Tell Me About a Time You Failed
Nearly everyone would agree that the purpose of a job interview is for you, the prospective employee, to impress the hiring director or manager and sell them on the idea of working with you.
Naturally, this means that you want to leave them with a great impression during the interview.
One of the questions you will likely have to win over their hearts with is “Tell me about a time you failed.”
The goal of this question is not to make you squirm or put you in a position in which you’ll belittle yourself. There’s a reason for asking it as often as they do which we will cover in this article (with example responses).
- Why employers ask this question during an interview
- How to answer “tell me about a time you failed” interview question
- “Tell me about a time you failed” sample answers
How to Tell Someone They Didn't...
How to Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job (Job Rejection)
What an interviewer wants when they ask ‘tell me about a time you failed’
The primary reason employers ask for more information about a time you failed is that it shows your humility and willingness to learn from mistakes.
By answering the question you show that you can look back on previous decisions and admit to mistakes you have made along the way. We all know that everyone makes mistakes and fails once in a while. The ability to recognize that shows character.
In a work setting, acknowledging your past failures also demonstrates your capacity to learn from your mistakes and grow. It shows your humility and willingness to develop as a person.
This question is an opportunity to tell an anecdote about how you faced your failure and moved beyond it.
How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time You Failed” interview Question
Compared to other hiring questions that people often find unpleasant to answer, such as “tell me about your shortcomings as an employee,” this one is not so bad.
The hiring manager wants to see humility and reflection and the ability to own up to the mistakes you have made before.Here’s how to go about formulating your answer:
1. Describe the Situation
It is essential to go about this in a manner that does not make it sound like you are making excuses for what happened but instead painting a picture of the scenario.
Mention all facets of how your failure occurred.
Once you set it all up, you can flip all of the problems you mentioned by demonstrating how you learned and improved from this experience.
2. Show Accountability
Make it clear that you recognize your failure resulting from your actions, and use that as a springboard to talk about all of the ways you have improved since then.
Nobody likes a know it all!
3. Demonstrate All of the Lessons Learned From Experience
Build off your anecdote by covering everything you learned and how you have since applied the learned skills and experiences since the failure happened.
Consider practicing the story you want to tell so you can get it right.
4. Tell a Clear, Correct, Concise, and Complete Story
Another reason to practice the story is to make sure that you stay on track while telling it. The hiring manager asked the question to achieve a goal, and they have other questions to ask you.
Be careful not to waste time.
5. What To Avoid
As covered above, it is vital to keep your answer organized and concise.
Avoid telling a story that makes you sound careless, apathetic, or actively negligent. Even if your endpoint is about how you learned from your mistakes, these traits sound wrong to a hiring director, no matter the context.
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tell me about a time you failed sample answers
- “I was in charge of a project for one of my former company’s senior clients. I was so eager to stand out at the time that I said I could get it done in 2 weeks. I thought I could, but it took 3. It made me and the company both look bad. Looking back, I know I should have given a more conservative estimate to the client and impressed them by taking less time than I promised. I never let that happen again.”
- Takeaways: There is a lot to like about this first example. First of all, the failure in question is something that is both understandable and easily mendable. Yes, it looked bad at the time, but any hiring director would see that it came from a place of tenacity and eagerness rather than apathy.
- “The CEO at my previous employer gave me a chance to conduct interviews for our team. One of the people I hired seemed like a good fit but had a few red flags I still didn’t really think about. Maybe they were just nervous. Regardless, they ended up not working out. The person had a bad attitude and constantly dragged the team down. In the end, my CEO had to fire them. That was the day I learned to go with my gut in the interview room and not to ignore warning signs.”
- Takeaways: In addition to cultivating a sense of kinship with the hiring director by showing you understand their position, this second example also demonstrates the sort of mistake that shows your strengths more than your weaknesses. You were presented with a situation you felt confident about. You were wrong, but you learned from your mistake; it is the classic hero’s journey.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, roughly 86% of recruiters have been conducting virtual interviews.”— Gartner(Video) TEAM LEADER Interview Questions and Answers!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the most common type of job interview?
Although video related job interviews have exploded through the last few years, the most common type of job interview is still a one-on-one conversation between a job candidate and a representative of the company, usually a hiring manager or a human resources professional.
This type of interview is often called a “behavioral interview,” as it focuses on the candidate’s past behaviors and experiences, and how they might approach problem-solving and decision-making on the job. Other common types of job interviews include panel interviews, where the candidate meets with a group of interviewers, and phone or video interviews, which are conducted remotely.
Wrapping Up | Tell Me About a Time You Failed
When you finish your story, rather than simply telling the hiring director what you learned from your experience, give an example of it as well.
Connect what you learned to requirements and responsibilities of the new job.
Doing this shows that you are not all talk, and it solidifies all of the things they are trying to see—the things you are trying to prove.
To recap our 5 steps in answering this question:
- Describe the situation
- Show accountability
- Demonstrate the lessons learned
- Tell an accurate story
- Avoid being careless
We hope this helps – good luck with your next interview!
Title: Best Ways to Answer “Tell me about a time you failed” Interview Question
Category: the Interview
Tags: tell me about a time you failed, interview questions, what is your greatest failure, tell me about a time you failed sample answers, time you failed examples, a time you failed interview question, interview question tell me about a time you failed, tell me about a time you failed sample answer, how to answer interview questions about failure
Author: Reid is a contributor to theJub. He’s an employment and marketing enthusiast who studied business before taking on various recruiting, management, and marketing roles. More from the author. | Author Profile
What is an example answer to tell me about a time you failed? ›
For example: Three years ago, we were doing A, but realized the result fell short of the goal. Things were just not working. Many saw it as a failure, but we also saw it as an opportunity to improve, so we did a thorough analysis and realized that B was a better tactic.How do you answer Tell me about a time you failed How did you deal with the situation? ›
Tell your story.
Interviewers don't ask this question to see you squirm, they want to know how you handle setbacks—so get to the part where you're dealing with the failure as quickly as possible. Start with the situation, and explain why it was challenging. Then go into what you specifically did to try and rectify it.
It all went wrong when I [describe the action you took] which I tried to solve by [add an action]. I had solved a similar problem in the past in this way, but this time I forgot to [insert the action that would have made a difference]. As a result, I did not meet the deadline.How to answer what is your biggest failure in a job interview? ›
Spend more time explaining what you have learned about yourself than the experience: Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, identify the reasons behind the incident and emphasise what you have learned and what you now do differently. Explain the actions you took to ensure that you wouldn't achieve the same mistake.What are some examples of failure? ›
- Not meeting others' expectations.
- Missing a deadline.
- Taking on too much/over-promising.
- Failing an assignment.
- Not getting a job.
- Not getting into a club or making a team.
Interviewers ask questions like what is your greatest failure or tell me about a time you failed, to see how the candidate faces tough situations, and what they learned from the outcome. The interviewer is not interested in the actual failure itself, rather how you took it and implemented the lessons learned from it.What is your biggest failure and how you deal with it? ›
I was responsible for interacting with big clients and understanding the requirements. Being a fresher, I did not pay much attention to the details of the project. Instead, I focused only on my ethics and discipline. My poor listening skills led me to lose one of the most significant projects of the organization.How do you respond to a failed interview reply? ›
- Say thank you. It takes a lot of work to plan interviews. ...
- Show your interest in the company. Remind them why you're interested in the company and that you'd like to be considered for future roles. ...
- Ask for feedback. ...
- Leave contact information.
Show that you have skills and experience to do the job and deliver great results. You never know what other candidates offer to the company. But you know you: emphasize your key skills, strengths, talents, work experience, and professional achievements that are fundamental to getting great things done on this position.Can you describe a time when you worked under pressure? ›
One time I was supposed to deliver a project to a client in five days. A colleague who was working with another client had the same deadline, but he had to take a leave of absence due to personal reasons. I was forced to take up both projects at the same time, but I did not let the stress affect me.
What are the 3 types of failure? ›
- Preventable failure: a failure caused by deviating from a known process. ...
- Complex failure: a failure caused by a system breakdown. ...
- Intelligent failure: a failure caused by an unsuccessful trial.
Henry Ford's first two automobile companies failed. Oprah Winfrey was fired from an early job as a television news anchor. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance. Sir James Dyson suffered through 5,126 failed prototypes before he landed on the first working Dyson vacuum.What is a good sentence for failure? ›
He became discouraged by his repeated failures in business. He was often crippled by his fear of failure. The accident was caused by engine failure. The patient was suffering from heart failure.
Example Answers to “Tell Me a Time When You Failed”
“I was managing a project for one of our biggest clients in my previous company, and I was so eager to please them that I told them we could finish the project within 2 weeks. I thought this was doable, but it ended up taking three weeks and they were not happy.
How to answer “What is your biggest failure?” Pick a real failure that happened in the workplace, specifically a failure related to the work you're doing now. Look for a story where something didn't go as planned. Choosing the right story is important, as you want to explain a situation where only one thing went wrong.Can you explain your personality in one word? ›
To describe myself in one word, I'm a very ambitious person. I take up all learning opportunities that enhance my skills and know-how to cope up with failures. I like challenging myself to find creative solutions as quickly as possible and resolve any issues at hand.What is an excellent question to ask the interviewer? ›
Smart questions to ask about the interviewer
Has your role changed since you've been here? What did you do before this? Why did you come to this company? What's your favorite part about working here?
- Recognise and accept your emotions. Failure hurts, at least in the first instance, and you need to accept that. ...
- Don't make it personal. ...
- Don't worry what anyone else will think. ...
- Take the right amount of responsibility. ...
- Use failure as a way to improve.
#1 — Be Honest With Yourself
The first way resilient people bounce back from failure is by being honest with themselves. They don't try to sugarcoat the fact that they failed. They don't try to use softer words to help lessen the impact of that failure.
- Don't panic and be kind to yourself. You aren't the only one who didn't receive the grade they wanted. ...
- Your grades don't define your success. ...
- Your grades don't define you. ...
- Map out your options. ...
- Learn from it (but do it with joy) ...
- Remain ambitious.
Can you ask why you failed interview? ›
It's very common for job applicants to request feedback – employers usually take this as a sign you're interested and keen to improve on your abilities – so don't be nervous. But it is very important to be polite.Can I reapply after failed interview? ›
You can definitely reapply to a company that rejected you, as long as learn from your previous mistakes and make corrections. So, if the perfect role has become available in a company that has previously turned you down, don't stress.How do you answer a rejection question? ›
- Thank your interviewers. You can show appreciation for several things when you write a reply to an interview rejection letter. ...
- Express your disappointment. ...
- Show continued interest. ...
- Ask for feedback.
“Over the years, I have acquired relevant skills and experience, which I shall bring to your organization. I have also worked tirelessly on my communication abilities and teamwork skills, which I will put to use in my future career, which would be in your organization if I am selected for the position.Why do you want this position? ›
Mention any skills or work experience that makes you a unique, strong candidate for the job. If possible, use numbers to express how you can add value to the business. For example, if you saved your previous company a certain amount of money, mention this, and say that you want to do the same for this company.What questions to ask at the end of an interview? ›
- What do you personally like most about working for this organisation? ...
- What do you find most challenging about working for this organisation? ...
- How would you describe your organisation's culture? ...
- Can you tell me about the kind of supervision you provide?
While working under pressure, reframe the situation as an opportunity to prove yourself. Visualize a happy outcome and actively work toward it. Find a work-life balance: Although your work-life balance may suffer during busy times at work, it's important to spend a portion of your day doing what you enjoy.How do you see yourself 5 years from now? ›
I would like to be financially independent and gain more time-to-time knowledge in the company's goals. And to get a respected position that is my future endeavour to easy. As a person, I want to be a more skilled, more capable person. As a professional, I see myself as handling more responsibilities.How do you handle stress at work interview question? ›
How To Answer “How Do You Handle Stress?” To answer this question successfully, you'll want to provide specific examples of how you've handled stress well in the past. You might also provide examples of times when pressure made you work more productively.Can you tell me about a difficult situation you've faced how did you deal with it? ›
I had a very difficult situation where the company I was working for was having financial problems. Because of that, I had to fire one person from my team. I chose the team member we had hired most recently. She had great potential, but she still needed guidance to do her job.
How do you answer Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult employee? ›
In your response, first describe the situation you were in and what you had to do to respond to it. (For example, an employee was chronically late and you needed to get them to improve their behavior.) Then, describe the action you took. (For example, giving the employee a formal warning and looping in HR.)How did you deal with your failure? ›
Practice stepping outside your comfort zone. Do things that might get you rejected or try new things where you could fail. Over time, you'll learn that failure isn't as bad as you might imagine. It will help you learn to face your fear of failure in a way that can be productive and help you reach your goals.Have you experienced being a failure How do you overcome it? ›
- Accept feelings and emotions. ...
- Failure does not mean your life is going to be over. ...
- Learn from failure and be constructive. ...
- Find inspiration. ...
- Don't give up. ...
- Be passionate. ...
- Surround yourself with positive people. ...
- Avoid isolating yourself.
Here are some examples of common difficult situations in the workplace: Not getting on with a colleague. Not feeling able to speak up about something you feel is wrong. Your team doesn't pull together.How do you handle conflict difficult situations? ›
- Accept conflict. Remember that conflict is natural and happens in every ongoing relationship. ...
- Be a calming agent. ...
- Listen actively. ...
- Analyze the conflict. ...
- Model neutral language. ...
- Separate the person from the problem. ...
- Work together. ...
- Agree to disagree.
Some examples of situations you can discuss include: A time when you dealt with a lot of customer complaints and how you rectified the issue. A time when you had to work long hours to meet a deadline. A time when you had to deal with a difficult colleague when working on a project.How to deal with a difficult coworker interview question answer example? ›
“I would deal with a difficult co-worker by first making sure I wasn't contributing to the situation in a negative way. I would then sit down with them in private to find an amicable way forward. I would find out what was important to them.Have you ever worked with a difficult person interview question? ›
Give me an example of working with others where you did not agree. How well do you work with people who are different from you? Tell me about someone who has been difficult for you to work with in your job. What has been the most difficult situation for you to deal with in your current team?How do you deal with failure at work? ›
- Accept How You Feel And Embrace Your Emotions. ...
- Remember That One Setback Doesn't Make You A Failure. ...
- Don't Use Excuses For A Failure. ...
- Motivate Yourself From Famous Failures. ...
- Moving Forward Is The Name Of The Game. ...
- Improve Your Self Esteem.
1) Admit the mistake. Knowing the true cause of a failure is the first step to overcoming it, after acknowledging that there's a problem or failure in the first place. Leaders who practice denial might feel better about themselves temporarily, but nothing gets done to make things better.
How do you use failure to your advantage? ›
- Use the emotions from failure to become stronger. Failure seems to imply that nothing is gained. ...
- Reframe failure to motivate yourself. ...
- Look at failure as a lesson. ...
- Apply the skills from your previous failure.