Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it.
- 1 Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it.
- 2 Other interview questions that are similar
- 3 What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
- 4 How Best To Structure Your Answer To This Question
- 5 What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
- 6 Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it – Example answers
- 7 Other Interview Question and Answers
Other interview questions that are similar
- Describe an instance where you faced a significant challenge at work and how you overcame it.
- Can you recall a situation where you received negative feedback and how you responded to it?
- Share a time when a project or task did not go as planned. What did you learn from that experience?
- Give an example of a decision you made that wasn’t successful. What did you learn from this and how did it influence your future decisions?
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to adapt quickly to a change in a work situation? How did you manage it?
- Describe a situation where you had to work under pressure. How did you ensure the quality of your work?
- Recall a moment when you had to solve a problem creatively. How did you approach it and what was the outcome?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
The question “Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it” essentially assesses your competency (showing how you solve problems), motivation (indicating your drive to rectify errors), and cultural fit (revealing your teamwork and communication style). It’s a multi-dimensional question aimed at understanding your overall suitability for the role.
How Best To Structure Your Answer To This Question
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter?
In the context of the interview question about a mistake, your beliefs can reveal how you perceive and learn from errors, highlighting your growth mindset and adaptability.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place.
When discussing a mistake in an interview, briefly setting the scene allows the interviewer to understand the context without detracting from the focus on your actions and decision-making.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter.
In relation to a mistake, clearly defining your role helps the interviewer see your level of responsibility and initiative in addressing the issue.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them.
For the interview question, detailing your actions in rectifying a mistake showcases your problem-solving skills and accountability, which are key qualities employers look for.
R – Result – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible.
In the context of discussing a mistake, sharing the results, especially with quantifiable outcomes, demonstrates the tangible impact of your response and learning, which is valuable to interviewers.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action.
Do not blame others for the mistake.
Do not neglect to mention what you learned from the experience.
Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it – Example answers
Example Answer 1
I firmly believe that owning up to and learning from mistakes is not only a sign of professional integrity but also a critical component of growth and development. This mindset has always guided my approach to challenges at work.
In my previous role as a marketing manager, we were launching a major product campaign. It was a cornerstone project for the year, pivotal to achieving our annual sales targets.
My primary responsibility was to orchestrate and oversee the various marketing efforts, ensuring they were cohesive and effective in driving product awareness and sales.
I realized my mistake when a junior team member pointed out that our campaign had entirely overlooked targeting millennials, a key demographic for our product. This was a significant oversight. I took immediate responsibility for the error and gathered the team to brainstorm inclusive strategies tailored to this demographic. We revised our digital content, and I reallocated budget for targeted social media ads, prioritizing platforms popular with millennials. I also commissioned expedited market research to refine our messaging, ensuring it resonated with this new audience.
The revised campaign strategy significantly expanded our reach, engaging 30% more of the target audience than initially projected. This led to a 15% increase in sales over our original target, with particularly strong responses from the millennial demographic. The experience reinforced the importance of inclusive and comprehensive market analysis and demonstrated the effectiveness of responsive, adaptive leadership in marketing strategy.
Example Answer 2
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 250 answers to all of the most common interview queries.
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