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by Paddy Collins on October 26th, 2018

This is the ninth of the series of typical interview questions. For each question we outline why the interviewer is asking the question and how the interviewee should respond to it.

Our suggestions should be treated as guidelines, always adapt them to your personal judgement of the situation and to your own particular experience and individual style.

What was your biggest professional failure or mistake to date?

Why is this question asked?

To see how you cope with probing and with sensitive question

To assess your understanding of what constitutes a ‘failure’ or ‘mistake’

To explore your attitude to ‘failing’, learning from mistakes, taking a risk, putting yourself out of your comfort zone

To see how quickly and positively you learn and recover

To gauge your resilience levels and your ability to adapt and recover

To explore your tolerance if others ‘failed’ on your team

To explore your self-awareness and honesty

To see whether you would admit your and your team mistakes

To find out what your way of highlighting problems is

To see if you involve others in an appropriate manner and in right time

How to best answer it?

Indicate your self-acceptance and tolerance threshold as well as expectation of yourself (show high but realistic expectation)

Choose an appropriate example, do not let it be too extreme or personal – stick strictly to work, job, business, life in organisations

Remember it is vital to emphasise the constructive action you took to recover:

1. get back in action

2. address mistakes

3. turn situation around

4. rebuild relationships

It is important to indicate your quick learning from setback – list learnings from ‘failing’ and/or ‘mistake’

And finally show how you turned your ‘failure’ or ‘mistake’ into a positive!



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