Why Call It Failure Anyway?

So many Americans are unemployed. People are sending out resumes and interviewing with the hope they land the next stop in the career as soon as possible.

Being positive during an interview is an important element of the hiring process. Companies typically want and need upbeat, positive people who are willing to work hard.

Interviewing is a way to get to know the people at the company (and the company culture) as well as a process whereby the company representative has the opportunity to learn about you, their potential new, fabulous employee. 

Many times, the inevitable question is asked regarding failure and it often proves to be a stumbling block for many interviewees.

“What has been your biggest failure at work?”

Why call it failure? Now I realize an interview situation is a delicate dance in some ways. It’s common to ask a potential employee to acknowledge “failure” as a way to learn about his or her problem solving skills and more.

If we focus on failure at work, are we doing the same in our lives outside of the office?

The reality is that failure is in the eye of the beholder. This is not a play on words but a way of thinking about things. Sure a project mishandled could potentially have monetary implications for a company. But to acknowledge the experience as a “failure” doesn’t promote “positive” working, living or being. It seems that employers should be looking for more than just an employee who can articulate a “failure” at work.

Would this working mom be able to tell a potential employer about a “failure” in an interview? Probably not. I would tell him or her about the time when a process was in need of improvement or when human error resulted in a certain outcome. Then, I would proceed to talk about how I improved protocol for future implementation as a result of that experience.

Failure? Nah. Learning and growing as a human being who can bring valuable experience to any employer or company… a “yes” for sure!

Maybe that explanation means a potential employer passes on me as an employee. It’s possible, but would most likely be a good thing in the long run.

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