Culture of Experts



When Thomas Edison was asked about the 1,000 failures that preceded the invention of the light bulb,
he replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Failure: Part of the process

Within the interview process, it is a common practice for interviewers to ask candidates about the failures that they had experienced within their careers. Candidates are asked to cite a specific failure. The conversations that follow will try to determine who the candidate blames for the failure and what actions they took to to overcome the obstacles they encountered. If the candidate is quick to blame outside forces for the failure, it raises concern over their ability to take responsibility for their work. If the candidate did not take appropriate action to overcome the obstacles, their problem solving skills come into question.

When interviewing Unconventional Experts, this questioning strategy might be flawed. Unconventional Experts look at failure differently. They are intimate with failure, as it is a part of their individual work-process. They may not even label their most ambitious failures as failures, but steps within the process. Talking about failure from a 20,000 foot view will not inspire answers that reflect their true potential.

Within a Culture of Experts, interview questions pertaining to failure should be asked at a much more granular level, within the context of the Unconventional Expert work-process. Interview questions for Unconventional Experts are summarized in module #12.

What is this all about?

As a recruiter, it is part of my job to understand human nature. The more I understand human nature, the better I can find top candidates. We humans are so complex, we have a difficult enough time understanding ourselves. Often times, it pays to break things down to their least common denominator. When we simplify, we can gain new perspectives. When we compartmentalize, we can find new and better questions to ask.

After developing one of the core concepts behind Culture Of Experts, I had daily opportunities to put theory into practice. I soon discovered that the understanding of human nature is not nearly as important as the discovery of related questions to ask candidates. That’s the advantage of being a recruiter and/or an employer; the ability to ask questions.

Although, over simplifying can be dangerous when it leads to assumptions. When employers approach potential employees, employers have an advantage in that they can ask the questions. As we find understanding on human nature, it is important to know that we don’t always need to know all of the answers, we simply need to know what questions to ask. The answers to our questions will bring us to knowledge, even if we don’t have everything figured out.

As a recruiter, the main area of understanding. 


Culture of Experts is a free talent program by Human Castle Executive Search. For expert recruitment visit us at or call (716)222-3535.

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