Killer Interview Question: If You Could Start Over, What Would You Do Differently?

Killer Interview Question: If You Could Start Over, What Would You Do Differently?

Asking potential job candidates to dwell on past regrets might seem a tad rude. But the answer can be fruitful on a number of levels. A good response will reveal how they judge their career to this point, how they personally measure success and what their ambitions for the future are.

“If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?”

The above question is a favourite of Brendan Courtney, president of staffing firms Randstad Finance & Accounting and The Mergis Group, Boston. As Courtney explained to online employment provider Monster:

Asking a candidate to explain the major decisions he has made, highlighting the positive and negative, reveals the person’s ability to make calculated decisions based on past professional and personal experiences. It also lets candidates share their vision for the future and their ambitions.

If you’re on the receiving end of this question, avoid the temptation to reply “nothing”. This will almost certainly come across as dishonest – if it was true, why would you be applying for a new job in the first place?

Instead, focus on the skills and insights you wished you had when starting out. In addition to providing an honest answer, this also highlights the professional instincts you have developed over the course of your career that could prove useful to their business.

You can find a bunch more interview question ideas on Monster’s blog.

[Via Monster]


  • I thought about the question. All the mistakes I made were made for good reasons generally things outside of my control. If I did not make them other good things would have not happened or things could have been worse. So I guess I would say nothing, except maybe give myself a heads up that it’s going to be ok??

  • I’d do a trade. Practical learning is such a good way to start out.

    Undertaker would be a perfect job for a bonehead…

  • My arrival at this place in life is the results of a number of Forced Decisions, time when I thought I knew better, hard work, work over life decisions and a few dumb-arse luck moments.

    If I was to change anything, I’d put a bit more focus to a personal life rather than to work so as to reach this age with a wife and kids rather than as a long-term bachelor.

    But, if I did that we wouldn’t be here having this conversation.

  • Depends. Do I start over knowing what I know now? If so, there are several choices. Get qualifications, buy property, or take risks rather than the safer option.

    Each of those could have made my life and career vastly different to how it turned out, but in the end, I’m still comfortable with where I ended up. While I could have made more interesting choices along the way, I really havent made bad ones, so who’s to say making any of those choices would have improved things?

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!