You are in a job interview, necessarily a little nervous but the discussion has taken a pretty good turn, and you’re not too bad out so far. The recruiter suddenly asks you: “tell me about your failures”.
That’s when a huge “warning” lights up in your brain, and tells you that you are entering an area where the terrain is likely to be mined. You take a hot shot, start losing your ways and that’s a shame because it’s probably the right time to make a difference, as long as you have the right reflexes and good preparation.
Failure Is Generally Perceived Negatively
Whether you are an employee, a student, a job seeker, a business owner or a stay-at-home parent, a failure is rarely perceived positively. In most of our European countries, there is little talk of failures, and even less promotion. Failure is clearly a taboo subject, which sends back negative images and messages that one does not often want to address in a job search.
However, a recruiter needs to be reassured, especially on the fact that you are the right candidate, and he suspects that failures, you probably have known. So in general when the subject is approached, candidates liquefy, lose their means, dodge or tell more or less the same stories. I propose to take the opposite of this trend with these few suggestions on how to talk about his failures.
1. Emphasize the Consequences of This Failure Rather Than the Failure Itself
By asking you to tell him about your worst failure, the recruiter does not want to trap you but probably destabilize you a bit and see how you will argue. The best posture is to explain clearly what you have learned from this failure: you have improved the way you communicate, you have improved your personal organization, you have followed a training course to improve you on this or that subject.
This attitude will reassure your interlocutor on your ability to step back and act. However, this implies that you must have done some preparatory work and identified what you or your interlocutors might consider to be failures.
2. Play the Transparency Card
It is better to speak explicitly of a failure than to try to hide or deny it: if you have previously identified your failures and found an objective and honest explanation, the recruiter can hear it. Besides, he will have much more trouble with a candidate who stands on his or her feet and, in a way, refuses to admit that there has been a failure.
3. Speaking Spontaneously About a Failure
Recruitment professionals are behavioral professionals. They usually know how to identify a subject that makes a candidate uncomfortable. If in interview your interlocutor spots something that “bell”, he will naturally seek to dig.
Then it can be in some cases pay to spontaneously talk about a failure. Not only will this attitude change the behavior of 95% of candidates who have never experienced failure, but in addition it will allow you to release the discussion to talk about something else.
Here, it is important to apply the # 1 tip, and to be able to explain and reassure. Admittedly, we must not start the discussion with this failure, but if in the thread of the discussion, it seems obvious that there has been a failure. A good confession remains better than a bad concealment. It’s a matter of judgment.
4. Never Blame Others or Bad Luck
In a failing situation, there are usually several factors that explain it: external factors and factors that are unique to you. In your explanations, just mention what is your responsibility.
The recruiter does not need to know it, but you will have to give him some explanations on the part of responsibility that you take to the situation. Finally, in some cases, the economic situation may be largely responsible for a situation of failure.
5. Avoid Pronouncing the Word “Failure” in Job Interview
A failure is still a very subjective notion. What seems a failure for some will not be for others. Anyway, we advise you never to pronounce yourself the term “failure” in interview.
You will be more likely to talk about “situation”, “event”, or “particular moment of your professional experience”. Also avoid staying too long in the discussion about a failure, divert when you can on a more positive topic.
6. Ask the Recruiter What the Company’s Philosophy Is About Failure
Does the company encourage failure or, on the contrary, does it sanction it? It might seem incongruous to ask such a question to a recruiter, but after all, why not?
This question is, in my opinion, to ask in the case where in the discussion it became clear that you have failed, which may allow you to balance the power a little. While some companies are particularly far from risk taking, some will be very comfortable with it. It’s up to you to judge if this recruiter is ready to hear this question.
The failure is positive, it contributes to innovation, and is not a taboo in their eyes. So don’t be sad if you didn’t performed well in a job interview. Just try to see positive aspect in everything to live a happy and successful life.