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.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
The term 'close supervision' can be code for the dreaded micromanagement word! If the interviewer asks a question similar to this in your interview, you should dig deeper and find out how they interpret close supervision to be. The best way to answer this question is to give an example of a time that you worked closely with a boss, professor, or someone in a position of authority. Then, finish your reply by asking what they mean by close supervision. It is your responsibility to ensure that the workplace culture marries well with your own needs an employee.
"In my current role I work closely with my boss. Our offices are next to each other, and we meet at least once per day to discuss the status of our projects. Could you share with me how your workplace culture is close, and what close supervision means to you?"
"I work at the front desk in my current position which means that I am accessible to my boss, and most of the team, all day long. Everything that I do is within this close-knit environment. Could you further explain to me what 'close supervision' means to you, and what that would look like in this role?"
"My boss is in another city, but we work closely through daily emails or meetings via Google Hangout. I am close with my team but do not hover over them when it is time to get the job done. I believe in offering employees room to work. Do you believe in close supervision here? And, if so - could you further clarify what that looks like in your day to day operations?"
"I can work well under any amount of supervision, so long as communication is clear and expectations are well-set. I am always able to speak for my work because I am confident in the quality that I deliver. What does close supervision look like here at your company?"
"I believe in boundaries in the workplace, so I certainly do not want, or need, someone checking in with me every 5 minutes. With that said, I am a fantastic employee so you will not feel the need to supervise my every move. When you speak of close supervision, are you referring to micromanaging or are you speaking of close working relationships?"
"Close supervision is a requirement at times, depending on the project stage and other factors. I do not mind close supervision as long as it's an effective working method. There should be some flexibility in sales; however. Can you share with me how you define close supervision, within your organization?"
"As a teacher, I am not accustomed to overly close supervision by the principal, for instance, but I am accustomed to working closely with the parents of my students. I like it when parents are highly involved in their kids' education; however, nobody enjoys micromanagement. Can you please explain to me what you mean when you speak of close supervision?"
Little supervision often comes after some time, when trust is well established between yourself and your employer. The interviewer would like to know if you have worked in an environment that offers little amounts of supervision. Primarily, they are looking for proof that you can be productive even when nobody is watching or supervising you. Be sure to ask the interviewer about the level of supervision in this particular role. You want to make sure it's a good fit for you.
"I am a reliable employee who works hard, no matter who is watching. You can rest assured that I deliver great work at all times. Would you say that this role is loosely, or more closely, supervised?"
"In my current role, I work under little supervision. I have been with my current employer for five years, and we have developed much trust. I certainly would not expect all the flexibility in the world right away. Would you mind elaborating on the workplace culture, namely the supervision levels, in this role?"
"I am accustomed to very little supervision as a manager. Also, I offer a good amount of supervision for my team, but I also give them the flexibility to do what they do best, without unnecessary interference. Do you believe in close supervision or do you prefer a more hands-off approach with your employees?"
"I enjoy close supervision on particular areas of a project, and then I need room to work during other more independent project stages. I believe that a talented marketing director knows when to step in, and when to give room to work. Would you agree?"
"In retail, there is a lot of close supervision especially when I work the same floor shifts as my manager. With that said, I am a hard worker and would have no issues when it comes to working more independently. I will deliver more than my base expectations, regardless of the supervision level. How would you describe the level of supervision in this role?"
"The sales roles that I have worked have always offered a great deal of autonomy. I prefer working in an environment that offers an environment where I can freely deploy my methods to close sales and exceed my targets. I do understand that it takes some time to establish that level of trust; however. Would you say that this company offers a great deal of flexibility when it comes to supervision levels?"
"As a teacher, most of what I do is in an unsupervised environment. This fact is not to suggest that I have free reign in everything that I do. Low day-to-day supervision is simply the typical classroom environment. I am a responsible and independent person who can succeed in any role, regardless of high or low supervision levels."
The interviewer would like to know how you respond to failure in the workplace. There will always be a time when you are not happy with your work environment, but your reaction is what will determine whether or not you recover from the disappointment. Show that you have the maturity to be able to respond to dissatisfaction productively.
"I am rarely dissatisfied with my work because I keep very high standards for myself, and what I deliver. With that said, should I be dissatisfied with the quality of my work I would own up to it and try again until I was proud of the work I delivered."
"The last time I was dissatisfied with my work I asked my boss if there was time for me to re-do the components with which I was not happy. The deadline was tight, but I did not believe that should affect the quality of what I delivered. She agreed, and gave me the time to revisit the aspects that I felt were not up to my usual standard."
"When I am dissatisfied with my work, I will not submit it. There is no room in my line of work to hand in work that is not up to standard. I would not say that I am a perfectionist; however, I know what I am capable of achieving, and as a manager - I have to set a great example at all times."
"In marketing, there is often room to play around with our work and bounce back from mistakes. I allow myself to make mistakes, tweak my work, and play around with different designs, for instance. A creative mind is always seeking improvements."
"I like to make a great first impression so I will rarely be disappointed in the work that I deliver. If I do not deliver to my standard or encounter an unforeseen issue that railroads me, I am quick to assess what I could have done differently and recovered from there."
"If I am dissatisfied with the quality of my work, I work harder! I believe that the only thing standing between failure, and greatness, is me. I always put in 100% in everything that I do."
"I expect a lot from my students, and they expect a lot from me in return. I fully believe in being accountable for my work. So, for that reason, if I am dissatisfied with the work that I produce I will go back to it and re-do until I am proud of the final product."
There isn't necessarily a wrong answer to this question; however, the interviewer would like to see that you are not a sore loser. Speak a bit about your competitive side and show that you offer a great mix of the two options.
"Everyone loves to win, but I fully believe that we learn a lot from losing as well. I am not a sore loser; however, I will do what it takes to ensure that I win as often as possible."
"I think that of the two, 'I hate to lose' is more descriptive of me. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the work that I deliver which means that I dislike disappointing my boss, and myself. With that said, I know there is always something to learn from losing."
"Oh, I love to win! Moreso, I like to help my team members to succeed. Winning and coaching a winning team is a huge part of what drives me. Losing is inevitable at times. When I am not winning, it's essential that I learn from the experience, and implement changes from it, rather than dwell on it."
"I believe that everyone loves to win, but the most important part is how you react when you win, and when you lose. When I win, I look at what I did right and then implement that strategy more often. When I lose, I analyze where I went wrong and then pivot my approach as needed."
"I love to win more than I hate to lose. What I mean by this is that I don't hate losing. There is always something to learn from a loss, right? I am a gracious winner, at the same time, and understand there are learning opportunities in every situation - win or lose."
"As a salesperson, the love to win is what drives me. It's a natural inclination to want to win, but I do also learn a great deal from losing. When I lose, I will take the lesson and implement changes immediately."
"When teaching impressionable students, it's important that I show a gracious attitude - win or lose. I do not enjoy losing, but I am great when it comes to seeing the lesson in every loss."
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