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Candidate Advice

Top 3 Tips On How to Respond to "Tell Me About a Time You Failed" in a Job Interview

By Antal International

Top 3 Tips On How to Respond to "Tell Me About a Time You Failed" in a Job Interview


One of the most dreaded questions for a candidate is "Tell me about yourself", and "Tell me about a time you failed." Most of the candidates turn pale hearing these questions and often invite “goof ups”. 

However, you can't hold the question against the interviewers. Failure-related stories can provide important details about a candidate's maturity, toughness, temperament, openness to new experiences, and ability to take criticism. These are qualities that won't be addressed in a resume or cover letter and are unlikely to come out on their own by the applicant.


Do you think it's appropriate to answer with your biggest mistake ever?


No. Your screams of self-preservation are justified. You don't want to appear evasive, but sharing an embarrassing and significant failure during a job interview could create a lasting bad impression. So where is the sweet spot between an enlightening remark and a repulsive one? It's crucial to prepare beforehand because this can be difficult to navigate.


  1. Instead of focusing on failure, emphasise on what you learned:


The recruiter is mostly interested in what you learned from your failure and how you applied that knowledge to a successful strategy, and they may even make this clear in their request. Pick a tale based on those considerations. As opposed to failures of doing, wrecking, or harming, which emphasise the repercussions of the failure, these are frequently failures of realising, appreciating, or preparation.


  1. Keep the failure story short:


Think of your failure as more of a prelude than a main event. Be succinct: "Z occurred. Setting the stage and giving context for your sustainable development agenda is its main objective. Y was the result. But after we understood A, we used B. Keep the talk brief and finish it there.



  1. Accept Your Failure:

Some applicants, after demonstrating a failure, attempt to lessen the harm by merely justifying, rationalising, or downplaying it. But keep in mind that your response was intended to promote learning, improvement, and elevation. Give a compelling account of your commitment to growth, and failure will be reduced to a footnote rather than the main point of attention.


Key Takeaway:

Nobody expects job applicants to have spotless records, but you don't want to raise any red flags with potential employers. They are more likely to recall how you succeeded than how you failed if you respond to the "failure" question in a way that shows your tenacity and dedication to growth.


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