Question: How do you cope with failure?

No matter who you are, at some point, you will encounter failure of some sort. It could be a major event in your life or a tiny insignificant occurrence that barely registers. Regardless, failure will have occurred, and you must deal with it.

Naturally, the way in which people deal with failure is somewhat dependent on the nature of the event. However, some people are in general better able to cope with failure, and everyone can learn from them.

The question of the week is simple: how do you cope with failure, whether significant or otherwise?

Assessing Competency

Last week, the question dealt with interviews, and in particular, how you assess the competency of a candidate. Chemistry, or how the candidate will fit in with the corporate culture, is in some respects easier to assess. After all, you can describe the culture, assess for a personality clash, have the candidate meet the team.

Some will venture to say that qualifications, that is, the degrees and certificates a candidate presents, can be used to assess their abilities. Unfortunately, in reality, this doesn’t really work very well.

First, unless you have knowledge of the particular institution issuing the degree or certificate, you cannot assess how well the curriculum of that degree matches the needs of your business. Additionally, unless you request transcripts, you have no way of knowing whether the candidate finished at the top of their class or the bottom – which could be a significant spread.

Second, most jobs entail real-life experience, something which few degrees provide. As such, the work experience of a candidate has more relevancy than which university they attended, and what grade they received in a particular course.

Looking at work experience has similar problems. While the candidate can describe their role in order to appear to be a good fit, the reality of what they did at past jobs may have little resemblance to the verbose descriptions provided in the interview. Stories about events at past jobs may have been minor parts of the role – if they happened to the candidate at all.

As such, the interviewing company must resort to more practical assessments of skill. There are a few ways to accomplish this.

The first way is via a portfolio, in which the candidate is asked to provide samples of their work. The company must make it clear that the work is being requested purely for assessment purposes, and should NEVER use the work without the permission of the candidate.

However, not every job can be assessed via a portfolio. In some cases, more specific samples are needed.

The company can request a particular sample. For example, a salesman might be asked to prepare a sales pitch on a particular product, and present it during the interview. If the preparation of such a pitch is not expected to take too much time (and this is relative to the position being filled), such a mechanism can provide a very accurate assessment of skill.

Last, the company can attempt a test, but with caution. The test questions should be designed such that it’s not so much the correct answers as a way of thinking that is being measured. For example, a candidate could be given a problem to which there are many known solutions, and the assessment is not whether or not the candidate knows a particular answer, but how they approach the problem. This can be used to assess the candidate’s problem solving skills.