How to Hire a Failure (And Why You Might Want To)

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On September 1, 2014

FailAs a business leader you know how critical it is to hire the right people for the right positions in your company. Personnel decisions are some of the most important (and difficult) tasks business leaders face.

It stands to reason that if you’re aiming for success, you want to hire successful people—right? That’s why in so many interview situations we try to ascertain if our potential candidates have that “success gene.” We look at their qualifications, experience, and track record. We ask questions that will reveal if our candidate has what it takes to be great.

There are, however, a couple of questions you can ask that will reveal if your candidate is a failure. And depending upon his or her answer to the second question, you may want to hire that person.

Why in the world would you want to hire a failure? First let me let you in on the two questions. Then, you’ll probably be able to answer the “why hire a failure” question yourself.

The first one really isn’t a question. It’s a request, and it goes something like this: “Tell me about your biggest business failure/mistake/error/snafu.” If your candidate can’t come up with anything, he or she probably doesn’t have the experience necessary to get you where you want to go. Mistakes are a part of business. Everybody makes them. Someone who can’t (or won’t) talk about mistakes is either inexperienced or not entirely forthcoming.

The follow-up question is the one that really strikes at the heart of the matter. It should be something like this: “What did you learn from your mistake?” Everybody makes mistakes, but not everybody learns from their mistakes. Somebody who has made a mistake and truly learned from it stands head and shoulders above the crowd. And if your candidate really went through that process, there’s a good chance that he or she won’t make the same mistake again. On top of that, it tells that the person you’re talking to is a learner.

That’s critical in today’s business. The business world is constantly changing. You need to surround yourself with people who are able to learn and adapt. And there’s more. You and your team will make mistakes in the future. You want to have people on your team who aren’t paralyzed by failure. You want people who can look at failure (and loathe it) and then pick up the pieces and start again.

Everybody wants to pick a winner when they hire. But sometimes the real winners are the ones who know what it’s like to fail.