How to Answer
We all experience perceived fails in our career. Failure is nothing to be embarrassed about so do not hesitate to describe a failure you've experienced in the past. The key to a great answer is to include how you learned from that failure, and how you improved your work performance after learning from the crash. Try to keep your example non-critical; for instance, avoid telling the interviewer how your team forgot to order new inventory, and it cost your company $15,000 in lost sales. Avoid blaming any particular person and instead, use words like 'we' and 'team' to describe the situation. Finally, be sure to tell the interviewer that, while you were very disappointed in the group's failure, you took the opportunity to learn from the experience.
"Our team was recently on a project with a very tight deadline. We knew the client and their needs very well which I believe made us go into the project overconfident. Because we underestimated the work involved, we missed our deadline by three business days. Thankfully we had a great relationship with that particular client, so we were able to recover from the missed deadline. Although it was late, we worked overtime and delivered an exceptional project, in the end. This experience taught me never to underestimate a project and the potential roadblocks. It's always better to under-promise and over-deliver, rather than the other way around."
Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview
"In University, we had a group project that failed horribly. We could not seem to organize our schedules at all, and so, when we brought all of the components together, it was a complete flop. I learned shortly after about some project management apps that could have helped. Also, we could have utilized other resources like Skype. This experience taught me never to think small, and that there is always a solution - you have to look for it."
Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview
"In my current position, our team was given a new client who needed us to recruit five employees. They were very specialized roles, and the client was not open to candidates who needed relocation assistance. Our competitor ended up finding the right candidates before we could. It was disappointing, and I believe that we failed because we were looking too much at the roadblocks rather than thinking creatively. We learned from our mistake and our team was more aggressive with our next project."
Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview
"I once worked for a startup marketing agency that bit off more than it could chew after acquiring a huge client. We had to learn a lot of solutions on the fly, which caused a great deal of stress amongst the team, which was primarily made up of junior marketers, and new hires. Nobody had the seniority or tenure to feel confident taking control of the situation. What I learned from this experience is that every project should have a wide range of people present, with varying levels of experience and expertise."
Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview
"Our store came up with a unique window display that we all thought was cool. After having the display up for a couple of days, we started receiving complaints that the message was misogynistic and insensitive. Once our team took a step back and considered the feedback, we could see what others were seeing. What I learned at that moment was that, before finalizing a project, it's important to take a step back from it and dissect it for potential problems."
Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview
"Our company recently launched a software solution for our clients that was too early-stage and should have gone through further testing. We were all so excited about the project, and created so much hype with our clients, that our excitement caused us to get ahead of ourselves. What I learned was that, no matter how exciting, a business always needs to remain level-headed and pragmatic."
Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview
"We recently had a school play go awry. The faculty wanted to put on a winter performance for the parents, and we tried to make it too comprehensive and eventful. What we should have done was focus on a couple of entertaining aspects and kept the rest simple. The kids were overwhelmed and confused, as were the teachers and attendees! We all vowed to keep it simple for the following year."