If good questions leave room for interpretation, this one leaves acres of space. Does the candidate choose negative or positive feedback? Is it recent or ancient? In many ways this is a re-write of the classic “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” routine, but the phrasing adds some complexity and enables more potential analysis by the recruiter. And that’s what good questions do–they elicit responses that clearly tell the recruiter about the candidate.
After the response, a great follow-up question is “Why do you think your manager said that?” Whether positive or negative feedback, pushing the candidate to share their perspective through an anecdote or two provides good detail and helps relax the conversation.
Most recent grads do not respond to this question well. They answer quickly and concisely with strengths and weaknesses that don’t tell me anything about them. For example, I don’t care if someone was criticized for being late to a meeting. We all do that. And everyone can show bursts of creative energy, or feats of flexibility that impress the boss. I’m more interested in the candidate who has their own list of things to work on, or a candidate who went out of their way to help a coworker in time of need. Take this question and run with it!