Tell me about a time you failed is no doubt one of the scariest questions that you might face at the interview. After all, nobody wishes to talk about their failures or times when things went wrong. This isn’t a perfect conversation to make and can easily make someone feel uncomfortable. However, this doesn’t mean that you can simply avoid the question by making an excuse. It is a very common question that is frequently asked at job interviews, and so you need to prepare yourself for it well in advance.
But how exactly are you going to keep yourself prepared for such tricky questions? Well, you need to have a strategy of your own. You will also have to be prepared with an answer so that if you are asked about it instantly, you can give your answer without any kind of hesitation.
What is Failure?
Well, before you start seeking an answer to the question “Tell me about a time you failed,” you need to know what failure is all about and how you should treat failure in the context of this question. Failure is nothing but the time when you failed to achieve success in life. It can be anything. Whether it is your performance in academics or your inability to match your own expectations, it will be considered your failure if you could not achieve success. In simple words, failure simply means the lack of success.
However, the outcome of a failure need not have to be a catastrophic one. You can give simple instances from your personal and professional life in order to explain how you have dealt with the failures. Usually, when job seekers are asked about their failures, they only focus on their professional careers. But you could come up with a personal answer to the question as well so that it does not hurt your chances of getting the job.
Also Read: How to Stay Calm During an Interview
What Kind of Failures Should You Talk About?
It entirely depends on the situation. Hiring managers mostly wish to hear about real life circumstances that had a direct impact on your life. You should also remember that something is not actually considered to be a failure if there is no lack of success. So, you should keep that point in mind as well before you consider such a situation. But this doesn’t mean that you should not be strategic about your answer. Ideally, you will have to come up with one such example that has a chain of consequences in your life. Still, you were able to overcome the situation and get back to your original life. In that way, you can highlight your success as well instead of simply speaking about the failure.
The right strategy is not all about answering the question, you will also be very careful about the way you answer the question. You need to be focused, calm and honest about your answer. You should also articulate the fact in such a way that your failure appears to be a success to you. So, you must always try to stay concise instead of coming up with a vague answer to the question. The best way to deal with the question is to come prepared with an excellent answer. In this way, you will be able to impress your manager and your chances of getting the job will also increase.
Why the Employees are Asked this Question?
So why would someone ask about your failure? Well, in most cases, the main goal is not to know about your failure. Instead, they want to know how exactly you deal with poor outcomes and what you do in order to recover from the failure. They also wish to see whether you are honest about your answer and you hold yourself accountable for your failures. It also throws light on your self-awareness. Being able to own up to your mistake can be a really big deal, and there are only a few people who are honest enough to acknowledge their own mistakes and work on them. If you can do that really well, the odds are better that you take lessons from your failure and make sure that they do not happen again in the future.
While this question focuses on your failure, it is not just about your failure. It is more about how exactly you are able to deal with adversity and whether you were able to recognize the part you played in the entire situation. The employees are also eager to know how exactly they are able to move forward and take lessons from the situation.
You May Also Read: The Best Questions To Ask In An Interview With Examples
How do you Answer the Question?
Well, compared to other hiring questions, most people find this question to be quite difficult to answer. However, you need to come up with a well-planned answer to the same so that you are able to come out of this situation without harming yourself in any way. A few of the significant steps to answer this question has been listed below:
#1. Describe your situation
First, you will have to clearly describe the situation that you were in that caused you to end up in a failure. It is very essential for you to clearly describe every aspect of the situation so that it does not sound like you are simply making excuses for what happens. The hiring manager should have a clear picture of the entire scenario in front of their eyes. You should mention the facts of how exactly the failure occurred. Once you have set up the entire scene before your hiring managers, you can start to flip the card and turn your failure into your story of success.
#2. Show yourself Accountable
Next, you will have to show your accountability of the situation to the manager. You must make it really clear to the hiring manager that you recognize the failure that resulted from your own actions. Never try to involve any other person in the situation as it might sound to be an excuse to you. You should also point out how the situation could have been avoided if it was handled carefully. This will make the hiring managers realize that you are genuinely aware of what happened at that time. They may even end up imagining themselves to be in a similar situation as you were in. This is going to give them food for thought, and they will be pleased to know that you are taking the full responsibility for your actions.
#3. Speak About all the Lessons Learned from your Experience
You need to highlight the lessons that you have learned from your experience. You need to talk about how you have applied the lessons you learn from your failure at later stages of your life. You can also consider practicing the story repeatedly at your home so that you get it right. You should also come up with facts that seem to be original. This is going to make the hiring managers believe in you. They will be really excited to include you as a part of their team. You should also come up with relatable events only so that the people are able to relate themselves to that particular situation.
#4. Come up with a Clear and Complete Story
Another very important reason to practice your story in advance is to make sure that you are always on track while you are describing the story to the managers. The hiring managers asked you the question in order to achieve a particular goal, and they have other questions in mind as well. So, do not keep the managers occupied with this question for a longer duration of time as, after a certain point of time, they will start feeling restless and irritated. They will stop paying attention to you. So, design a concise story for yourself so that you are able to mention the fact without having to waste a lot of time. Do not leave loose ends anywhere, and try to be complete and clear in your approach.
Common Mistakes to Avoid While Answering the Question
Well, before we dig into how to answer this question, let us speak about some of the common mistakes that people make while answering the question.
Claiming that you have never failed in your life is a really big mistake. If you do that, the hiring managers are definitely going to question your honesty and your mentality. There are over 90% of the new hires who fail to achieve success at the early stages of their career simply because of bad temperaments, poor attitudes, and other similar issues. So, failing to own up to your failure may reduce your chances of getting the job.
Mistakes that caused the company a lot of money aren’t really ideal. It is ok if there is some cost issue involved. However, if the employers find out that your actions have led to a catastrophic incident, then they are definitely going to reconsider the situation before hiring you for the job. They will also not feel really confident about you. This is definitely not going to be really good for you if you are desperate to get a job. So, even if you have come across a huge failure in life, try to stay away from it so that it does not hurt the interest of the company that you are applying for.
Keep away all those failures that involve some kind of legal or compliance issue. If your hiring manager gets to know that your mistake caused a serious legal or compliance issue, then they would not be really keen on hiring you for the job. So, if you have experienced such a situation in your life, then it would be a really good idea to stop speaking about them during an interview. Similarly, any situation where your mistake was really high profile is not a great example of the situation. So, if the failure was substantial, causing harm to the reputation of the company, then you should try choosing something else.
Few Sample Answers to the Question “Tell Me About a Time You Failed”
Now comes the part that you all have been waiting for. What exactly should be your answer to the time when you failed, tell me about a time you failed sample answer? Well, here we have come up with a few samples that will provide you with an outline of how the question has to be dealt with.
It was my first job role, and I was really overloaded with my work. At such a point in life, I was assigned my first solo project. I provided the client with a deadline of just four weeks, thinking that I would be able to manage the entire situation all on my own. While I had almost tackled the entire situation within just 3 weeks, I neglected a few factors that came to light on the day of delivery of the project. This caused the project to get delayed for around 2 weeks. The client was really not really happy about it, and this caused the managers of my company to get really annoyed with me. The client was also reluctant to work with me on our project. However, I took complete responsibility for the situation.
This incident ultimately was a really big lesson for me. I understood how exactly I should assess my workload. This will help me to set a reasonable deadline moving forward. Since then, I have always maintained the deadline consistently. I have also worked with the client again, finishing the project not just on time but a lot earlier. This has made the client really satisfied. He was also really happy with the outcome and has also praised me for my sincerity.
Being a team lead, I believe that taking care of the well-being of my entire team is my primary responsibility and letting down my team is a very big failure for me. When I was initially promoted to the role of a team lead, I was really struggling with the situation. I tried to take control of everything instead of letting my team members do what they actually wanted to do. This lack of delegation caused considerable harm to the team dynamic. My team members started to feel undervalued, and they were gradually losing their interest in their work. As a result, I lost an incredibly skilled employee as he had to look for an opportunity elsewhere.
Luckily, after just a few weeks, I started to notice the change in the behavior of the employees, and I personally talked to each one of them, asking them about their advice regarding where I was actually lagging behind. They were really honest with the answer, and they told me how the team was getting agitated because of my constant interference. That moment was a wake-up call for me. I instantly realized my mistake and began to trust my employees more. In the end, this made me a better team leader, and I was once again able to earn the trust of my team members. Since then, we have been working as a really good team, and we have also successfully accomplished numerous tasks without any failure.
It was a few years ago. I was assigned a project that had a very tight deadline. I had to make a lot of changes to the client system and that too within a very short duration of time. This caused me to become really fantastic, and I decided to leave behind a few tests so that I am able to accomplish the entire task within the mentioned time. I thought that the risks involved are completely minimal, and it would not cause any harm to the overall outcome of the project. As I moved on to the advanced stages of the project, I clearly realized that I had made a mistake somewhere, but I was not able to understand where exactly I made a mistake as I had decided to forget the tests between the steps.
As a result, I had to roll back the steps and had to start everything right from the beginning. This caused me to waste a lot of time, and the client was also not happy with the performance. This was a really big lesson for me. I was able to understand how big even a small mistake can lead to if I am not really careful about the process. Since then, I have been really sincere about the work that I do. I have never failed to execute a single step during the execution of the project, and I have also received a lot of appreciation from my team for my diligence.
And this was all about it. We hope we have helped you to come up with an appropriate answer to the question,”Tell me about a time you failed”. If you have any further queries in mind, you can reach out to us, and we will help you out.