Nobody is perfect! The interviewer knows that there will be times when deadlines are not met, and projects go sideways. What they really want to know is - how do you react? Are you someone who will have a workplace temper tantrum or are you the type to keep plugging away, despite the perceived failure?
Perhaps you simply underestimated the depth of the project or maybe you faced a distraction at work. Whatever the situation was, discuss what you learned from the outcome. Show the interviewer that you do not have a defeatist mentality.
"Last month I missed a project deadline primarily because I underestimated the need for support staff on the project. Despite working overtime, I missed the deadline by 3 days. When I realized that the deadline would not be met, I called the client and apologized. I did take full accountability for the inconvenience and met the second deadline that I promised the client."
"I once had to update our IT security systems across the organization. Some of the equipment did not arrive on time and we were unable to meet the deadline. We utilized transparency and communication to let our leadership team know we would be delayed and assured them we were doing everything we could to meet the new deadline. We also resolved the issue with the shipping company to prevent it from happening again."
"We once fell behind in a project due to endurance testing on a new product. I reacted by quickly rearranging schedules and identifying our earliest possible completion to inform our supervisors and customers."
Sales answer example
"I was tasked with, for the first time, writing up a new client's projected account volume for the following fiscal year and, despite working after hours to complete it, I knew it was not going to be as quality of a product as I wanted. Once I recognized this, I was honest with my boss about the timeline needed in order to complete the task. They were understanding and simply swapped my review by one day in order to give me appropriate time to prepare. They also gave me access to an operations assistant to assist in its preparation- something I did not even think to ask for. While I was embarrassed to fall short of expectations, I learned to communicate early and often and ask for assistance when I need it."
Retail answer example
"When working in the shoe department, I was tasked with reorganizing the inventory room, which is 4000 sq feet spread over three floors. It was a huge undertaking and as I was so eager to please, I underestimated the amount of time it would take to redo the system. I gave a month timeline, and within a week it was clear that that was going to be impossible.
I immediately went to upper management with a plan: I could meet the timeline if given additional resources such as overtime hours and additional staff. Or, we could push it out to an 8 week timeline with the current staff already tasked with the project. By communicating early, admitting my error in judgment, and asking for help, the worst thing that happened was a bit of initial disappointment, but more than anything, they appreciated the transparency. It also taught me to really dig deep into the scope of the project before committing to such an aggressive timeline in the future."
Teacher answer example
"When revamping the entire curriculum, we found that we were either going to be ineffective in the three weeks we had planned, or we'd have to spend some extra time on the project in order to do it the proper justice it and our students deserved. Rather than go too quickly and have a crummy outcome, we decided to stay an extra few days, working on our own without pay, in order to fully rewrite more effective, engaging curriculum. By identifying our objective and refusing to settle for less, we kept the best interest of our department and students in mind and sacrificed our personal time in order to meet that goal. It was certainly worth it."