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Tell me about a time that you failed. How did you get back up again?

1 of 30 Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Written on July 23rd, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

We all fail at things from time to time. There is no need to be ashamed of defeat. Instead, what the interviewer is looking for is evidence that you can bounce back from perceived failure. Give an example of a time when the outcome was not what you wanted it to be, but you were able to recover. Perhaps you were better off in the end, or you learned a valuable lesson.

Professional Answer Examples
Answer example

"One of the bigger perceived failures that I can think of was not graduating as soon as expected, with my University degree. I encountered a few personal factors that pushed my graduation date back one year. It was a bit embarrassing at the time, but truth be told, I am thankful that I could complete my degree at a comfortable pace. I finished with excellent grades as well."

Answer example

"My former employer put me through a last-minute advanced Excel course, that I ended up barely passing. We discussed this failure together and realized that I was not yet ready for the advanced level coursework - I was more of an intermediate level user. To fix the situation, I studied online for a few weeks and then re-took the course when I felt more prepared. This approach worked much better, and I finished with a 92% the second time around."

Answer example

"Last year I made a couple of bad hires. Normally my hiring process is airtight, but it is not perfect. Hiring the wrong person is an expensive and time-consuming mistake, so I was undoubtedly frustrated and discouraged. Rather than lose confidence in my abilities, I engaged the Human Resources department in simplifying our onboarding and training process. We have not lost any employees in the last 18 months which is a fabulous record for our company."

Answer example

"A few months ago our group had a marketing campaign that completely flopped. Our team took full responsibility for the disaster, and we broke down each component of the project until we knew where we went wrong. I could have done better by further breaking down the goals of the client, and what their target audience truly was. We re-did the campaign and the second time around; it was a major success."

Answer example

"Earlier in my career, I was not good at graciously receiving feedback. Had I been able to receive feedback without becoming defensive, I believe that I could have grown in my career much faster. Last year, I took a workshop on giving and receiving feedback which helped a great deal. Now, I understand how to have these types of conversations, and how to implement the constructive criticism that I receive."

Answer example

"I had a misstep in my sales career a couple of years ago. You can see the short stint at Company ABC on my resume. Before joining their organization, I did not ask enough questions regarding their success level and how their current results reflect their future goals. The company was in serious financial trouble, and I was unaware. They went into receivership, and I lost my job. Now, I ask many more questions before joining a new company. My success and the company's success should go hand in hand."

Answer example

"I have worked a great deal on my time-management skills since missing a major curriculum deadline last year. I am newer to my teaching career and realize that it is all a learning curve; however, I took that missed deadline very hard since I do not like to disappoint anyone or fall short of expectations."

Customer Representative
Answer example

"At my last role, I was an usher at a local movie theatre and a customer complained that the picture wasn't in the correct screen ratio for the previews. The movie started at the point when they came to complain, so I apologized and rushed upstairs to the projector room to correct the issue. Later on, they complained to corporate and said I should have done more. I agreed, I should have stayed after the movie ended and apologized again to the patron and if they were still unhappy offered them free tickets to their next visit."

Instructional Coordinator
Answer example

"I was tasked with increasing standardized test scores for math by 25%. I worked hard all year and was able to increase it by 19%. So I looked back on the year and took stock in the things that I could do better. I asked teachers for feedback, and I asked the principal for feedback as well. I even sent a survey to the students' parents. I took all that information and identified areas of improvement. Then I made a plan to improve on each area and invited school leadership to give me feedback and suggestions."

School Counselor
Answer example

"I remember the first time I had to talk to a parent regarding a student who was caught pushing another student. However, the parent was not that amenable to meeting with the school due to her busy schedule. I was a bit too assertive when talking to her which angered her, and so she didn't attend our initial meeting altogether. I apologized sincerely, and explained to her the urgency of the meeting, and we were able to settle the issue. So if I could redo that incident, I would have been more diplomatic when I first talked to her so we could have settled the issue sooner. Because of that, I realised that I should also learn how to talk to parents because it is a part of my job."

Veterinarian School
Answer example


Written by:

Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
Published: 07/23/2018
*Specific career answer examples vary on published date
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