How CEOs Hire: John Chambers on the value of your mistakes

John Chambers, Cisco CEO

First thing I want to ask you about: Tell me about your results. I never get hard work confused with success. So I’d walk you through the successes, and what did you do right.

I’d also ask you to tell me about your failures. And that’s something people make a tremendous mistake on. First, all of us have had mistakes and failures. And it’s surprising how many people say, ‘Well, I can’t think of one.’ That immediately loses credibility. It’s the ability to be very candid on what mistakes they’ve made, and then the question is, what would you do differently this time?

John Chambers, Cisco Chairman/CEO

From a 2009 interview with The New York Times

John Chambers

John Chambers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 30, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am sharing this hiring insight from John Chambers, because I think we have a lot to learn both from our own failures and those of others (including the mistakes of CEOs). Job candidates who either haven’t thought about their mistakes or won’t admit to them are not the self-aware people I want working for my companies. As I mentioned in a post about finding candidates who are motivated to work for you, talented people want the opportunity to succeed as well as fail, and learn from those experiences. They exhibit a level of self-awareness that allows continuous learning, which carries them through their entire careers. In this constantly changing business world, those who don’t learn from their own and others’ mistakes are doomed to repeat them. 

Source for this series: 28 Top Executives Share What They Look For In Hires (Business Insider)

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