As an executive recruiter, clients often ask me for sample interview questions that test certain competencies and skills. My firm uses behavioral based questions that really focus on understanding what a candidate has already done versus what they say they would do. Past performance is the best way to predict future success. The improvement of organizational predictive questioning techniques is one of the most important goals every company should aspire to.
To my favorite interview question! Hands down, I love asking executives to tell me about the last mistake they made and what they learned from it. Every time I ask, I get some version of “Wow, that’s a great question!” From the response to this question you learn whether or not an individual is self-aware and coachable. You get a good sense of what they need to work on (areas of improvement) and if there are integrity issues surrounding their candidacy. I have learned more about an executive under consideration for a position by asking this question above and beyond any other. When I think about some of the answers I have heard over my 18 year career in executive search, I am blown away, both on the positive and negative side of the equation. You have to really listen to what someone says, evaluate the way they talk about the mistake, and, most crucial, understand what they learned from this misstep. The latter is perhaps the most important piece of the assessment puzzle.
I urge you to put this on your list of questions, listen to what you hear, and make use of what you hear in earnest when evaluating your next candidate!