Imagine you are hiring for a leadership position or any role for that matter, what would your obvious questions be? You ask for past achievements, drivers to change the job, future-plans if offered the job and other industry specific technical matters? Occasionally as an afterthought you may go beyond and ask about their failures, but, how many times do you ‘really’ want to hear about failures? I would argue that we always like failures if they are wrapped up in positivity and the person claims victory over it. If the candidate is meeting you for his next job after a failed assignment what are the chances of you hiring him? I would put it as remote. Wouldn’t your comfort level would be less compared to somebody who said that they had conquered the world and not even sure why they were ‘even’ meeting you, we like that confidence all the time, don’t we? I can substantiate…
I once attended a job interview with a fortune 100 MNC with lots of hope. The employer I was working for hadn’t paid my full salary for few of months and the personal finances were under tremendous stress. Under the circumstances I thought I did well in the interview. I still have not learnt to say otherwise about my interviews The head-hunter called me later to say I did not impress my interviewer. I was desperate, I pushed back and asked why? I was told I was low on confidence and for a sales lead they expected more ‘confidence’ than what I had to offer. I then reflected on what had transpired in that interview and what else could have gone against me. Few things I suspected were in the grey zone:
- I had admitted that personally it was a ‘low’ period as financially I was struggling
- I did mention to them that performance of the team had dipped as we hadn’t got second round of funding and the morale within the organisation was low, maybe it looked like a good excuse for poor results?
- It was difficult to sell to the customer as we weren’t sure about the organisation’s future,
Besides the above I had elaborated at length how we had done well in the past. I spoke of the amazing founder that we had and the transparent culture that was built. Of course we had conversations around my own contribution, competencies and positive track record with my previous employers too. But I guess the positive attributes were forgotten after my disclosure about my recent failures. My knowledge on the protocols around interviews was not as rich those days, Hence I was unaware of theories like “one shouldn’t talk negative things about your employer” and things like that. On reflection, I must have portrayed myself as the non-performing asset and hence got rejected. There are always two sides to a story, so do take my example with the usual pinch of salt
Interviews are about conquering, achieving, no chink in the armour set ups, they say even weaknesses should sound like strengths.
Poor performances are part of everyone’s CV, but they don’t land you great jobs if you use them in interviews. It is a paradox, one side we say people who have experiences of failure make great hires but not sure if we practice it. Imagine telling yourself, your HR or your boss that you are hiring somebody who has failed in their last assignment? The bouquet or the welcome email on day one for the joiner may just not arrive!
If you carefully review any organisation’s performance metrics (easy to measure in sales organisations) only around 30% of sales force would be ahead or meeting their targets at any given time. So, do organisations fire the remaining 70%? I am sure there are stories/explanations about the medium/mediocre performers that keep them in the organisation. Some of us have also come to this compromise that performance is cyclical and we need to be patient and supportive when the curve is downwards. So why wouldn’t we apply the same theory to people whom we hire from outside? Why are we always in this chase to hire superstars for whom the law of averages might just catch up with their next job?
Not sure whom to blame, we have grown up in that atmosphere, it makes for nice reading about drop outs who built billion dollar companies, but also remember how the guy who failed in mid-term exams was treated by your teachers in schools, the guys who failed in college are only heroes in movies, did your parents allow you to play with kids in neighbourhood who failed in school? It’s not cool at home either. We in fact turn up the heat on those guys demanding a turnaround, even if they were our kith and kin, so it’s only natural that when we are hiring we want the perfect leader who has never failed or at least not failed in his last assignment.
If you are attending an interview and you honestly feel you have failed in your current assignment, I would advise you to wear a mask called ‘confidence’ and fake that you are at the pinnacle of your success. That’s what the interviewer wants to hear. Please boost his/her confidence.
Keep your sob story for friends and families!
Promise your aspirant employers that you will launch their Rocket to Mars!