Cover LettersCover Letters
Job Seeker TipsJob Seeker Tips
Beginner BasicsBeginner Basics
In the WorkplaceIn the Workplace
Build A
Resume Now
Have Your
Try Our
Cover Letter
Home > Blog: Beginner Basics > Interview Question: Tell Me about a Time You Failed

Interview Question: Tell Me about a Time You Failed

There are times in our lives when certain events offer a heaping dose of humility. Maybe that humble moment was being laid off or fired from a job you thought seemed so secure. Or maybe it was when you were overconfident about your favorite sports team — before it snatched defeat from the jaws of a potentially big victory and you had to face fans of the winning team. (For me, the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series: the wild pitch in Game Six, the slow roller through Bill Buckner’s legs at first base. True baseball fans will remember the collective agony within Red Sox Nation.)

Being overconfident about your favorite sports team is one thing, getting dumped by a significant other is another, and there's a whole new level of humility when you get laid off or fired from a job you thought seemed so secure. Yet, humility can also serve you well in the job interview, no matter how effective you are at "selling" yourself to a potential employer. You need to be effective at selling yourself to a potential employer, but without being cocky or arrogant. You need a balance of confidence and humility.

So, if a hiring manager were to ask "Tell me about a time you failed," how would you answer?

Doing that effectively requires you to know yourself, to think of a time when a work-related situation didn’t turn out quite as you had hoped, and — most important of all — to not be afraid to admit failure. Maybe you paid too much attention to details that caused you to miss a deadline, or you rushed a project to make a deadline by skipping a couple of critical steps. Or maybe your over-aggressive sales tactics got the better of you and you lost a potential client.

Everyone makes mistakes. A would-be employer knows that, so don't pretend you've never failed. An interviewer is interested in seeing how you took responsibility for your failure, what you learned from it, and how you would prevent similar failures from happening again.

If you can tell your story honestly and confidently, the interviewer may see someone who knows himself or herself well and is always looking to improve. That’s something just about any employer would value in an employee.

Step-by-Step Job Interview Preparation
What Do You Think Is Your Greatest Weakness?
Dumb Question: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Ready To Jump Start Your Job Search?
Looking for Help with Your Job Search?
Pongo has been helping Job Seekers for over 10 years. If you think our articles are great, try our Resume Builder, Letter Builder and Exclusive Interview Strategy Videos! Our easy-to-use tools and expert advice have helped over 70% of our Members get the job they want! Learn More »
Like what you see?
Join over 4.6 million Pongo Members — and let us help you land your dream job.
Pongo Raves
Student Lands Job in Hospitality Industry
Anthony was unemployed and living at home. Watch as he describes how Pongo helped him improve his resume, letters and interview techniques to land the perfect job.
Learn More About Pongo
More Success Stories