Three questions during a job interview

Foto Credit: Gülden Kiraz Media


Three questions during a job interview –

Imagine that you are in a job interview as a manager and hear the following question:

1️⃣ “Under what circumstances are you willing to praise me in our cooperation? What must have happened for that to come true?”

It’s a good question, because it’s a reminder for me not to forget to praise! And if there is praise, please be specific about what triggered the praise.

As site director, I had offered my direct reporting employees, for example the plant managers, the opportunity to work with an external coach on topics that are personally important to them in connection with their professional situation as a training measure. Completely for them without any expected feedback to me. Many of them responded to the offer.

It was agreed with the coach that I could describe my view of the respective employee to him, but of course all topics worked on between him and the employee were confidential between the two and that feedback should only be given to me at the express request or suggestion of the employee.

What happened then –

After a few weeks, the coach approached me.

“Bernd, may I ask you a question?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Do you feel that your employees are loyal to you?”

“Very loyal, even.”

To which the coach replied: “Do your employees know that you think this way?”

Now the scales fell from my eyes. My employees were loyal to me and they were very proud of it. I appreciated this behavior very much, but I had never reported it back personally in a 1:1 conversation. What an omission. I took it for granted. But it’s not.

To this day, I am very grateful to the coach for drawing my attention to it so nicely, so indirectly and yet so clearly. Now I was able to make up for what I had missed and I did.

Back to the question above. Often, the lack of praise is not an expression of dissatisfaction, but a failure on the part of the manager to express his appreciation accordingly.

Coming to the next question –

2️⃣ “When you look at your team, what are you satisfied with and what would you like to change?”

First of all, the nice thing about the question is the expression “team”. Because this already addresses what is important to me personally. I would like to work with a team and not with a collection of individual performers.

Each player in the team has his role and his strengths and his weaknesses. I can live with that, because I know them. It is important that the interaction is right. And that’s my job, to make sure that works. Like a conductor with his orchestra.

✳ I am satisfied when the team players practice in a disciplined manner and with a strong will.

✳ Then, when identified dissonances are resolved together,

✳ and then, when the focus is on the upcoming performance and not on the backward-looking blame when something goes wrong.

And by the way, this also applies to me as a leader. Mistakes can and will happen. That’s human. I myself want to create an atmosphere where you can feel safe to take a risk and want to play a solo, even if you still have a lot of respect for it. A good error culture is just part of it.

And change?

This happens situationally, adapted to the events that are coming at us from the outside. Or when I realize that a change of strategy is necessary. In this case, there may be major changes. But don’t worry, all employees will get on-boarded right from the start.

And there is one more question, and this is a real difficult one –

3️⃣ “I’ve met toxic leaders. Ok. But there are also toxic employees. When do you define employees as toxic and what do you do then?”

First of all, I have to briefly reflect on what could be meant by this.
“Do I understand correctly that a toxic leader is a person who exerts a lasting negative and harmful effect on their employees through their behavior, attitudes, and interactions?”

In my role as a manager, I put together my own teams and made sure that I avoid bringing such toxic people into the team from the very beginning. But of course, there were also situations where I took over a team and I needed to redesign it accordingly.

In this situation, I didn’t want to and couldn’t rule out parting ways with employees. These were not easy talks with those employees, for which I prepared myself accordingly carefully. I distinguished between two categories.

1️⃣ I took on employees who no longer fit into the team, who were perhaps a bit overwhelmed and who noticed it themselves. The conversations were not easy, but they always went well because we developed follow-up solutions together. And they worked.

2️⃣ I also took on the one or the other employee who could be described as toxic in the sense defined above. This was unmistakable in crisis situations, when the team had to make coordinated decisions quickly and in a stressful situation. Then a breakup was unavoidable for me and the separation process was a really difficult one.

How I prepared for breakup interviews and what I learned in the process is another story. More on that another time.

➡ As a manager and leader, what questions have you heard in job interviews that impressed you?

Thanks Martina Frahn for those excellent questions and the inspiration for this post, see

I am Bernd Scharbert and my job as a mentor and facilitator for leaders is to pass on my experiential knowledge after more than 30 years of leadership experience in the corporate world. If you are interested, please feel free to follow me at LinkedIn, #prepare4landing or contact me directly.

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