Tough Job Interview Questions: What’s Your Biggest Failure?

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By Donna Wright 3 minute read

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Biggest Failure

One of the biggest differences between job hunters who give good interviews and the hunters who struggle is that good interviewers are prepared. One of the most common but tough job interview questions you will be asked will involve your biggest professional failure. If you are prepared for this question, then it becomes a chance to turn a negative into a huge positive. Learn how to answer interview questions like this well, and you’ll be sure to impress any hiring manager.

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Recognize That It's a Trick Question

It may be a bit simplistic to refer to these types of interview questions as trick questions, but that is what they are. These are tough job interview questions that are designed to see which candidates are preparing for their interview opportunities and which candidates are not preparing themselves. In reality, if you can give a strong and rehearsed answer, then you will be giving the interviewer what they are looking for. Questions asking about your failures require creativity if you hope to use the opportunity to impress hiring managers.

Keep the Focus on Yourself

The important thing to remember about this question is that the interviewer is interested in what your biggest failure was and not the biggest failure of a company you worked for, or a project you worked on. It is important to keep the focus on yourself and the biggest failure you have ever experienced in your career.

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Choose the Biggest Failure of Your Career

Tough job interview questions like this one are usually followed with a question that asks you what you learned from the experience, so you will get a chance to redeem yourself. That is why you should go ahead and choose the most catastrophic failure you have ever experienced in your career as the answer to this question. Be straightforward about the incident and do not sugar-coat anything.

Keep the Answer Short

The interviewer does not need a huge back story on your biggest failure, but they do need to have the proper context to understand what you are talking about. When you prepare for this interview question, be sure to get the answer down to no more than three or four sentences that make a story that can be told in 30 to 45 seconds.

Be Prepared for the Follow-Up

As soon as you finish describing your failure, the interviewer will ask you what you learned. The lesson you have learned is the other reason that this question is asked. The interviewer wants to hear you own up to your most catastrophic failure, and then the interviewer wants to know how you turned that failure into a positive moment in your career.

If the Interviewer Doesn't Follow Up, Explain Anyway

If the interviewer does not ask what lesson you learned from your failure, then that just means that the interviewer is expecting you to explain the lesson without being provoked. You can start off the lesson by saying something such as “And what I learned from that failure was,” or something along those lines.

In order to answer tough job interview questions like this one, you need to be prepared with a creative answer that demonstrates a challenging situation and how you used it to improve yourself professionally. Make sure your answer includes a valuable learning experience and shows how you use your failures to develop your career.

Donna Wright Profile
WRITTEN BY Donna Wright

Donna is a career expert with extensive experience in the fields of Marketing, Publishing, Direct Mail and Communications. She’s witnessed firsthand the importance of a powerful resume and cover letter to a job search, so she takes great pride in helping change the lives of job seekers by sharing expert career advice and tips to help land the perfect job.

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