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.
 
9. What was your biggest professional failure or mistake?
 
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 verify 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 Answer? 
  • 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:

– get back in action

– address mistakes
 
– turn situation around
 
– 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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