By Carlton Houston, RTDNA Contributor
It's one of my favorite questions when I interview job candidates: "Can you tell me about a time when you really screwed up?"
Several years ago, after asking the question three or four different ways, one candidate struggled to admit failure, telling me she was perfect - in so many words. She did not win the job.
I've posed the question to many reporters, producers and anchors over the years. Typically the candidate reacts with surprise before launching into an interesting story. They describe a factual error, or a blown deadline. The story gets even better as they review the fateful steps... accepting responsibility and spelling out the "lessons learned" to avoid repeating the mistake.
To be fair, sometimes I will describe my own mistakes to encourage the dialogue. (How about the time I failed to double-check the spelling of a teenage hero who saved a woman from a house fire. Turns out his name was Myke... no typo.)
Hiring managers can learn a lot from the failure question. A thoughtful response can indicate a candidate's willingness to accept coaching and feedback. More importantly, the digital age continues to throw our industry into a whirlwind of rapid change. That means on-the-job training and experimentation is critical to survival.
Failure is not a weakness. It's often an indicator of growth. And the candidate who has a high level of self-awareness is someone willing to learn and grow while avoiding the blame game when things go wrong. I have to confess, winning teams need those qualities more than ever.
Carlton Houston is an Emmy award-winning news executive. He is the Assistant News Director at TEGNA's WUSA 9, the CBS affiliate in Washington DC. Houston is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a former board member of RTDNA. Follow Carlton on Twitter @Carlton_Houston
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