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Tell me about a time when you failed to solve a problem. How did you overcome the failure?

1 of 25 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated on June 17th, 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

'Success is bouncing from failure to failure without losing momentum,' or so they say. Your resilience shines through when you can learn from your mistakes and keep going. Give an example that shows you can accept fault and learn from challenging experiences.

Professional Answer Examples
General
Answer example

"I failed to meet an important deadline in my first job out of college because I didn't know how to prioritize properly. I kept letting other menial tasks get in the way rather than focusing on finishing the project. I learned how to manage my time wisely by setting reasonable goals and reminders on my calendar. This technique helped me to manage my time more effectively."

Admin
Answer example

"Last month we were having issues with our GoToMeeting application, and it was right before a major client meeting. I was on a call with the service provider, trying to troubleshoot and unfortunately, did not deliver a fix on time. After the initial frustration, I decided to talk to my boss about having backups in place. Now, we have Skype, and Google Hangouts set up for these emergency situations."

Manager
Answer example

"I was asked to solve our issue of employee turnover which ended up being much more difficult than I originally thought. My initial goal was to improve turnover by 70% but in the end, only reached 40% improvement. Although I did not reach my goal, I am still happy that my action plan made a difference."

Marketing
Answer example

"I had a customer who was not happy with my delivery, and I chose to take care of the situation without involving my boss. It wasn't that I was trying to sweep the situation under the rug, I just honestly thought I had been successfully dealing with the situation on my own. Unfortunately, I was wrong because the client sent a nasty email to my boss a short time after. I should have gone to my boss right away and filled him in. It's something that I've learned from, and I'm ready to involve my boss with every sticky client situation."

Retail
Answer example

"In a previous role as a personal shopping assistant, I was tasked with taking on a notoriously difficult client. She spent a lot of money in the store in the past but was very demanding. This challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to prove myself. A few months in, I made the misstep of mentioning something she'd complained about at an earlier date. Apparently, she was offended that I brought it up, even though I meant it very innocently. I owned up to it immediately to my manager and came up with a plan to win her back. I wrote a snail-mail card apologizing to her and let several weeks pass before reaching out in any other way. By the time I did, two months later, she was perfectly lovely, dismissed my apology as though she didn't know what I was talking about, and we moved along in a better fashion than we had prior."

Sales
Answer example

"In my first role out of college, I was working to solve a lane issue with a carrier that kept falling through. I went through every solution I could come up with including pitching consistency, to leveraging my current relationships, and asking for favors. Those favors and workarounds ran out, and we fell short of client expectations. While I did all that I knew how at the time, I still fell short, and it was disappointing. In retrospect, I would have involved more people in supervisory positions earlier on in the process to learn from their shared experiences."

Teacher
Answer example

"The problem I've failed to solve that still keeps me up at night is a successful inclusion of one of my students with an IEP. He loves Spanish and in a one-on-one setting excels at it, but cannot handle the behavior expectations in class because he gets too excited. I've tried multiple approaches to get him to regulate, and participate, but so far nothing has allowed him to participate in the class without disrupting the other students and causing a meltdown for himself. This fact weighs on me since I want him to experience inclusion at all times. As a result, he comes to my office a few days each week, and we have our Spanish class together. I feel this exemplifies who I am as a teacher. I will go the extra mile for my students to make sure they get their fair shake at life."

Machinist Mechanic
Answer example

"Success if bouncing from failure to failure without losing momentum,"

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.
First written on: 06/21/2016
Last modified on: 06/17/2018

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