Everyone has had a misstep in their career at one point or another. Perhaps you took a job with a company who was not as reputable as you originally believed. Maybe you took a role that was 'oversold' to you. Or, maybe you declined an opportunity that you now regret passing on. The key to a great answer is to discuss what you did to correct the misstep.
"Last year, I was offered a management position that would have offered me the leadership experience I was looking for. Unfortunately, I turned down the offer in fear that I was not yet ready for the responsibility of being a leader to so many people. My lack of confidence in myself got in the way. I recognized that lack of confidence in myself and changed turned it around by attending 3 leadership workshops over the next year. Now I am bursting with confidence and am ready to take on this leadership role with your company."
"I once implemented a rewards program that failed miserably. I had seen it work successfully in another organization I worked with. It was a learning for me that not all organizations are alike and not all people are motivated by the same thing. We learned quickly that it was not working and scratched it early, saving some company dollars. In its place, we enlisted the team to create something that would drive them to perform and be rewarded."
"As a nurse, I have always worked in hospitals. I was given the opportunity to work in home health and found that the driving and lifestyle was not for me. I stayed on and trained my replacement."
Sales answer example
"This is such a common occurrence in a sales role-- they want you to sell, so they oversell you. While I can usually smell it coming, I have been fooled before. In a previous role, the recruiter reached out to me while I was happily soaring through promotion after promotion at my other job about a high-growth startup. She had all of the right buzzwords and the soundbite was great. Even after meeting all of the key players, I was buying what they were selling as a business and about my importance in the company. Unfortunately, it was only after a few months that the house of cards came crashing down and it was apparent that, although the company had the funding and the right names behind it, it was all a smoke show. I remained there working my tail off to the best of my abilities until it was clear that the company was going to run out of money, so I chose to move to the next role. It reinforced that although the grass seems greener and the birds chirp the right tune, don't always believe what you're being sold. Overall, it was a great learning experience and I met some great friends and clients throughout the process."
Retail answer example
"I would say the biggest misstep I've taken professionally was not being a stronger advocate for myself and my goals earlier in my career. I think I was too concerned with being liked and a part of the team to really be a true advocate for what I wanted in my career. Because of this, I believe I was twice passed up for promotions that I was deserving of and better suited for than the eventual manager.
I'm embarrassed to say that it took me getting burned twice to make a real change. That said, I have certainly learned from it and have, I believe, perfected the art of self-advocacy with humility and teamwork, and as a result, have both a great relationship with my coworkers and employees, and also have not yet been passed up for a deserved promotion since!"
Teacher answer example
"The only time I can point to would be that I didn't go back to work sooner after I had my kids. I don't feel it was a wrong decision, per se, but at times I wonder if I should have gone back a few years sooner. I have always known I wanted to be a teacher and it is the only position I've held, aside from being a server while attending school, so I'm pleased to report that I feel I've made overall great career decisions from start to finish."