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by Derek Loosvelt | February 10, 2016


If you ever have a breakfast interview with Walt Bettinger, the CEO of financial services giant Charles Schwab, beware of receiving the wrong order. That is, don't be surprised if you receive eggs over easy with a side of bacon when what you actually ordered was French toast with home fries.

One thing I’ll do sometimes is to meet someone for breakfast for the interview. I’ll get there early, pull the manager of the restaurant aside, and say, “I want you to mess up the order of the person who’s going to be joining me. It’ll be O.K., and I’ll give a good tip, but mess up their order.”
I do that because I want to see how the person responds. That will help me understand how they deal with adversity. Are they upset, are they frustrated or are they understanding? Life is like that, and business is like that. It’s just another way to get a look inside their heart rather than their head.

If you pass Bettinger's breakfast interview test, he then might ask you about your greatest success and greatest failure. "What I’m looking for is whether their view of the world really revolves around others or whether it revolves around them," he says. And so, make sure your answer isn't too narcissistic. Maybe talk about a group failure, or a team failure.

In any case, at the end of the meal, before you get the check, he'll likely ask you one final, very important question. One you better not fail to answer correctly. Because if you do, it could tarnish all of your stellar answers that came before it.

Says Bettinger:

I had maintained a 4.0 average all the way through [college at Ohio University], and I wanted to graduate with a perfect average. It came down to the final exam, and I had spent many hours studying and memorizing formulas to do calculations for the case studies.
The teacher handed out the final exam, and it was on one piece of paper, which really surprised me because I figured it would be longer than that. Once everyone had their paper, he said, “Go ahead and turn it over.” Both sides were blank.
And the professor said, “I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?”
And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name. I’ve tried to know every Dottie I’ve worked with ever since.

In other words, at the close of your breakfast interview, you better not only tip your waiter but also know his name.

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