A hiring manager who is trying to gauge your strengths and weaknesses will likely ask you to describe a time that you slipped up or made a mistake, either in your personal or professional life.
It might feel like this question is designed to bring out your worst moments or tendencies, but your interviewer is really looking to learn about your positive traits. Your answer can demonstrate your ability to take responsibility for your missteps and learn from them. Your interviewer may be asking this question to weed out candidates who hold themselves to low standards or refuse to acknowledge their personal flaws.
Points to Emphasize
Your response to this question should ultimately highlight your strengths by focusing on what happened after the mistake. Try to take a positive approach that shows the interviewer you are committed to learning and improving your work, and try to do the following:
- Discuss the mistake in a manner that shows you feel a sense of accountability.
- Describe what strategies you used to address the mistake once you became aware of it.
- Explain the proactive measures that you now use to avoid similar problems.
- Delve into what you learned from the experience.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
When you answer this question, try to strike the right balance between being truthful and maintaining your credibility as a job candidate. Watch out for the following common errors:
- Don't make yourself appear dishonest or unrealistic by stating that you have never made a serious error.
- Do not choose a trivial mistake or an incident that doesn't honestly count as a mistake.
- Don't gloss over the misstep or try to justify it; this can give the appearance that you won't take responsibility for your mistakes.
- Avoid harming your prospects by describing your largest professional mistake or failure.
It's best to choose a more minor mistake that you can own up to without giving the impression that you would make a risky hire.
Here's an example of a reasonable answer to this difficult interview question:
When I was new to my company, I accepted two simultaneous projects from two managers. I didn't want to seem like I couldn't handle the work, so I didn't tell either one that I had another project. When the deadlines for one project unexpectedly changed, I couldn't meet the deadlines for both. I admitted the issue to my managers, and one of them brought on another employee to help meet the accelerated deadlines. I now keep my managers updated on potential issues and assess what I can handle more realistically.
Questions about personal mistakes can be challenging, a good answer can help convince an interviewer that hiring you is the right choice.