How to Respond to the "What is Your Biggest Failure" Question

7 min

After receiving an invitation to the job interview, many job seekers start wondering what the interview questions will look like and what they should prepare for. Though there is no existing answer to this, the fact is that most interviews nowadays include a so-called behavioral part which is meant to test your skills and personality traits through storytelling and self-reflection. One of such questions may sound like, "What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?". In this article, you will find helpful tips for answering this question to move closer to your desired position. Keep reading!

Why do interviewers ask what is your biggest failure?

As for all behavioral interview questions, this question is used to get to know your thinking style, level of professionalism, how you demonstrate your personality traits and skills in practice, and so on. However, the greatest failure interview question has several specific reasons why it gets asked frequently. 

  • It can help evaluate your level of self-awareness and ability to recognize mistakes and take responsibility for them.
  • It provides an ability to look at your problem-solving style and see whether it is suitable for the position you have applied for. 
  • It briefly introduces the way you carry on responsibilities and daily tasks, including an image of possible challenges and advantages of working with you.
  • It serves as a test for your competency level in terms of seeing how your expertise performs in a working environment. Also, it prevents a company from hiring someone who makes unacceptable mistakes in the industry.

So, as you can see, the biggest failure interview question is more profound than it looks at first glance. However, giving an excellent answer is not as tricky as it seems if you choose the right approach.

5 best tips on picking a perfect answer

1. Always choose storytelling

For this interview question, the biggest failure is a must to cover in your response. It may sound obvious, but a lot of candidates say that they cannot think of any significant mistakes or start shifting responsibility onto their former colleagues. Such type of answers usually takes away many points from you as it brings to the surface several reg flags and does not provide the information a hiring manager tries to get. Instead, prepare a well-sustained story about an actual failure that happened on your career path. It does not have to be a critical mistake, yet choose one significant enough to demonstrate how you manage stressful situations.

2. Be specific

Experienced hiring managers always recommend avoiding vague "watery" stories about everything and nothing: they are hard to follow and sound like you are not self-aware enough to provide a confident answer. Instead, pick a specific case that refers to a situation limited in time and scale. This step will set the necessary boundaries for the future analysis of your response. Besides, you will sound more confident as it prevents you from losing a thought.

3. Use the STAR approach

The STAR method is one of the most popular techniques for answering the biggest mistake interview question. STAR is an abbreviation for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. The STAR answer consists of the following elements:

  • A situation where you have applied necessary traits or qualities;
  • Your task at that time;
  • Your actions to attain a specific goal;
  • The results and the lessons you took from that situation.

The STAR approach will help you build a well-composed answer that is precise enough to sound professional and confident.

4. Be honest

Even though you are not expected to be as honest as a mirror and allowed to omit some details, do not make up a story specially for the interview. First, you want to talk about your experience because it matters the most when a hiring manager tries to understand if the job is good for you. Second, even if you are very convincing, eventually, there may be a situation where the company will realize that you have no experience with the cases you claimed to have in your previous jobs. To avoid unnecessary stress and risks, we recommend sticking to your actual experience and trying to systemize it most favorably for you.

5. Emphasize lessons

You need to know that companies are never interested in your career drama, so you don't want to go on for hours about your previous working environment or struggles. Keep your insights as a focal point for this question to build your story around. Also, this elaboration will support the skills you have mentioned in the CV.

Biggest failures in life: examples and sample answers 

Suppose the hiring manager asks, "Tell me about a time you failed."

Example #1

Several years ago, I was to organize a promotional event for potential top customers. I set myself the goal of holding the event as high-quality as possible with the lowest expenses. To impress management with my effectiveness in managing the budget, I reduced the number of team members. However, I did not consider that some tasks would overlap, reducing the team's productivity. Unfortunately, we experienced several delays during the event due to understaffing, resulting in a lower-than-expected performance. This was a turning point for me because now I try not to save resources but to use them wisely and rationally. Subsequent promo events under my organization no longer repeated such critical mistakes, which I consider a success.

Example #2

In my past work, I had to negotiate with many partners with different communication styles and requests. Once I was to conclude an important deal with one of our partners, but the negotiations did not go well because the terms of the deal were not mutually beneficial. During a long time of our communication, we experienced several minor conflicts, but once, instead of diplomatic expressions, I told our partner that they do not respect our company and want to profit from our strategies. This was a blunder that led to the immediate termination of negotiations. Now I always work on my word choice and consult with management about what position I should present on behalf of the company. After that, I no longer experienced a breakdown in negotiations through my own fault.

Are you looking for a dream job? We invite you to visit — an excellent job searching site where all salaries, vacancies range, and candidate expectations are shown to everyone.

Let the best tech companies make you a job offer
Create your profile, add salary, preferences, and respond to offers Yes or No. Simple as that.
Позвольте глобальным tech компаниям сделать вам оффер
Создайте профайл, укажите желаемый уровень ЗП, свои предпочтения и получайте приглашения на интервью
Дозвольте глобальним tech компаніям зробити вам офер
Створіть профайл, вкажіть бажаний рівень ЗП, свої уподобання та отримуйте запрошення на інтерв'ю

Keep in touch

Sign up for our news to learn about new features and platform updates

You are now subscribed to our weekly newsletter
This email was already used