Being able to answer this question positively will show maturity and that you are able to glean learning opportunities from situations that might be uncomfortable. Learning often requires that you step out of your comfort zone to reflect on what you can do differently in the future.
The employer wants to know about experiences you have had that have been learning experiences for you. Even negative experiences provide opportunities to learn and grow, and your prospective employer wants to know you can take an experience, for better or worse, and learn from it to do better going forward.
Points to Emphasize
Your employer wants to know what you bring to the table, including learning experiences you have had and how you have grown from potentially negative experiences.
- Own up to your mistakes. You might have learned the most from a mistake you made. This is fine to bring up as long as you own the mistake and identify what you have done differently.
- Provide specific examples. It is much more valuable that you give examples of how you implemented what you learned than just stating that you learned it.
- Think about the new job and identify those learning experiences that are most closely aligned with the qualities and traits you will need at the new job.
- Stay positive. Talking negatively about previous employers or coworkers makes you sound like a difficult person to work with.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
You need to paint yourself in the best light while providing relevant examples when answering this question. Here are some things to avoid.
- Don't downplay previous experience. Even if a particular experience was mostly negative, put a positive spin on it to show that you can learn from obstacles.
- Don't say you didn't learn anything or joke that there was nothing valuable about your previous position.
- Avoid just saying what you think they want to hear. Be candid and truthful about your experiences and try to find those things that are actually relevant.
- Don't leave the question blank. If you can't think of anything, pause for a moment and think about something you have learned.
Giving a real answer that shows what you have learned from past experiences that you can apply to your new job is essential, as in the following sample response:
I have admittedly had a problem in the past with being forgetful. My last job I had the opportunity to keep track of many different schedules. I was expected to remember all of these things and the most important thing that I learned was the importance of finding a system that works for you to overcome shortcomings. This system will be different for everyone, but acknowledging shortcomings and implementing a way to overcome them is imperative.