56 answers

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

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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

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56 answers

Chris’s Answer

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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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Juan’s Answer

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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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John’s Answer

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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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Daniel’s Answer

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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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Heena’s Answer

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

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Denise’s Answer

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Admitting to failures is part of being successful. The best lessons are learned through failures. It's not the failure that determines a person. It is what you do after the failure that defines you.

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Denise’s Answer

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Everyone experiences failure at some point. What's important is learning from them. Taking a situation and verbalizing what you did, what you learned from it, and how you would handle the scenario again is what is most important to convey.

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Veronica’s Answer

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Great question, this topic is one of the most difficult to answer during an interview. If asked, then you should share. In additional to sharing the failure you should also explain the takeaway. How did you overcome this failure and what did you learn from the experience.
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Jayne’s Answer

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always be ready to share what you learned from each 'opportunity'   how did it help you grow?   Don't lie or evade.   People are human, we all experience 'learning opportunities'.  It's how we use them is what matters.

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John’s Answer

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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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Angie’s Answer

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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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Arturo’s Answer

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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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Michael’s Answer

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I often ask one or two questions looking for examples where things didn't turn out as expected. I'm not looking for someone to promote their failures, but to show what they learned from them and how they improves the next time a similar situation came up.

Like others have said, you don't need to lead with your failures, but don't be afraid to speak about them.

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Akshama’s Answer

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You can talk about failures if you've learnt from them. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. But people who learn from those mistakes and strive to become better are successful.

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Cathy’s Answer

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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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Beverly’s Answer

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Hello! It is great that you are preparing now for your future interviews. I would not recommend that you volunteer failures. I would encourage you to be prepared to answer to failure if asked. During behavioral interviews you may be asked for a time you failed, something you liked least about the job you left or are something you feel would be an opportunity for you in the job you have applied for. It is best to speak directly about the task or event, and then offer a confident answer that speaks to how you overcame or how you turned it around, what you learned or how you grew from the experience. I recommend you keep an ongoing journal with your successes and failures. Be specific and document real time while it is fresh in your mind. This will be a Resource you can draw from as you prepare for interviews.

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Lisa’s Answer

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Great question! I would recommend being ready to talk about a failure during an interview. The interviewer is asking to understand how you handle adversity. The way you respond speaks volumes about your attitude and how you approach life and work. Some people are crushed after a failure and need others to pick them up. Some vow never to try again, or blame others without taking any personal accountability.  Being able to share your personal story of how you made lemonade out of a lemon speaks volumes of your pluckiness and tenacity, both valuable traits to an employer.  Good luck at that next interview!

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Tosin’s Answer

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While you don't want to oversell your failures, showing a potential employer you have learned something from a past mistake could actually be a good thing. As a matter of fact, I have been on a few interviews where I was directly asked about past mistakes and what I learned from them. Everyone makes mistakes and your interviewer is not ignorant of that. The important thing is what steps you have taken to prevent such mistakes from occurring again and how you have learned from the past experience. I would personally not dwell too much on this particular issue in an interview, but don't be scared to go there, rather be prepared for this question.

All the very best!

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Cesar’s Answer

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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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Lakshay’s Answer

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It all depends on how you have dealt with that failure. If that failure helped you in some positive aspect where you were able to learn and apply a workaround which averted that failure happening the next time, then it should be okay to talk about in the interviews only if asked. The basic reason for an interviewer to ask that question is to know if you were able to grow from that failure and how.

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Kainat’s Answer

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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.

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Greg’s Answer

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Great question to ask. I would recommend avoiding that question unless you are specifically asked this question . Most employers will not ask this question anyway. Sometimes by providing too much unneeded information people sometimes can talk themselves right out of a new job . Always focus on the positive things you've done at your previous job and the good feedback and relationships you've created.


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Kathryn’s Answer

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Heather, That's a great question! I think it's always a good idea to have an answer to this question handy - one that shows that you're creative and that you don't give up easily. Ask a friend or relative to practice with you so that you get comfortable speaking about your accomplishments. Best of luck to you in your future!

Kathryn recommends the following next steps:

  • Create some questions that a hiring manager might ask and craft good answers.
  • Practice answering questions confidently - use a friend or use a mirror to see how you look.
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Sanford’s Answer

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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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Earl’s Answer

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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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Aman’s Answer

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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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khushboo’s Answer

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We should not talk about the failures until you have been asked to throw light on your past. If you choose to tell about the failures with the positive learning from your experiences.

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David’s Answer

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I've interviewed many people and this is a common question. As a few others have indicated, focus on what you learned and what you'd do differently. In some cases its not failure because you made a mistake, but rather you may have been testing out a theory, or maybe more information came to light after you started. Don't be afraid to share those. Being afraid to fail stifles creativity and innovation. Fail fast if you have to and learn quickly. On the other side, if you failed because you were unprepared, you should have a very good explanation of what you've learned and how you've already modified your behavior as a result.

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Scott’s Answer

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Hello,


There is nothing wrong with using failure as an interview example or talk track during an interview. The trick is what the end result is from the failure that you have encountered.


If you are taking what you have failed at, and showed how you have grown from it and have overcome the initial failure then it shows how you have grown as either an individual or a leader. I would not recommend just talking about a failure you have encountered and not adding anything to it.


Best regards.

Scott

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Heather’s Answer

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As you probably already know, failure is a hot-button issue! So you want to be careful how you discuss it in an interview, and sound out your interviewer as you go. You can see the diversity of responses to 'failure' already illustrated here in the answers you've received. Probably each person will respond a little differently.

An important aspect of the potential for failure is that many people are scared to fail, and so fail to take even reasonable risks. I feel there's considerable payoff, not to mention leadership opportunity, where others have assumed there's impossibility, and you figure out how to make it possible. Whole companies have started in that space.

It's not unusual to be confronted with a dead end as you attempt to solve a problem at work. This could be seen as failure, but I like to think of it as Solution A that didn't work. There are still Solutions B through Z to be found and tried :)

Courage, tenacity, and effective problem-solving are all traits that come in quite handy at work, and what definitely is a good idea is to let an interviewer know you've got these in your back pocket.
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Esther’s Answer

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Deanicia,

Good job on doing your research! We all make mistakes -- every day! And that's okay because we are not perfect. It's important to know our failures and be able to talk about them when asked during interviews. Because how we handle things that don't work out will probably tell someone more about you than your successes.

I went through an interview recently and was asked about a failure and I wasn't prepared for it! it was awkward not being able to think of a recent scenario. It made me realize that I don't spend enough time reflecting back on the things that happen throughout the day and what I could do better.

Check out this video about being in the learning zone. It is very inspiring and has great reminders:

https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tedspread
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David’s Answer

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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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Raji’s Answer

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You may approach this part as opportunities, recognizing these opportunities and speaking to them shows a lot of character and courage.

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Kaitlyn’s Answer

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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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Roopa’s Answer

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I would suggest focus instead on building a success story after a setback, on the lesson learned and how you bounced back

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Ganesh’s Answer

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We always learn something new from the failures or mistakes that we face regardless whether it is person or work life. How lessons learnt be utilized effectively to avoid the problem on the next time is the key to success.

There is no problem in telling such experiences to your interviewer. They would be also more happy and interested to hear such experiences and how you have overcome those. It is a measure of your talent as well how you have a handled a difficult situation.

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Yandira’s Answer

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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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Manny’s Answer

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

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Rajesh’s Answer

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Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Don't just end there. Explain (in a concise way) the experience where you failed in the SAR format. SAR stands for Situation, Action, Result. Another variation is called PAR (Problem, Action, Result). The central idea is that for any experience or story that you share in an interview, start with the problem statement or the situation that you found yourself into. This part gives a little background and the issue that you faced. The next part is about how you analyzed the problem and came up with a solution along with any interesting tidbit from the execution of your plan. Finally, you state the outcome of your actions. Now its possible that the result didn't really solve the issue that you faced so it could be considered as a failure but be crisp and don't try to blame others or give excuses. Own it if it was indeed your mistake and always share what you learnt so that it does not happen again. Interviewers are not looking for a perfect person. They want a genuine candidate who can own up to their mistakes and learn from it to avoid something like that in the future. This shows that you are coachable and willing to learn.
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Melanie’s Answer

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Dear Deanicia,

Great Question!

A common question asked during an interview is, "Tell me about one of your weaknesses".

I believe that in many cases, a weakness can also be viewed as a strength. For instance, when I first became a leader, I would raise my hand for everything. I wanted to get involved and challenge myself.

It became evident that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. My then leader gave me great advice. "Sit on your hands"..."Give others a chance to show what they've got and you should do what you do, and do it well." We never want to spread ourselves so thin that we don't deliver, or deliver a product that is mediocre.

This said, when asked, “Tell me about one of your weaknesses”, I might respond accordingly, "One of my weaknesses is also a strength. I like to get involved so I volunteer a lot. But sometimes, I need to recognize my capacity, and let others get involved."

This response lets the hiring manager know that you are a go-getter who has excitement and enthusiasm AND that after given some great advice, you still volunteer but recognize your limits."

Hope this example helps you better understand how to position your response regarding failures or weaknesses for I believe in life that there are no failures, only lessons.

Best Wishes!!

Melanie recommends the following next steps:

  • Start thinking of those "failures" as lessons and "weaknesses" as "strengths" =)
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Sam’s Answer

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You should spin your "failures" into opportunities to overcome. If you experienced a "failure," share what you learned from it and how you overcame it. If it was a failure that you could not overcome, share what the gap was that you were not able to bypass it. If you cannot elaborate, then do not include it. The key is demonstrating shared learnings and problem solving.

https://www.workitdaily.com/job-interview-talk-about-failure

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Karla’s Answer

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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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Roopa’s Answer

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I would suggest don't focus so much on the failures but instead on the learning and how you bounced back. Build a story around the success after a temporary setback.

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Jesse’s Answer

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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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Anthony’s Answer

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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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Dawn’s Answer

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Yes, you should talk about your failures and what you learned from them. Don't be afraid to fail but be self reflective so you can improve.

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Greg’s Answer

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I think it's perfectly ok to discuss failures. While you want to make sure you balance this with success and accomplishments - it's great to demonstrate when you may have taken a risk and most importantly what you learned from it.

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Cristol’s Answer

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Never expect to fail, always expect to succeed! But if you do fail at something, always learn from the mistakes and don't dwell on them. Always demonstrate how you are someone that will turn a negative into a positive situation, that is what interviewers are looking for. Also, I recommend jotting down these type of situations so it's easier to remember the details of what went wrong and how you made it better when telling the story in an interview.
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Ivan’s Answer

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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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George’s Answer

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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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Alan’s Answer

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If you can talk about what you learned from a failure, yes. Many people would appreciate this but maybe not all, so I'm not sure if it should be volunteered information or not. I guess it would depend on the interviewer and type of place or company culture.


Trying and failing is one way to learn new things including when in a job and in building a career. Some interviewers and recruiters are going to prefer one who tries new things and learns from the failures.

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Margie’s Answer

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I would suggest that if you talk about failure that you focus on what you learned from it, what were your takeaways and how you will approach it differently next time. In an environment where you are required to be innovative, sometimes you have to take risks and not all risks are successful.

Depending on the person doing the interview, one of their questions may be to share a time when you failed. This would be a great opportunity to do just that. Good luck!
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Richard’s Answer

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Everybody goes through failures and talking about failures in the interview is fine but interviewer should get a feeling or be convinced that you were about to learn something from the failure.


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Margie’s Answer

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I would suggest that if you talk about failure that you focus on what you learned from it, what were your takeaways and how you will approach it differently next time. In an environment where you are required to be innovative, sometimes you have to take risks and not all risks are successful.

Depending on the person doing the interview, one of their questions may be to share a time when you failed. This would be a great opportunity to do just that. Good luck!
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Kushal’s Answer

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Each failure gives an opportunity for new learning. You learn from your mistakes. You can talk about failures but dont go so much in deep. Rather quickly shift to your learnings from the failures and try to show the positivity you have because you have overcome some failures.

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Jillian’s Answer

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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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