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Should I talk about my failures when being interviewed for a job?

I read an article about how a recruiter who interviews students got an answer of "I expect failure" from one of the students. Then they went and wrote an article on how this answer was amazing. Should I do the same and state some failures like struggles in class or should I keep that to myself. #science #technology #mathematics #interviews #interview-questions #failure #job-application

Thank you comment icon I would suggest explaining how you turned a failure into something productive or something you learned. George Zastrow

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Daniel’s Answer

Questions speaking to your failures, weaknesses or difficult issues you had to handle are common in interview scenarios. It is important to give an answer covers the following key points:

  • Shows your humility by taking ownership of the failure.
  • Talks to what you did to fix the situation at the time.
  • Speaks to what you learned to help avoid the issue happening again in the future.

I would avoid trying to use tactics to avoid giving a real answer, like the classical 'weakness is a strength' approach. The interviewer doesn't want to know how tricky you are. They want to know that you know how to handle failure and grow as a person.

I recommend you do some google searches and make a list of common questions which speak to these difficult times. Then, try to identify at least 5 times in your past where a situation occurred so that you can use to speak to the question. Try not to over-prepare for the specific interview questions. Your answer will feel more genuine if you can fit one of your chosen stories to whichever question comes up in the interview. Just keep the 3 points above in mind when picking which story will best fit the question you have been asked.

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

Make a list of common interview questions which speak to failure.
Try to ensure that at least 1 of your 5 stories can fit any given question.
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Chris’s Answer

I wouldn't volunteer the information, but I have had 3 Interviews where the question came up: "What was a difficult situation that you had to deal with, and how did you go about solving it". There will always be challenges which you will have to overcome, and the ability to deal with them calmly and effectively is a rare skill which companies find invaluable. However, opening any conversation with 'I expect to fail' could go just as much against you as in your favor. Be prepared to talk about your problem solving methodology, your reactions to stressful situations, and your any strengths that you may have in working with others. These are universal concerns for all employees. It is true that failure is inevitable, but the lessons learned from hardship are the ones that stick with you.

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John’s Answer

You don't have any "failures" You have learning opportunities. You learn something from every "failure". The most important thing is what you learned and what you will do differently the next time.
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Juan’s Answer

It is ok to talk failures during interviews with the objective to speak to learning experiences gained from those failures. The most successful people fail over and over again in their journey but all learn from those experiences.

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Kaitlyn’s Answer

Yes, you absolutely should.

Try to reframe your thinking. Instead of referring to your missteps as failures, think of them as opportunities. An interviewer is asking you about a time where you felt like you failed because they want to see how you learned from that opportunity and what actions you took to improve and move forward.

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Stephanie’s Answer

yes, by all means talk about a recent failure. A failure that you had in the third grade is not relevant. However, the main thing the interviewer wants to see is what you learned from that failure. There is saying that failure is a wonderful teacher so show the interviewer that you are not the person that keeps making the same mistakes over and over and are able to reflect in a thoughtful way about what you learned and what you will do differently. Or even more importantly, how you can apply that learning to a larger situation.
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Stephen’s Answer

With more companies using the behavioral style interview format, questions around failure often come up. The interviewer is looking for a time when you failed or faced adversity, and how you were able to learn from those mistakes and apply them later on.

You will need to have a measurable result from the failure, so try to have two scenarios ready for this question - the failure, and then the example were you used what you learned from that failure to succeed later on.

These types of questions also show your critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities. We have all failed at something, so not being able to provide an example of failure would come across as dishonest or disingenuous.

I would not recommend proactively bringing up failure.
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Asha’s Answer

There is no harm in telling your failures, just compliment it with telling what were the lessons learned and how the failure was handled and fixed. Then it would turn out in your favor as a positive point.
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Boopathy’s Answer

In my suggestion, please don't tell any failures as some interviewer don't like any negativity. Always the first impression is the best impression so try to emphasize positive things and impress the interviewer. If the interviewer specifically asks your failures then you can tell a failure but try to avoid talking about your personal failures.
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Jeremy’s Answer

Failure is a part of life. Everyone fails, fall short, and make mistakes. Recognizing the area's of opporunity where you could have done something different and how you applied that experience in a future situation shows potential for growth and development. Use it as a badge of courage and don't look back.
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Heena’s Answer

Failures is not something to be discouraged about. you can share the learning you got from the failures.

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Mrudula’s Answer

Sometimes the interviewer asks you about your failures. in such situations, do mention that these are not "failures" but learning experiences. Also make sure to tell how you learnt from it. what steps you will take in future not to repeat the same thing.

Most employers aren't concerned when you make a mistake the first time. But when you repeat the same again and again they start to questions you on your ability to learn from mistakes. a mistake like that could cost them heavily as you keep moving higher in position and responsibility.
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Anthony’s Answer

I have been through interviews and I have also interviewed others for multiple different positions. To me, interviewing is selling yourself to the hiring manager. In sales, you don't want to lead with anything that can be interpreted as negative. I know there can be a tenancy to at times bring up failures in interviews to showcase authenticity, but I would discourage doing this unless its followed up with a fantastic success story. If you are asked directly about something that would bring up the failure, DO NOT lie. Address it.
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Matt’s Answer

If you bring it up, make sure you understand the situation you were in and why you failed. Also understand that you knew what it would take to improve the next time the scenario came up. Be able to specifically discuss the action you would take and what the results would be from the change. Its more important to admit failing than to lie.
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Teresa’s Answer

I do agree that it's important to talk about challenges you have faced. We all have opportunity to grow and learn from events that may or may not have gone as we had hoped/planned. Each experience is just that, an experience..... I would not classify anything as a failure. I would, instead, refer to them as 'opportunities to improve'. When in an interview I would use examples of 'overcome challenges'. I talk about what made it a challenge and how I was able to learn from it. Then I would talk about how I could do it differently next time given the same situation.
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George’s Answer

I've interviewed and hired many people throughout my career and I always found if asked about failures it is certainly ok to talk to them but what always stands out to me is when people do and then highlight what they learned from those failures always gave me a great impression of them. Throughout your life you will make mistakes or experience failure but it is what you learn or do from it that is important.
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Angie’s Answer

In most interviews I have been a part of there is some sort of question about a time that "things didn't go as planned" or a deadline was missed or some other "failure" that you may have experienced. When using any example think about what you learned from the experience and how you apply that to what you do going forward. Everyone knows that no one is perfect. If you are honest with what struggles you have gone through and focus how you learn from your mistakes and take action to ensure it doesn't happen in the future, a hiring manager will know that you can learn and not repeat the same mistakes multiple times.

Angie recommends the following next steps:

Think of situations that did not go as planned and what you learned from it to avoid the same mistake happening again.
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Cathy’s Answer

In an interview, don't use the word 'failure', call them 'opportunities'. In most interviews that I conduct, I'll ask for the candidate to tell me about a time where your plan of XYZ didn't get executed on correctly, what did you do to correct it? I'm not so worried about something not working - nothing works ALL the time, I'm more interested in how you overcome challenges, your creativity and how you may influence others. Focus on the things you've done successfully and be able to turn your opportunities around to a positive note.
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Donna’s Answer

These are very common questions during an interview. Be honest, put some thought into it prior to going to the interview. Your interviewer is looking for how you handle failure and if you are able to rebound from it and learned from the experience. If you don't have failures you are being innovative and that is something business are looking for, Innovation. Speak to the situation the whys behind the failure and what you learned from it, how did it ultimately turn out.
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Aneree’s Answer

That is a great question. I believe that recognizing your failures is a good thing! What companies are looking for in terms of a candidate is someone that is able to recognize there weakness and the steps that are taken to grow and develop from those weaknesses. At the end of the day everyone has there failures but what is important is how you handle and grow from them. I remember being asked a similar question during multiple interviews where they asked about my strengths and weaknesses. The best way to answer this question is to list your weaknesses, how you have tackled them and relate them back to your strengths.
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Aman’s Answer

You should only talk about how you overcame your weakness and learning from difficult situations, you should always present yourself in a positive manner to the interviewer.

Its always good to talk about your past experiences and how it helped you to become a better person technically, the extra effort you put in, new skills that you developed.

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Taylor’s Answer

I would definitely be open about the leanings you have had in your life. If the interviewer asks the question with the word "Failures" you can always re-word the question to "One huge learning opportunity that I had in my life was when ..." Rewording to have a positive spin shows that you did not reach a goal in a situation, but learned from that experience and developed yourself to respond better the next time.

I have found that interviews are a chance to show that you have learned from mistakes, and be honest about them - because everyone makes mistakes! The important part to highlight in your interview answer (and spend the most time on) is how you grew from that situation and what you would do differently the next time to have a better outcome.
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Sherry-Ann’s Answer

This is one of my favorite questions to ask during an interview. How a candidate responds allows me to see how/if they will take ownership when a project goes sideways. Will they blame others or own-up to their actions. The best way to look at this is everyone has a project that goes sideways, gets behind schedule, or doesn't meet the intended goal - it's how the individual addresses and learns from it. When asked this, be sure to own up to the miss and focus on how/what you did to bring it back around and how you kept others aware of impact it might have on them or their dependencies.
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Rob’s Answer

For me as a leader in our company, this is a common question that I normally ask during the interview process so I think being ready to answer this and giving specific examples is instrumental into a good interview. I would also put yourself in the shoes of the person interviewing you. I like to also ask the question, "how would I know you are doing a good job?" I would suggest being ready for this question too.
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Ivan’s Answer

Focus on how you over come challenges rather that stating failures. It shows that yes, failures/bad things happen. But it is how you get back up that counts. Everyone fails, that is how you learn.

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Uday Rao’s Answer

Definitely you should have failures to learn the values its good if you mention and explain how you can across the problem how it helped to resolve this inspire many students for interview preparations .
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Earl’s Answer

Don't be afraid of this question. It typically is assessing your ability to learn and grow and be self aware. Address the question head on, prepare and list an example or two where you learned from a mistake or failure to achieve your goal. Be sure to share how you owned it, what you did about it and how that shaped you going forward.

Earl recommends the following next steps:

Write down 2-3 examples of where you did not achieve something that could be considered a failure and prepare how you will answer as stated above.
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Natalie’s Answer

I would not voluntarily speak about a failure during a job interview. If you are asked a question about a time you failed, it is vital to talk about a failure as a learning opportunity and how you were able to problem solve or what you would have done differently/how you will take this lesson and apply it to future situations of adversity.
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Melissa’s Answer

Yes! Never fear failure because it's how we learn and grow. Often that's actually an interview question, " Tell me about a time when a project didn't go as planned. " Well in that question, you have to admit some form of failure or miss but its important to then pivot and showcase what you learned from the situation, how it made you stronger and what would you do different if you had another chance to do it all over again. Also, if you did have a chance, maybe explain " and when I completely this project again i did xyz differently."
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David’s Answer

I think it's okay to talk about your failures as long as you can discuss what you learned from them and how that made you a better person and potential employee. After all, all humans fail sometimes. That's what can make us better if we are wise enough to learn the lessons from failure and brush aside the negative emotions that may be associated with failure. In fact I think that demonstrates that you are an honest person and smart enough to learn from setbacks which most people have. That also gives you the opportunity to talk about your life experiences and potential strengths that you have developed from these experiences.

David recommends the following next steps:

Be prepared to talk about your failures as long as you learned something valuable from them that made you a better person or potential employee.
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Heather’s Answer

I wouldn't just say.. I can't do this or this was something I failed at. If you are going to use it as a talking point say something like this is how I overcame this obstacle. Showing that you don't accept defeat you rise to the occasion and can overcome.
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Matt’s Answer

If you bring it up, make sure you understand the situation you were in and why you failed. Also understand that you knew what it would take to improve the next time the scenario came up. Be able to specifically discuss the action you would take and what the results would be from the change. Its more important to admit failing than to lie.
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Cheryl’s Answer

If there is a relevant time in the interview to interject the subject of the failure, I would highlight it. It is to your advantage for the hiring manager to know that you can accept the failure and what steps you did or learned from it; therefore the ability to improve the process next time. It also shows integrity and honestly about yourself; that there is always room for improvement in all of us.
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Jabari’s Answer

If asked, you should always give an honest answer. You should also be prepared to add what you *learned from that answer, and what you would do differently if faced with the same situation again.
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DWAYNE’s Answer

Speak about how you overcame obstacles in previous career roles.
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Stephanie’s Answer

yes, by all means talk about a recent failure. A failure that you had in the third grade is not relevant. However, the main thing the interviewer wants to see is what you learned from that failure. There is saying that failure is a wonderful teacher so show the interviewer that you are not the person that keeps making the same mistakes over and over and are able to reflect in a thoughtful way about what you learned and what you will do differently. Or even more importantly, how you can apply that learning to a larger situation.
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Erik’s Answer

I would not reveal your "failures" for the sake of revealing it. Common questions during an interview may lead you to believe you have to talk about failing but the intent of the question is to see what you actions you took and the result. In other words, you want to show that you made significant strides in your development. That's what an interviewer wants to see.
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Subra’s Answer

Deanicia , this is a great question.
Nothing wrong in talking about failures in an interview. However, it is very important to focus more on explaining what you learned from the failure and how the experience from the failure helped in subsequent similar situations.
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Arturo’s Answer

Yes. At some point during an interview you will be faced with a question that addresses failure. Be ready to give a detailed example of how you failed and most importantly what you learned from it. As a G.M that interviews people often, I know people are not perfect. What I am looking for is your attitude and thought process after you experienced failure. Also, be prepared to discuss what you would do differently the future.

Arturo recommends the following next steps:

Perform a practice interview with someone else and ask them for direct feedback.
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Karla’s Answer

Often times, interviewers want to see that you are capable of accepting your failures and LEARNING from them. Failure is a learning experience and a normal one at that. Nobody expects you to be perfect. The most important part is talking about how you learned from that moment and how it has affected you positively in terms of your growth and progress.

Karla recommends the following next steps:

Write down a failure that you have experienced and two lessons you got from it.
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Jennifer’s Answer

It depends on how you think about your failure, and you did learn from your failure and overcome it, the story should touch the interviewer' s heart
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David’s Answer

If you are asked, then yes. However, you should pick the failures you discuss wisely. If you are asked about times you have failed, a potential employer will expect you to say yes and explain the details. The thing a potential employer is looking for is the fact that you can take responsibility (use introspection) for the failures and demonstrate that you have learned from the experience. Such discussions should be in the form of a story concluded by what you have learned and how you have adapted or grown from the experience. The story should be interesting.
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Manny’s Answer

Yes I would but more importantly what did you do? and what did you learn from it?

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Cesar’s Answer

It's important to talk about failure if you have done something to overcome the failure or what you have learned from it that you can implement into a positive learning experience

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David’s Answer

If you are asked, then yes. However, you should pick the failures you discuss wisely. If you are asked about times you have failed, a potential employer will expect you to say yes and explain the details. The thing a potential employer is looking for is the fact that you can take responsibility (use introspection) for the failures and demonstrate that you have learned from the experience. Such discussions should be in the form of a story concluded by what you have learned and how you have adapted or grown from the experience. The story should be interesting.
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Erica’s Answer

If you are directly asked about any failures, then that would be the only appropriate time to mention one. The one failure that you expand on should be one where you learned a lesson from. Good luck.
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Yandira’s Answer

morning

Yes you can mention but only if you also share what you learned from it and what you did afterwards.
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Connie’s Answer

Absolutely, it demonstrates your authenticity and turning a negative into a positive situation. We tend to be focused on providing the right response and not being true to ourselves. Your potential employer wants to know you.
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Priyanka’s Answer

There is nothing wrong in talking about failures in an interview. Its not a failure though but one step before success. You will get to learn a lot from the failures which actually makes you strong in your profession.
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Kainat’s Answer

Absolutely!

It shows great confidence in where you have come from and what you have achieved. Everyone talks about their successes and highlights, which is fine, and a great way to showcase your achievements. What is also important to note is there are hardly any success stories not having a background of either a string or at least one failure. It shows great strength of character if you are able to demonstrate both success and failure as learning opportunities.

Thank you comment icon Absolutely correct 👍. Satyanarayan sahu
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John’s Answer

Yes, but be sure to include how you got passed the failure. Don't give a list of excuses explaining how it happened. Being able to identify a failure, own it and get passed it is very valuable.
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Jillian’s Answer

Talking about times where you weren't at your best aren't failures if you learned from them. Take the opportunity to share what you learned and what you would do next time. Sometimes we learn more from failure than success.
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Sanford’s Answer

Many interviews now include the question "Tell me about a time you have failed." So best to be prepared for this. Everyone fails, so pick an example that you learned from. E.g., "When I first was confronted with situation X, I wasn't sure how to proceed, and it didn't go well. But the next time, etc." Good Luck!

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Jesse’s Answer

Don't volunteer the information, but if presented with the question; speak to the lessons that you learned from failure. Set the expectation that you are flexible, insightful, and can move forward instead of being consumed and overtaken by failure.

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Dennis’s Answer

It definitely shows you are taking Accountability as well as Authenticity. Highlights and your work ethic should be front and center but also bringing up a few obstacles will also show your future Employer that you do not hold back and will do everything in your power to eliminate any future failures. Stay Confident during the process and Good Luck!
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Nick’s Answer

What are failures? They are learning opportunities. Unless you find that it brings value to the topic of conversation in an interview and you are able to highlight a scenario where you learned from a failure and had an opportunity to change a behavior or process to produce a different, positive outcome, I would not proactively bring it up.

Most interviews I have conducted I will ask questions around a time someone was met with a challenge or unexpected situation/outcome. I was always more concerned with how the interviewee approached the challenge, their thought process and actions taken, and the outcome. When this comes up in an interview, the interviewer is looking to see if you are able to think critically during a challenge, make a decision and put it into action.

Nick recommends the following next steps:

Anticipate interview questions where you are asked to tell someone about a time when things became challenging, didn't go according to plan, you had to work with a difficult task/coworker/customer/etc.
Be able to answer clearly and concisely: What was the situation, what was your thought process, what action did you take, what was the outcome.
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Jatin’s Answer

Yes, there is no harm in talking about failure in your interview. Consider yourself better than those who even didn't attempt it. Failure is a sign that you attempt and first step towards solving a problem is to attempt. You should always present it in positive way, in the sense of your learnings from it. It is great if you have a ready example of any such incident where you failed and used those learning to produce better results. It may be from technical perspective or time management or may be anything else.
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Brittney’s Answer

A good rule of thumb while interviewing is that you are "selling yourself" to the potential employer. So unless asked, I wouldn't openly volunteer the information. After all, we learn from our mistakes. However, it has become more common for interviewers to ask for you to describe a time that you failed and the process you took to overcome it. The overcoming part is the key there. It doesn't matter how or why you failed, but what you did with you path after failure. So you should have one ready, just in case.
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celeste’s Answer

Absolutely! Talking about "failures" can be a very positive thing if you talk about them in the context of it was a learning opportunity and this is how I handled the situation. Because is a failure a negative thing when the outcome is growth and opportunity?
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Harshita’s Answer

Definitely but you should never mention about it as your failure. See to it as a challenging situation and think of what you did to manage it or learn from it.
Everyone has failed in some way or the other but the important thing that differentiates you from other people is your attitude to never give up and think smartly in difficult situations.

Same way you should address it during your interviews!
All the best :)
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Eric’s Answer

I find that when doing interviews it is important to explore the applicants failures. In fact, what is most important is what did you learn from the experience and how did you handle the failure. There is usually a question that is asked that explores failures so it is expectable to share.
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Matt’s Answer

If you bring it up, make sure you understand the situation you were in and why you failed. Also understand that you knew what it would take to improve the next time the scenario came up. Be able to specifically discuss the action you would take and what the results would be from the change. Its more important to admit failing than to lie.
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Samantha’s Answer

Failure = Success... at lease that is my motto.

When interviewing you are going to be asked about previous work. The biggest thing I look for when conducting interviews is for the candidate to self reflect on previous jobs and opportunities from this position. If someone embraces their opportunities they are going to look for ways to improve and due to this become more successful. Whether you improve from feedback given or seek out help from a peer in regards to the failure you have gained more knowledge as an employee.