The Surprising Interview Question One CEO Always Asks

To figure out if job candidates have what it takes to survive in today’s cutthroat work environment, Wayne Jackson, chief executive of the software security firm Sonatype, asks the following: Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?

In a recent interview, Jackson told The New York Times’ Adam Bryant that in asking this question, he can learn about what people do outside of work–what drives them, what they think about, what’s important–to determine whether they have “the competitiveness and the drive to get through tough problems and tough times.”

Jackson says he also uses this question to figure out if the candidate’s values and mindset are in line with his. “I tend to drift toward things where the stakes are relatively high, the dynamics are really complex, and teamwork matters,” he says. And it’s important that his employees do the same. 

So, next time you’re preparing for a job interview, don’t just think about your biggest weaknesses and where you see yourself in five years. Reflect on your moments of perseverance, and be prepared to share them with your interviewer.

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