“Tell us about a mistake you made and how you dealt with it”

How to answer the interview question: Tell us about a mistake you made.

Understandably, things don’t always run perfectly while at work.

We might point to system errors, lack of clarity in communication, unworkable policies, hardware or software malfunctioning, but in the end, it often just boils down to human error.  However, when it comes down to admitting our part in it or how we contributed to the error, we can feel more than a little reluctant to take the blame! Especially when you are being asked by an interviewer!

What does the interviewer really want to know when they ask you about a mistake you made at work?

Don’t be intimidated- this is, in fact, a great opportunity to showcase your values and temperament amidst adversity.
Here is what they want to hear:

  1. They want you to be honest in your example and to see you showing resilience and determination when things aren’t going well.
  2. They want to know you won’t pass the buck or put the blame onto someone else
  3. They what to know if you learned from the experience
  4. Most importantly- How you went about rectifying it and making sure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

TIP– Be strategic when choosing your answer, select a situation which brings out your problem-solving qualities dealing with difficulties and not something that would discourage them from hiring you.

Examples could be:

  1. A media campaign you ran that didn’t meet time frame expectations which prompted you to create a more phased time frame allowing for unpredictability on each step of the process from design to print, considerably improving the outcomes next time around.
  2. A team project you participated on or led that didn’t meet its objectives – Make sure that you not only take ownership of the collective mistake but also of the solution for it. This will help showcase how you work in a team
  3. Remember, this is not a space to talk about personal issues from outside of work. We also advise you to stay clear from issues which caused a disciplinary procedure or a major setback for the company.

TIP- Elaborate on how you handled the situation and what you learned from the experience, emphasize how it has since affected your behaviour or influenced your decisions. Stay positive, affirmative and confident.

The bigger question that remains to be answered is – Why is it so hard for us to admit that we have made a mistake?
We might not fully understand why. Maybe we are constantly striving for perfection and when we don’t achieve it, embarrassment, shame or denial is the initial response.
In any case, life gives us constant opportunity for progress and growth and mistakes seem to be the most effective teacher. When we can admit the error and give it its due consideration – that is when growth and development can take place.

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Still worried about how to answer this question in a job interview? To practise answering this and other competency-based interview question, contact us to book  Interview Training.