When you go into a professional interview setting, it is common practice for the hiring manager to ask something along the lines of, “What is your greatest failure and what did you learn from it” If you are asked this question, don’t panic. The interviewer’s job is to find out if you are a good fit for the job and the fact of the matter is that everyone fails at some point. The hiring manager wants to know how you handle failure. Can you learn from a negative situation Do you take responsibility for your mistakes Do you take smart risks This greatest failure question reveals a lot about you, which is why you are likely to encounter it.
Points to Emphasize
When you respond to the question, quickly establish the situation with a few sentences and then briefly explain what took place and why it happened.
- Focus on what you learned about yourself.
- Emphasize how you would do things differently in a similar future situation.
- Accept responsibility for your shortcomings in the situation.
- Be honest about the outcome.
This anecdote might not have a happy ending, but try to end on a positive note by demonstrating what you learned.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
It is possible to dance around this question and avoid an answer, but you shouldn’t. Everyone fails and the hiring manager needs to know how you react in those situations.
- Do not make up an event or use an anecdote that didn’t happen to you.
- Do not choose a failure that was due to a personal mistake or character flaw.
- Avoid not answering the question with a response like, “I can’t think of any serious failures.”
- Do not solely blame others for the failure.
Just because you were asked about failure doesn’t mean your answer should be negative. Don’t showcase any bitterness. Instead, make it obvious that you accept what happened and that it has made you a better employee.
Here is an example of a good answer to the question about past failures:
Last year, my team failed to get an important project from a past client. We had an excellent pitch, which went well, but we did not go the extra mile to impress the client. We believed that he would choose us simply because of our past working relationship. After that, it didn’t matter if it was a new or old client. We put 110% effort into every project and pitch.
Remember, tell the hiring manager how you grew as a result of failure.