“In no more than 300 words, describe a time where you faced a challenging situation, how did you try and resolve it and what would you do differently next time?” This question was posed to someone I know who was applying for a job on line. They wanted the job badly and came to me for advice on how best to tackle it. After advising them to keep it ‘personal and true’ I thought about many suitable instances in their short career but found it hard to find a single one in my own. After much thought, I came up with this…

12 years ago I was the COO of a small software company. It was growing fast and, as is typical in this situation, the employees were growing with it. My PA had taken on a more senior role and I needed someone to fill the open position. Because I was away a great deal I was looking for a personal assistant that could ‘hold the fort’ when I was gone.

The person I recruited was very intelligent and dynamic. She had a friendly smile and a reassuring ‘I can handle it’ attitude. But it turned out to be a disaster. While I was in the office, her work was perfect. Even when away, she would give an extremely precise picture of what was, and what was not, happening.

However, behind the scene my new PA was not so well received. Mistrust had set in. Jealousies and rivalries were threatening the fabric of the team the CEO and I had meticulously built. After a couple of months the situation came to a head when my former PA told me ‘it is either her or me?’ I had to make a quick decision. Although her replacement had done nothing wrong, I fired her and set about restoring confidence.

From that day onwards, I discussed all open positions with two key colleagues. I explained the need for additional people and what I was expecting from them. Time was given to come back with suggestions. Only then would the recruitment process begin. Times of interviews were scheduled to coincide with lunch, so that selected staff in the dining area could give informal feedback.

The team we had built was too precious to lose and was too small for dynamic changes in one jump.

What would you have answered?

Have a good week