Interview question: What does it take to fail?

interview framed

Question: What does it take to fail?

One of my all-time favorite questions for candidates to ask is “What does it take to fail?” It is unexpected, and requires interviewers to stop and think.

It cuts right past the blather about “excellent writing skills, superb communication skills, and the entrepreneurial spirit,” three phrases which communicate no meaningful specific information.

“What does it take to fail?” changes the tone of the interview

If an interview is going well, the interviewer has steered the conversation into “sell” mode, telling the candidate about all of the good things about the culture that can be shoe-horned into 20 minutes. When a candidate asks “What does it take to fail,” the interviewer may reveal the real reason why a job is available or provide valuable insight into an employer’s culture which can never be revealed in a website.

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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2 Responses to Interview question: What does it take to fail?

  1. Maureen says:

    I really like this, and am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog! As a millennial entrepreneur and business consultant, it feels as if it’s become more and more clear to me that my age group demands mutuality in the work place, and so knowing not only what it takes to succeed but also what it takes to fail provides a full spectrum understanding of the position. I love your point that it also requires the interviewer to think critically about their answer, and demonstrates a sincere interest in knowing this job and performing it well.


  2. Stan Brown says:

    I’m not sure that I am ready to embrace this question which certainly has a negative tone to it. Yet I like the general concept. Perhaps a better approach would be to ask: “What does it take to succeed here?”

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