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As an interviewer, you’re most likely aware of much of the research out there that states a candidate’s future success with a company can be derived from their past success.

But what we often fail to realize is that the most successful candidates are the ones who have not only grown from their success, but learned from their failures, in order to achieve that level of success.

So why are we always leading candidates to provide us with how they’ve achieved success?  Uncovering a candidate’s past failure is an option to pursue in the interview to learn even greater insights into their character and how they ultimately reach success.

The next time you start in with your behavioral questions in the interview, why not leave the questions open ended.  Instead of asking for an example of success stories or leading a question with the type of response you are looking for, let the candidate respond organically.

After all, if you’re coaching the candidate for the appropriate response, you’re not allowing them a very wide margin for failure.  If you want the best candidates, you have to 1) provide them the opportunity to fail in the interview and 2) understand how they deal with failure, both in their past experience and in the present.

Too often we want job seekers  to succeed in an interview so much that we will coax them into providing the type of response we want to hear.  Sometimes this is needed, but sometimes we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure when they don’t perform as we had hoped based on their responses.

A great candidate is one who recognizes failure as a tool and not a dead end.  If you resist coaching a desired response you may be surprised by the candidates who begin to stand out.

If a candidate knows how to process failure they will see when they have not provided a satisfactory answer and find a way to counter it in the interview.

Whether it’s coming back and outright stating that they don’t feel they’ve successfully answered the question and ask what they could further clarify on, or waiting until later in the interview when they can step forth to showcase what they have to offer to override their earlier disappointment, a good candidate who knows how to succeed will adapt and move forward successfully.

An average candidate will let the moment pass and move on, get upset or distracted, or not even take notice of the interviewers reaction to not hearing what they want to move the applicant forward.

Why not take it one step further.  Counter all those behavioral interview questions focused on success with ones focused on failure.  Understand how the candidate processes failure and what they take from it.

Do they turn their failure into a success story?  Do they find ways to adjust for the future and learn from their mistakes?

Anyone can find a great success story to tell, but where are the great stories of failure that tell the real story?

Are we so focused on success and trying to recognize it that we don’t often widen our focus to see how failure might be the key to recognizing true success in our candidates?

Do you look for how candidates adapt and learn from failure in an interview setting?  Do you ask behavioral based interview questions that focus on this side of the spectrum?  Do you learn more about a candidate when they talk about the failures (or avoid discussing them) when you approach this topic?  What are your thoughts?

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