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Best mistake I ever made? Failing a job interview

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MPW Insider Network is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. This week, we ask: What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made? The following is an answer by Gisel Ruiz, Chief Operating Officer of Walmart’s U.S. division.

The best mistake I ever made? Blowing an interview.

I began my career in one of our Walmart (WMT) stores. I was, and remain, very proud of that because that is where we make the biggest difference to people. Therefore, I wasn’t particularly interested in moving on elsewhere in the company. However, my boss at the time had other aspirations for me and he was persistent in his efforts to get me to take other roles at the company’s headquarters, where he knew I would gain invaluable experience.

For two years, I dodged him on the issue. Then one day, out of exasperation, I relented. I agreed to head to Bentonville, AR to interview for a corporate position. But the truth is my head wasn’t really in it because I was pretty happy where I was. I was good at my job and I liked it.

After he went to bat for me, I really let my boss down. It was the worst interview ever. I blew it and I didn’t get the job. In typical Walmart fashion, they wanted to make the most of their investment in my plane ticket, so they offered me the opportunity to interview for another job.

This time, in an area I knew was important, but I didn’t know much about. In all seriousness, I had very little understanding of the complexity of this aspect of our business and while some of my skills operating stores and leading store teams were certainly applicable, it was a stretch.

Then something remarkable happened. I went to the interview and had an immediate connection with the hiring manager. I felt excited about what her team was doing and about the opportunity to learn new aspects of the business and impact people in a different way. I got the job and loved it. I was eventually promoted to be a Regional Vice President in store operations and I was much better in that role because of this job. It helped prepare me for the role I have today. As Chief Operating Officer of our U.S. business, I am honored to serve more than 4,000 stores and more than 1.2 million associates.

Blowing that interview was a huge wake-up call and made me realize that I needed to open my mind to other possibilities; to stretch myself in the spirit of learning and growing; to consider less traditional paths. It was in that moment that I realized the joy of the journey – the gratification that comes with discovering new strengths, the realization that failure doesn’t equal collapse, and the enjoyment that comes with facing a new challenge every single day. That’s why I’ve been with the same company for more than 20 years.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What’s the best mistake you ever made?

Destroying a wedding dress by Liz Wiseman, president of Wiseman Group

Almost turning down a job at IBM by Gerri Elliott, board member of Whirlpool, Bed Bath and Beyond and Charlotte Russe

Leaving a cushy job for the ‘unknown’ by Robin Koval, CEO and President of American Legacy Foundation

Reversing my resignation by Kathy Collins, CMO of H&R Block