How to Answer, ‘Tell Me About a Time You Failed?’ 

5 minute read
How to Answer, ‘Tell Me About a Time You Failed?’

In job interviews, it’s common to encounter challenging questions aimed at assessing your problem-solving skills, adaptability, and ability to learn from mistakes. One such question that often catches candidates off guard is, “Tell me about a time you failed.” While it may seem intimidating, this question provides an opportunity to demonstrate your resilience and growth mindset. 

We will be focusing on various areas of the interview process in the series of blogs from Leverage Edu on interview preparation tips. In this particular blog, we will go through the question, “Tell me about a time when you failed” when asked in an interview. 

Must Read: How to Answer Common Interview Questions

How to Deal With the Question, “Tell Me About a Time When you Failed”

Below are a few suggestions for responding to this frequently asked behavioral interview inquiry. 

Describe the Situation 

Before delving into the details of your failure, it’s crucial to provide a concise overview of the context. Briefly describe the project, task, or situation you were involved in when the failure occurred. Include relevant details such as the timeline, team members, and the significance of the project.

Explain What Went Wrong

In this section, focus on the specific failure that you encountered. Be transparent and honest about the mistake you made, taking responsibility for your actions. Clearly articulate what went wrong, emphasizing the impact it had on the project, team, or organization. Use quantifiable data or measurable outcomes to illustrate the extent of the failure, highlighting the lessons learned from the experience.

Detail Your Approach to Address the Failure 

Employers want to see how you respond to setbacks and your ability to take corrective action. In this section, explain the steps you took to address the failure. Discuss the strategies, methodologies, or frameworks you utilized to rectify the situation. 

Highlight your communication skills, collaboration with team members, and ability to seek guidance from mentors or supervisors. Emphasize the positive outcomes resulting from your response, such as improved processes, better team dynamics, or successful project completion.

Highlight the Lessons Learned

Conclude your response by focusing on the growth and development you gained from the failure. Discuss the lessons you learned, both personally and professionally, and how they have shaped your approach to work.

Highlight any new skills, knowledge, or insights gained as a result of the failure. Employers appreciate candidates who demonstrate a growth mindset and the ability to turn failures into valuable learning experiences.

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What Words to Use While Dealing with the Question, “Tell Me About a Time When you Failed”

The candidate can refer to the following words while answering the questions, tell me about a time when you failed. 

When discussing the process of acquiring knowledge, use terms such as:

  • Acquired
  • Extracted
  • Attained understanding
  • Perceived
  • Comprehended

When addressing the act of conquering a difficulty, use words such as:

  • Surmounted
  • Enhanced
  • Uplifted
  • Rectified

When discussing the act of rethinking a challenge, use words like:

  • Reconfigured
  • Modified

Must Read: How to Crack a personal interview?

“Tell Me About a Time When You Failed”, Sample Answers

Employers have certain criteria they seek in every response to this inquiry, thus, let’s commence with those with some samples. 

Sample 1

“In my previous position as a project manager, I was entrusted with leading a critical project with a tight deadline. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication within the team and insufficient planning, we encountered a major setback. The project fell behind schedule, and we failed to deliver the expected results on time. 

However, I took immediate responsibility for the failure and initiated a proactive approach to address the issue. I organized a team meeting to analyze the root causes of the failure, fostering an open and honest discussion. By doing so, we were able to identify the key areas that needed improvement and develop an action plan to rectify the situation. I personally reached out to team members and stakeholders to express my apologies for the delay and to ensure their concerns were addressed. 

Through this experience, I learned the importance of effective communication, thorough planning, and proactive problem-solving. 

Since then, I have implemented stricter project management processes, and enhanced team collaboration. This experience taught me the value of embracing failure as an opportunity for growth and continuous improvement.”

Must Read: How Do You Deal With Pressure of Stressful Situations?

Sample 2

“Certainly. One instance that comes to mind is when I was working on a marketing campaign for a product launch. We had put in a lot of effort and resources into the campaign, but unfortunately, it didn’t yield the expected results. The campaign didn’t generate the desired level of customer engagement and didn’t meet the sales targets we had set. 

However, instead of dwelling on the failure, I immediately took action to analyze the situation and learn from it. I conducted a thorough post-mortem analysis to identify the factors that contributed to the campaign’s failure. 

Taking this failure as an opportunity to grow, I implemented several key changes in our approach. Additionally, I introduced A/B testing for different marketing channels and messages to ensure we were delivering the most effective campaigns. Through these improvements, we were able to see a significant increase in customer engagement and sales in subsequent campaigns. 

Since then, I have adopted a more proactive approach to identify potential challenges early on and implement necessary adjustments to ensure success. I firmly believe that failures provide valuable lessons and opportunities for personal and professional growth, and I am grateful for the experience and the positive impact it has had on my approach to problem-solving.”

Responding to the question, “Tell me about a time you failed,” requires a thoughtful approach that showcases your resilience, self-awareness, and ability to learn from mistakes. 

By following the proper headings outlined in this blog post, you can structure your answer effectively and provide a compelling narrative that demonstrates your growth and development. 


Q.1. How can a candidate approach answering the question “Tell me about your failure” in a job interview?

Ans: When answering this question, it’s important to be honest, and reflective. Start by selecting a failure that is relevant to the job or skillset you’re discussing. Clearly describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. Focus on what you learned from the failure, how you took responsibility, and the steps you took to overcome or improve from it.

Q.2. Should I choose a significant failure or a minor one when answering this question?

Ans: It’s advisable to choose a failure that had some significance and allowed you to learn valuable lessons. Avoid sharing trivial mistakes that may not provide meaningful insights into your abilities. Select a failure that demonstrates your problem-solving skills, resilience, and willingness to take responsibility.

Q.3. How can I frame my failure response to showcase my positive attributes?

Ans: Use the failure response as an opportunity to highlight your positive attributes and growth mindset. Discuss how you took ownership of the failure and actively sought solutions. Emphasize the steps you took to rectify the situation, such as seeking feedback, implementing changes, or acquiring new skills. Highlight the resilience, adaptability, and determination you displayed throughout the process. 

This was all about how to answer, “Tell me about a time you failed.” Follow Leverage Edu for more interesting content and some of the best tips on interview preparation

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