Scenario Based Interview Questions

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Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

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Question 1 of 15

Describe to me a time when you made an error at work, and the impact your mistake made. How did you correct the mistake, and what did you learn from it?

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Scenario Based Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    Describe to me a time when you made an error at work, and the impact your mistake made. How did you correct the mistake, and what did you learn from it?

      How to Answer

      Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect. The interviewer knows that too and is asking this question to see how you handle situations when you make mistakes. Give an example that demonstrates how you took responsibility for your error and fixed it. Also, what you learned from the experience as a result. Sometimes learning from our mistakes allows us to gain some valuable tools.

      Rachelle's Answer


      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "Last month I made a financial accounts error where 4 of our vendors ended up not being paid on time. Our company faced some large fees for overdue payments. I stayed overtime that week to call each vendor personally. I owned up to the situation, explained the error, and negotiated the fees down. I learned from that error and have been conscious to not rush through my work since then."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "I am certainly not perfect all the time, and that was obvious the day that I terminated the wrong temporary employee. We had one temp who was reportedly late three days in a row. My shift lead gave me the incorrect name, so when I called the agency to tell them to fire the temp, we had the wrong one. It was a mess. I ended up calling the agency, correcting the error, and hiring back the initially terminated temp worker. This lesson taught me to always double check data before acting on anything."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "I recently created a Facebook ad strategy for a client who didn't even request one. It was a colossal waste of time simply because I didn't double check my files before starting the project. To fix the error, I let the client know that I created this strategy in error and would provide it to them at half off the regular price. This way, the work wasn't a total wash, and the client received added value. Luckily they agreed! I double check my clients' needs now, before starting on their projects."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "My first month in charge of making the scheduling decisions went quite well, so I applied that same logic to the second month of scheduling. The problem was, I was so busy replicating my previous success that I forgot to account for school being out by the third week in the month, meaning an increased traffic flow and need for more associates during the weekdays. Honestly, it was a complete oversight and complacency. I thought I was so diligent by following a 'proven' formula, but I didn't take into account that things change from week to week. Because of this, we were short of two employees each shift. By the second day, my staff was feeling it, and I couldn't cover everyone's shifts, so I got creative and asked to borrow some employees from slower departments for an hour or two at a time while calling in favors with my staff to cover upcoming shifts. Luckily, we were able to piecemeal it together, but it was a learning experience. Since then, I have been sure to follow a formula for scheduling, while carefully highlighting any significant holidays, upcoming sales, days off of school, or other goings-on in the mall that could impact our traffic and have been much better prepared."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "I was slated to demonstrate our new technology in beta and gain feedback from the client on how it could be improved. I was cutting it close for the appointment from the airport, so when I got there, I was frazzled and did not have adequate time to set up, couldn't access their network, etc. Due to this, the presentation was not as smooth as I would have hoped and I honestly I didn't get the feedback I could have if I'd have been able to do the proper setup. I apologized not only to the client but also to the tech team for not gathering the appropriate information we'd targeted. As a result of this, I made sure to practice the techniques and bring all of the necessary gadgets, including a hotspot and a small projector. That way, no matter what their network or supplies looked like, and no matter what room I was in, I could give the best presentation possible. It was an exercise in humility, and I learned a lot in the process."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "When I was in my first teaching job out of college, I spoke to a parent out of concern for their child but didn't go through the proper protocol or correct channel, so when the parent became upset, the situation became awkward. Since I didn't take up my concern through the Principal, I was in a precarious position. I certainly learned that even though I mean well, protocols exist for a reason and by going outside of those channels, I put myself, the family, and the child in an uncomfortable situation. I certainly learned to follow the protocols, even if they sometimes seem silly or constricting."

      Ryan's Answer for a Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom Sewers Interview

      "When I was starting out, I once cut besom pockets instead of patch pockets for a suit jacket. I told my boss what I did wrong. He wasn't happy, of course. I told him what went wrong: I was working too quickly and misread the order form. I asked him for more training on the order form. A few weeks later, we changed the order form to be more clear based on my recommendations."

      Marcie's Answer for a Bank Manager Interview

      "When I was younger, the mistake I made when it came to delegating was to not do it! I thought that I needed to do everything myself. This mentality didn't last long because after a while I felt burned out. Clearly, I couldn't take it upon myself to do everything! The lesson I learned is that it's highly important to trust others and to delegate certain tasks whenever possible. Now, later in my career, I believe that I am a successful delegator. I look for the strengths that others have and assign tasks that suit them. I lay out clear expectations, request occasional status updates, and give deadlines, but then I allow them to take control and complete the task or project as they see fit. This strategy has worked very well for me."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Radiology Interview

      "Earlier in my Radiology career I made a perceptual error while reading an x-ray. It lead to a delayed cancer diagnosis which was very difficult for me to come to terms with. I owned up to the error immediately and made sure to study additional cases that were similar in order to ensure the mistake didn't happen again."

      Clara's Answer for a Translator Interview

      "First, I always try to frame my thinking and perspective around the situation. The client is the reason I am able to work on this project, so it is my job to complete it to a standard that they expect. I am very receptive to feedback from my clients because I believe that it better informs my work in the future and makes me a better translator. If I find that a client is unsatisfied, then I apologize that the result isn't currently up to their expectation, ask how I might best be able to bring it up to their standards, and seek feedback on what I could do in the future to better fulfill their needs earlier on. If they find an error, then I fully own the error and apologize for it. I do not offer excuses or promises that I can't keep."

      Ryan's Answer for an event planner Interview

      "I was scheduling travel and accommodations while working with one of my first event companies. I had a pretty good system until one of the schedulers was fired, so I took over her responsibilities while we looked for a replacement. Looking back I think I was a little overly confident and felt like I had something to prove. I ended up making a couple of simple mistakes that almost caused some bigger problems. My boss caught these errors and confronted me. I learned that it is better to ask for help than to take on more than you can handle. I learned more about my limitations and how to handle stress by communicating what I need to my team."

      Krista's Answer for a Medical Records Abstractor Interview

      "I made a mistake early in my career as a Medical Assistant when I inadvertently wrote a patient's blood pressure down as 182/70 instead of 128/70. When the physician saw the chart, they ordered a referral to a cardiologist for further evaluation. I thought that was odd since the patient had normal vital signs and was not complaining of chest pain. I asked why the physician ordered a referral, and they said because the patient's blood pressure was so high. I was confused as to why 128/70 was high, so I looked at the chart again. I realized my mistake and immediately told the physician that I had transposed the numbers. They had me retake the patient's blood pressure, which was within normal limits. The physician laughed it off and told me to be more careful in the future."

      Elisabeth's Answer for a Nursing Interview

      "Since I am a new nurse, I am very watchful in my practice, but I did make a very serious medical error when I first started working on my own on the peds floor at the hospital. In pediatrics, weight is usually documented in kilograms, since recommended medication doses are documented in kilograms. Upon intake, I entered the patient's weight in the system, and when it automatically converted to kilograms, I thought it was a mistake, so I adjusted it up so it would reflect the patient's weight in pounds. This was a big mistake on my part because it made it so the patient would be getting much more medication than they were supposed to. At first, I didn't realize what I had done, but later while I was entering history and physical on another patient, I realized my mistake, and as soon as I was finished with this patient, I immediately went and informed my supervisor of my mistake. Luckily, the patient had not received medication yet, but an error was still documented and I went through a training program to ensure I understood how to properly document weight."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Service Station Attendants Interview

      "When I was first working as a Service Station Attendant, I would accidentally overfill customers' tires because I did not fully understand how to perform the task. I filled tires with are bursts that were much too long, and I was misreading the tire gauge. After a few days on the job, I decided that I had better ask for help and training. It was a bit humbling as it seemed so simple to put air in a tire, but I knew I needed to ask for assistance and learn the proper technique. Today, I am never afraid to ask for help or research a new skill when I identify a gap in my knowledge."

      William's Answer for a Computer Science Interview

      "My biggest success when delegating work was assigning an inexperienced coder the job of creating code for a complex task. I knew this was a stretch for them, but I also knew that it would help them develop new skills if they were successful. I assigned one of the more experienced coders to work with them. The individual was able to complete the task and learn some new coding skills along the way. Ironically, a similar situation was my biggest failure. I tried to do the same thing with another new coder, and they could not complete the code. The difference between these two situations was that I did not assign a mentor, so the individual had to work on their own in the latter. Not only did they fail in developing the code, but they became discouraged and quickly left the company for another job. What I learned from this was that I need to make sure my staff have a coach or manager who can help them be successful when I assign stretch goals to them."

      Lisa's Answer for a Petroleum Engineer Interview

      "Porosity is the void space in a rock while permeability is the ability of a fluid to flow in a rock. A rock may be porous, but not permeable. A reservoir that is both porous and permeable will result in a lucrative production of oil and gas."

      Rachelle's Answer for a CAD Drafter Interview

      "During a recent project I somehow made the error of deleting important work from our company's primary drafting program. It was hours worth of work that was potentially lost. First, I went to my manager with the error. She was able to contact the correct IT admin and we were able to have the issue resolved. Mistakes in the workplace do happen and I feel that it is really important to not panic when they do. Most things can be fixed!"

      D.'s Answer for a Podiatrist Interview

      "Once, on a very busy day, I had three patients in a row who were having local anesthesia and surgical trimming for ingrown nails. The charts were mixed up and during my treating the first patient I called him by the second patient's name. The patient became concerned that I didn't know his case and left the office. From then on, I always included pictures of my patients in the chart, which helped make things unmistakeable for me about patients I didn't yet know well. I was sure to write that patient a letter of apology and simply explain how the mistake happened."

      Clara's Answer for a Wedding Photographer Interview

      "When shooting natural light photos, my favorite time of day is, of course, the afternoon leading up to Golden Hour. I particularly love shooting portrait shots around this time. When shooting other styles or indoors, I have no real preference on time of day."

      Nisha's Answer for a Surveyor Interview

      "I don't want to tell a lie by saying that I never made a mistake. When I was a fresher in this field, I went out to get the measurements of a property but I simply ignored the details and came back quickly to the office. It was only when I came back that I realised that I had missed some really important points. So, I went back and took the measurements in detail accurately. Since that day I never ignore the details in my work."

      Krista's Answer for a Firefighter Interview

      "The biggest mistake I made at my previous employment was accepting a supervisory position after six months on the job. I was the youngest employee, with the least amount of time, and I had not earned my peers' respect. I honestly did not know what I was doing, and it showed. After one week, I requested a meeting with my supervisor and asked if I could return to my previous position to gain more knowledge. He was understanding and allowed me to return to my previous position. After that, I took an effective leadership course and read books on managing others. Two years later, I applied for the supervisory position and was promoted. I felt much more confident in my role and had earned my coworkers respect."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Treasurer Interview

      "I accidentally pushed "

      Rachelle's Answer for a Veterinary Assistant Interview

      "I didn't check the work schedule for the next week and accidentally did not show up for work on a day I was scheduled. As soon as I got the phone call I started getting ready for work. Even though I was four hours late, I apologized and then got straight to work. Now I check the schedule every week and I keep a copy of it as well. I strive to be reliable and I never miss a day."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Millwright Interview

      "In the beginning of my career with ABC Company, I actually ended up dismantling the incorrect piece of equipment. This caused a major delay in shipping the correct piece of equipment. I was very embarrassed that I had made this error and apologized profusely. I ended up working 6 hours of overtime in order to make sure the deadline was met."

      Heather's Answer for a Clinical Nurse Specialist Interview

      "I assumed too soon that an elderly patient understood my post-care instructions. The patient came back to the front desk asking to speak to me about 20 minutes later. I then realized that my directions weren't as clear as they should've been. Even though my mistake didn't cause harm, it did cause unnecessary steps and wait time. The patient was accepting of my apology, and I was able to write out the instructions, so there was no further misunderstanding."

      Christina's Answer for a Meteorologist Interview

      "If I made a mistake on-air, I would immediately correct myself so the audience knows I was aware of my mistake. If I did not realize my mistake until later, I would post on any of my social media accounts the mistake so everyone would be aware of the correct information. I feel this is the honest thing to do."

      Ryan's Answer for a Paramedic Interview

      "I sent an email at work without proofing it and then later realized that there were two people copied who were not supposed to know the information I shared. As soon as I noticed, I spoke to my boss and asked what I needed to do to resolve the situation. At that point, all I could do was apologize and learn from my mistake. Ever since then, I am meticulous in double-checking everything, whether it is an email, report, or checking my rig at shift change."

      Bobbi's Answer for an Accounting Interview

      "When I was still learning my position at a company, I was told to run an Audit on the user access of one system. I didn't know they had a standard operating procedure for how this was done and I made the mistake of thinking I could reinvent the wheel. I was cocky. So I created a template and emailed it. Later, I was told they had an internal system they used for only this purpose and what took me eight hours should have taken only thirty minutes. I learned from that point always to ask before trying to reinvent something."

      Ryan's Answer for a Human Resources Interview

      "People are an organization's most valuable asset. Hiring top talent derives from an effective hiring process, and there have been times my team or I have missed the mark. Early in my career, we relied heavily on assessing a candidate's previous employers and education. This heavy focus caused us to miss an opportunity to weigh their experiences or how they executed work equally. Our team changed the process to change the result. We learned that asking better questions would help us better assess candidates. We worked together to come up with interview questions that were used to make better hiring decisions."

      Audra's Answer for a Principal Interview

      "A few years ago, I was teaching at a new school, and I didn't have all the answers about parent/teacher conferences. I mistakenly told a few parents in my class some misinformation. I should have waited to relay the information until I knew all the details, but I wanted to get the information to them as quickly as I could. When I realized my mistake, I quickly emailed all of the students' parents in my class, informed them of my error, and let them know of the updated information. I am now more hesitant to relay information unless I am sure of all the details."

      Krista's Answer for a Cement Mason Interview

      "I made a mistake during my last project that I didn't catch until later. My crew and I were setting up formwork with a transit, and the transit must have been bumped. I made the mistake of not double-checking the transit, and our forms were not square. When I realized what happened, my crew and I had to redo the forms before the pour. I learned to double-check the transit before setting up forms and to remind everyone to take care when near the transit."

      Christina's Answer for a Multimedia Journalist Interview

      "Once, I published a story on social media that had an incorrect fact. I later found out I had made a mistake, but I immediately edited it and re-published it with the correct information. I also informed my manager, so they knew that I had corrected my mistake, and I learned that I should fact check each article before I upload them."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Market Research Analyst Interview

      "I sent an email at work without proofing it and then later realized that there were two people copied who were not suppose to know the information I shared. As soon as I noticed, I spoke to my boss and asked what I needed to do to resolve the situation. At that point, all I could do was apologize and learn from my mistake. Ever since then I am extremely careful to double check everything, whether it is an email, report or the status of a patient in critical care."

      Krista's Answer for a Construction Interview

      "I am very careful not to make mistakes, but when I do, I acknowledge that I made an error and figure out how to correct it. I made a mistake when I was first starting construction and inadvertently tiled over a shower drain. I did not realize my mistake until I started grouting. I told my supervisor what happened, then cut out the tile in the area where the drain was. I had to replace some of the tiles and regrout, but the problem was fixed, and I never did that again."

      Christina's Answer for an Assignment Desk Editor Interview

      "One time while working on the desk, I was aware we had a court case to attend for the day, but I did not read it closely enough and did not send a crew there. We were the only station not to cover it, and our viewers were disappointed we had missed a big story of the day. Going forward, I will pay closer attention to stories we should cover, and mark each important story with an asterisk so I am extra cautious."

      2 Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "I do believe that no one is perfect all the time, even when you always carefully do your work, mistakes could happen. I am not afraid of making a mistake; I take a positive attitude to take the responsibility and action to fix my errors, and also one of the important things to me is learning from my mistakes by making my own checking styles, so next time I won't make the same mistakes anymore."

      Lauren's Answer

      Your response is well-intentioned, but should be more specific. The interviewer wants to get to know your problem-solving skills, how you work under pressure, and a better understanding of your work style. I provided a hypothetical scenario below that may help you get started.

      "(Hypothetical response) There was an instance when I did not meet a monthly sale’s goal. I addressed the issue by speaking with my manager. I explained that I tried my best, but I fell short. I am a positive person who can take responsibility for mistakes. My monthly sales goal impacted the department as a whole, but I devised strategies with my manager to get back on track for the next month. I learned that ownership of one’s mistakes is important, and doing all you can to become better will render positive results."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I was working on a case where a client listed disqualifying information regarding citizenship; when I went to verify his info no results were returned so I denied the case. The next day, in hindsight, I realized based on no results received the client may have entered incorrect info and I needed to get this clarified. I contacted the client and verified the info he gave on the app was incorrect. I was able to obtain the correct info and help the customer get approved after all, although it counted a day late on my time metrics. I learned I could have saved more time by clarifying the questionable information upfront. Some shortcuts may actually make things longer."

      Marcie's Answer

      Great response! It sounds like you made a decision that you later realized was questionable and then you did the right thing and helped the customer when you could have just as easily disregarded the entire situation and left him denied. The customer undoubtedly appreciated that you went above and beyond to help him. This answer will show the interviewer that you have a strong work ethic, own your errors, and learn from your mistakes. Nice job!

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