Tell Me About A Time You Failed- How To Answer During A Job Interview

Tell Me About A Time You Failed is one of the favourite questions asked by interviewer. Excelling in a job interview in general regardless of the questions asked during the interview requires preparation and practice. You may be considering common questions and tricky ones that your interviewer might ask. While there is no way to know for sure what topics will be covered, there are several types of popular interview questions you can expect to be asked and, therefore, be prepared to discuss.

Every interviewer is different. However, by preparing answers for some of the common interview questions, you can develop compelling talking points to to stand out from the crowd and succeed in your interview.

In this article, we share one of the tough questions that should be prepared with a compelling story to impress the employer. You will find all the help and information you need right here to succeed in answering: Tell Me About A Time You Failed.

Why the interviewer is asking: Tell Me About A Time You Failed

The interviewer can ask you the same question in different ways like: Tell me about a time you made a mistake or tell me about a time you did not meet the expectations of your manager, the interviewer might even use different words such as “error in judgement” or “bad decision”.

Everyone has some failure like Robert F. Kennedy famously said, “ Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” When employers ask this question during an interview , they’re interested in learning that you’ve learned from your mistakes, you need to be able to demonstrate that you’ve successfully bounced back from failure and that you’ve learned important lessons along the way.

How to answer: Tell Me About A Time You Failed

First, admit you made a mistake. Admitting you made a mistake has to be the first part of your answer. However, don’t relate your answer to something critical in your future role. For example, try another topic that don’t doubt your skills in the job you are applying for. The other way is to pick an example from earlier in your career so you can show how different you are now because of what you learned.

Ideally, you want to choose a story that talks about a skill removed from your potential duties in the organization you are applying for or something that happened a long time ago.

Second, talk about how you fixed your mistake and what you learned from your mistake. Explaining what you learned is definitely crucial. Also, you need to show to the recruiter how did you apply the new improved knowledge to your projects, relating of course to a successful outcome.

Avoid the below answers to: Tell Me About A Time You Failed

First: Don’t say that you’ve never made a mistake. That shows you don’t tell the truth or don’t realize when you make mistakes. Admit you made a mistake but don’t give an answer like “I can’t believe I did this” or “I was stupid at that time”. It’s necessary to be calm and straightforward when giving your story.

Second, don’t underestimate your failure or do the reverse tactic where you say, “My biggest failure is that I work too hard.”

As explained above, we will use the STAR method. It provides a structure for you to be concise in your answer and remember the correct information. “Tell me about a time you failed” is definitely a behavioral question. For this reason, preparing for such questions is not easy because you need to remember something from the past.

Below few examples of behavioral interview questions

1. Give me an example of a time when you showed initiative.

2. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.

3. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.

4. Tell me about a time when you coached someone.

5. When have you used your fact finding skills to solve a problem?

The STAR method is the ideal approach to answer behavioral questions.

These are the 4 steps of the technique:

SSituation — background info

TTask — what was your task/job in this situation

AAction — what you did — this should be the longest part of the answer

RResult — positive; quantifiable; what you learned; what you would do differently next time

Answer example


I was leading my team in a development project at the last company I worked at.


I was so eager to impress our new client, that I put together a proposal and promised to deliver the work under budget and in less time than they had specified.


The client was delighted and eagerly offered us the work. As the project went on, it became clear that we couldn’t deliver it in the shorter time frame I had suggested.

I had been overly optimistic and I had to apologise to the client (and to my boss) and admit my mistake.


I learned that it is much better to be realistic rather than to overpromise and underdeliver.

I have never made that mistake again. Now I take the approach of making conservative assurances and then delighting clients when the work comes in faster.

Answer Example 2: Demonstrated in the below video

Originally published at on February 22, 2021.

Career Coach| Human Resources Professional | Looking to grow and reach your career goals? I can help! Check out my Website

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Throw the Sharks Back: Where Exceptional Creators Focus Their Efforts

How to Make the Switch From Work to Play

Creativity, Productivity, Wellbeing — can all three thrive when working from home?

Looking Back at Boldr’s Remarkable Year of Growth

How to convey your message effectively with Kung fu panda

Bengisu: Fall 2018

Eight Ways to Reduce Virtual Workplace Overwhelm

8 Light SharePoint Alternatives

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Career Coach| Human Resources Professional | Looking to grow and reach your career goals? I can help! Check out my Website

More from Medium

The New Job & Red Flags 🚩, which one to acknowledge?

Job Stress

LIVE TALKS: How to make good habits stick?

Let’s Talk About Socks, Baby

Get to Know Our Staff: Luda Mwangemi-Bruce