Will your candidate fail to succeed?
Date: 22nd January 2016
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shutterstock_267961712Be honest. When you are interviewing how often do you ask the question “What have you failed at recently?” And when you do, are you really expecting to hear what they learned from it and focus on how often they fail rather than succeed?

When I saw the headline CV of failures gains creative applicant interviews on HR Grapevine, I thought “At last! Welcome to the real world …”.

What does failure really mean?

Firstly, take a moment to think about what the word ‘failure’ means to you. Is it a negative word? For most, that seems to be the case. But when we delve a little deeper it can actually have more positive connotations. What can the number of failures a candidate has had – and learned from – reveal about them? Let’s take a look at an interesting case study…

[vc_table vc_table_theme=”classic”]Case%20Study%3A%20Spanx%0ASarah%20Blakely%20the%20Spanx%20founder%20and%20multi%20billionaire%20told%20CNN’s%20Anderson%20Cooper%20that%20part%20of%20the%20credit%20of%20her%20success%20goes%20to%20her%20father.%20Or%2C%20more%20specifically%2C%20to%20the%20one%20question%20he%20would%20ask%20his%20children%20every%20night%20at%20dinner.%20He’d%20ask%20%E2%80%9CWhat%20did%20you%20fail%20at%20today%3F%E2%80%9D%20When%20there%20was%20no%20failure%20to%20report%2C%20her%20father%20was%20disappointed.%0A%E2%80%9CWhat%20he%20did%20was%20redefine%20failure%20for%20my%20brother%20and%20me.%20Instead%20of%20failure%20being%20the%20outcome%2C%20failure%20became%20not%20trying.%20And%20it%20forced%20me%20at%20a%20young%20age%20to%20want%20to%20push%20myself%20so%20much%20further%20out%20of%20my%20comfort%20zone.%E2%80%9D[/vc_table]

One of my client’s loved Sarah Blakely’s story.  The CEO of this company isn’t at all phased when they make mistakes – he’s more interested in what they’ve learned from them! As part of their recruitment and selection process, they even include a “What have you failed at” question during interviews to reflect their culture of “If you are not failing you are not growing”.

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” Napoleon Hill

How can I approach the topic of failure in interviews?

Next time you are interviewing a potential candidate, try to incorporate a failure-based question into your strategy. Try using one of the following to get the conversation flowing:

  • Tell me about a time when you failed…
  • What is your biggest failure?
  • How do you feel about success, failure and achievements?

Questions like these will help you to assess how the candidate copes with criticism and whether they will be able to deal with difficult situations. Do they have a growth mindset, or a closed one? Are they open to feedback? Open to developing and learning?

Ultimately, you’re not looking for someone who is perfect. You’re looking for someone who can transform their failures into successes.