Board Member Spotlight: The Best Interview Question I Almost Never Had

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

By: Suzan Pickett, VP/Director of Converged Infrastructure at U.S. Bank; Director, CONVERGED User Group

36 hours, six flights through cities nowhere near my destination, a freaky 2am cab ride past a body farm complete with a dead-body joke-cracking taxi driver, a checked bag with “the suit” that took more flights than I did, and when the job offer came, I am pretty sure it came down to this one question from the hiring manager. It’s what I still think of years later as the best question I’ve ever been asked during an interview.

After a few hours of sleep, followed by 8 hours of interviews with 25 different people I’m surprised I remember any of it. But as I sat down with the hiring manager over lunch, he asked me the question I go over most often in my head as I try and be the best I can be. I was in no way prepared for it, hadn’t prepped, but did walk away with a job offer, (which I regretfully declined due to reasons not related to the job). When you think back on an interview there is usually a pivot point when you think, “I got this”, or “oops”, we’ve all been there. I think this question was my pivot point to getting the offer.

There are a lot of different interview styles, formats, themes and personality detective questions out there, but the best question I ever had? Simple. And telling.

Can you tell me about a time when you had good leadership?

Can I? May I? YES. Ralph, who gave me my shot in IT as a young pre-Y2K wannabe, taught me about potential. How to recognize it, cultivate it and mentor those who have it. Ted and Diane, who taught me about collaboration, team work, and coaching the next generation of leadership. Mike, who taught me about thinking outside the box, to always enable and empower teams, remove roadblocks and make sure people have the tools needed to do their job. Yes. I can provide in depth examples of the people I owe my career to.

The trend about window washing, manhole covers and conference rooms filled with basketballs has possibly passed or maybe it was an urban myth? What I think makes a good interview question is a chance to get the candidate talking. This question has the potential to find out how people feel about past leadership and that says a lot about a person.

Hopefully everyone out there has a Ralph, Ted, Diane, and Mike. I’m glad I do.

Names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Thank you for being my long time mentors. Thank you for setting your teams up for success.

It might have been some kind of cursed trip because my return trip had 3 cancelled Uber’s, 2 cancelled taxis, one very talkative taxi driver with whom I now exchange holiday cards, a non-show flight, a rescheduled late flight that made me run through the Dallas airport at max speed (more like a fast desperate walk) and I got there right as the door was closing. Sweaty, I made it to my seat only to have the guy next to me complain because he wanted “that” seat. And then I promptly fell asleep.

Do you have “your best interview question”, if so, what was it?

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