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
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.
Not meeting others' expectations. Missing a deadline. Taking on too much/over-promising. Failing an assignment.What is your failure sample answer? ›
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.What is your biggest failure interview best answer? ›
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.How do you answer what is your biggest failure at 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.How do you overcome failure examples? ›
- Find the root cause of failure. ...
- Overcome the fear of failure, then try again. ...
- Take a break if you have to, but don't give up. ...
- If you fail again, compartmentalize and stay objective. ...
- Don't be tempted to lower your ambitions. ...
- Find like-minded people to help you see things differently.
“My biggest failure is getting fired from a previous job because I lost my temper with a customer. I was already in a bad mood when I went into work that day, so when an angry shopper came in with a complaint, I made the awful choice to give them a bit of an attitude.How you experience being a failure How did you overcome it? ›
Don't make excuses for your failures. Make an effort to find out exactly why things went the way they did, accept any mistakes you may have made, and focus on learning from them. Many people feel disheartened after a failure, while many others take failures as an opportunity to learn about and improve themselves.Can you give me an example of an experience of 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.
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.
Albert Einstein had the label "mentally slow" put on his permanent school record. 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.What is my biggest failure examples? ›
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.What has been you biggest failure? ›
I split the work according to my deadline. When just 2 days were left, I shut down the system without saving my work. I quickly realized the mistake and restarted the work just to finish it in time. Most of the lost data was recovered and I managed to complete the task successfully with a few mistakes.Why should I hire you? ›
Your skills and qualifications. If you can prove that you've got all the skills that the company is looking for in a candidate, you'll have effectively answered the question. Your passion and motivation. You can highlight how good of a company fit you'd be and how much you love working in your field or industry.What is failure and success according to you answer? ›
Success and failure, however, are terms meant to define events, not people. You are either successful at doing something, or achieving some milestone, or you failed at doing something or did not achieve some milestone. That does not imply that you are a complete success or a complete failure.How do you deal with pressure at work? ›
- Adjust your attitude.
- Stay in the present.
- Give yourself positive reinforcement.
- Visualize the worst case scenario.
- Take a deep breath.
- Ask for help.
Acknowledge the failure
So, the best way to answer this HR interview question is to own up and acknowledge the task that you could have done differently and explain the situation very clearly. This showcases your integrity and your will to learn and avoid making further similar mistakes.
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.
- 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.
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.
- Accept your feelings. ...
- Take a break. ...
- Put the event into perspective. ...
- Find things to learn. ...
- Take responsibility and accountability. ...
- Discuss the event. ...
- Learn about solutions and behavior models. ...
- Create a plan.
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.
Sample answer template for “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” In five years, I see myself continuing to develop my skills and expertise in [list skills related to the role] in a [name future position] contributing to the growth and success of the organization.How do you deal with a difficult person interview question? ›
- Be objective and give context. The first thing you do not want to do in an interview setting after being asked this question is engage in a blame game. ...
- Detail how you resolved the situation. ...
- Explain what you learnt from the experience.
“I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to an exciting/forward-thinking/fast-moving company/industry, and I feel I can do so by/with my …” “I feel my skills are particularly well-suited to this position because …” “I believe I have the type of knowledge to succeed in this role and at the company because …”How do you answer what motivates you? ›
- meeting deadlines, targets or goals.
- mentoring and coaching others.
- learning new things.
- coming up with creative ideas to improve something, or make something new.
- analysing complex data in order to draw clear and simple conclusions.
- working well as part of a team.
- Receiving poor or failing test grades.
- Not getting accepted into a degree or certification program.
- Interviewing for a position but not securing a job offer.
- Getting a bad performance review.
- Missing a deadline.
- Not making a team.
- Losing a client, sale, project or money.
- Arianna Huffington got rejected by 36 publishers. ...
- Bill Gates watched his first company crumble. ...
- George Steinbrenner bankrupted a team. ...
- 4. Walt Disney was told he lacked creativity. ...
- Steve Jobs was booted from his own company.
Describe why you consider the event a failure. Identify the challenges that you encountered and the feelings that developed in response to those challenges. Perhaps most importantly, ensure that you take ownership of your failure rather than passing it off on friend, coach, parent, or teacher.
What is an example of a failure story? ›
Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney dropped out of school at a young age in a failed attempt at joining the army. One of his earlier ventures, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went bankrupt due to his lack of ability to run a successful business. He was once fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.”What failure leads to success? ›
Through failure you will get to know yourself better and you will learn from your mistakes. Failures make us rethink, reconsider and find new ways and strategies to achieve our goals.What are 3 reasons that people give for failing to accomplish their goals? ›
- 1) Lack of a clear plan. You need to have a specific goal and map out a clear path to get there. ...
- 2) Impatience. ...
- 3) Lack of resilience. ...
- 4) Leaving it halfway.
The accident was caused by a failure to use proper procedures. She was criticized for failure to follow directions. The drought caused crop failure. He felt like a failure when he wasn't accepted into law school.What does failure mean to you interview question and answer? ›
"To me, failure means to have a goal and not do anything about it." "I think failure is not reaching your potential. If you do not use the resources you have and the resources around you, that's failure because the work or goal could have been done better."
- Failures are pilliars of success. If I shall fail I will be relaxed and donot take tension because one can pass by being failure. ...
- If I will keep myself struggling I will be a successful person and never see behind what is wrong with me in past. ...
- I will succeed when I know what is failure and what success.
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 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.
The best way to answer this question is to provide an example of a time you failed in the past, and then explain what you learned from it. Ideally, it will be a time you learned, in fact, to be a better employee. When providing an example, explain what the situation was, and what you tried (and failed) to achieve.