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One of the things I enjoy most in my work is discovering what recruiters look for in the candidates they interview who rise to the top. A recent blog post by Ben Martinez of Ramp Talent reveals that “one of the most overlooked questions in a job interview is finding out what someone failed at during their last job.”

We avoid sharing our failures because we think disclosing them embarrasses and diminishes us. If we learn from our failures, however, our likelihood of future success increases. And this is why employers routinely qualify candidates by requiring a certain number of years’ experience.

Recruiters and hiring managers are interested in your failures because they provide insights into your resilience (how quickly you recover from difficulty), a key strength or “toughness” desired in senior executives. A wise interview strategy, then, is to be prepared with a thoughtful response to the dreaded, “So, tell me about a time that you failed in your job.”

You’ll want to frame your answer in a way that explains the challenge or problem you faced, the complicating factors that made the challenge or problem especially difficult, the action you took and the result. To end your story on a positive theme, you’ll want to tell what you learned from the experience and how you have applied your new knowledge to deliver favorable outcomes in later challenges.

Sharing a success story in an interview is relatively easy. Revealing a failure takes real courage and can give you a competitive advantage with recruiters and hiring decision makers. So take heart when you are asked to “tell me about a time when you failed in your job.”

Ellie Vargo, MRW