The One Tough Interview Question Every Hiring Manager Should Ask

Want to build a world-class, high-performance team? The one interview question to always ask is, “Have you ever failed and why?” When asking this question, both the actual response and the time it takes the candidate to respond matters. If the candidate is unable to bring up a credible example in a timely manner, it’s a red flag.

How a candidate answers the question will reveal:

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Resilience
  • Tenacity
  • Professionalism
  • Leadership potential

Why ask about failure? Failure is the path to success. How a person responds to failure is a measure of grit, persistence and leadership potential. Here are some examples of resilience and tenacity:

  • Sir James Dyson created 5,126 failed prototypes before ‘getting it right’ with the Dyson vacuum
  • Tim Ferris, bestselling author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” was turned down by 25 publishers
  • Arianna Huffington’s second book was rejected by 36 publishers
  • Thomas Edison made 10,000 attempts at creating the light bulb
  • Fred Smith, founder of Fed Ex, was told by a college professor that his concept was “not feasible”
  • Steve Jobs was fired from Apple Computers, the company that he founded

What’s important to assess is whether the candidate has ever attempted something challenging, and how quickly he or she bounced back from failure. This provides insight into the candidate’s self-confidence and overall leadership potential.

Originally published at on July 6, 2016.

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