Why You Should Consider Hiring a Candidate Who Has Faced Failure

By Jezabel Southard

Posted on July 12, 2014

When hiring, many hiring managers look for successes. They’re often easier to spot in a candidate’s application materials than failures because candidates like to talk about what they’ve accomplished, not where they’ve struggled. Some hiring managers are so dedicated to the concept of “seeking success” that they write it into the job posting itself: “Seeking candidates with a demonstrated track record of success in….”

In fact, focusing on success alone may not yield the best possible candidates for the job. Asking candidates about when, where, how, and why they have failed may in fact do more in revealing the most promising new hires. Why?

  • Failure invites self-reflection, self-awareness, and personal development. When things go wrong, figuring out why and fixing them becomes necessary.
  • Failure generates creativity. Humans have a habit of continuing to do the same things in the same way as long as they work – and, often, even when they have stopped working. A candidate who has recognized a failure and overcome it has probably had to exercise some creative thinking to do so.
  • Failure generates humility, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to try again. By contrast, people who have only ever experienced success are less resilient in the face of adversity, especially when their “tried-and-true” way of handling a problem fails.

How to Use Failure to Find Good Candidates

Obviously, hiring someone who has never succeeded at anything is unlikely to be the best choice for your organization. But one of the core competencies you should look for in a competent and skilled candidate is the ability to learn from mistakes – and to do that, you’ll need to ask about failures.

During the interview, ask candidates when they have failed in the past and what they learned from the experience. Listen to their answers with the following questions in mind:

  • Is the candidate honest about his or her past failures? Does the candidate try to minimize them, or does the candidate own them and go on to discuss learning opportunities and successes?
  • Did the candidate learn from the failure? How would the candidate apply this lesson in future challenging situations?
  • Does the candidate demonstrate a sense of responsibility, humility and self-awareness – or is the failure everyone else’s fault?
  • How has the candidate grown and changed as a result of the failure? Have self-confidence and resilience developed?

At TERRA Staffing, our dedicated staffing experts can help you find the people who can help your company thrive even during an organizational failure. Contact us today to learn more about our recruiting services in Portland and Seattle!


Categories: Diversity & Inclusion, Staffing Tips & Recruiting Trends

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