's goals,

  • and personally mentored an employee to move that person up to a leadership position.

  • Dan used the word 'instrumental'.

  • I was instrumental in helping to bring a program on board.

  • Instrumental music is music with no vocals.

  • But when it's used outside of the context of music, it means, something or someone that was influential,

  • very necessary to make something else happen.

  • It's a great word to use to describe yourself in an interview.

  • Here are a couple sample sentences:

  • I was instrumental in ramping up our social media presence.

  • I played an instrumental role in developing our best-selling product.

  • So I would say one of the specific moments where I showed leadership was when I brought together two

  • different coalitions in our community that were working on trying to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

  • There was a health system that developed a coalition, and then there was a

  • community-based of providers stakeholders that were also dealing with the same issue.

  • The leadership piece, what I felt was important was that there really didn't need to be two separate

  • groups working on the same issue within our community.

  • So what I decided to do was to bring those two together

  • and to enhance the purpose and power of two groups coming together on a singular issue.

  • Great, Jeff gives a really concrete example of one time, one project where he was a leader,

  • he saw something he could improve, he took the initiative, and he did it,

  • pulling two important groups together to more effectively solve a problem in his community.

  • As you think of your answer to this prompt, make sure you're getting really specific

  • if Jeff had said something like, I show leadership when I bring groups of people together

  • that's a generic answer, it's a claim with no example to back it up.

  • Make sure you're answering with examples from your past.

  • A really common question to be asked is, why should we hire you for this job?

  • Or, why are you the best person for this job?