What makes a failure

What was your biggest failure? 6 examples + tactics

The factor of self-reflection: Should the question "What has been your biggest mistake or failure so far?" HR employees in companies and external HR consultants are concerned exaggerated formulated to clarify the following central assessment of your personality.

Do you have occasionally Problems in everyday working life?

Or are you possibly the problem?

Examples wanted: So what's a compelling answer to help you pass the failure stress test?

Tactically answer: After all, you should understandably not be too superficial and evasive, nor too honest and open to the question Setbacks, Defeats or Wrong decisions react.

How do you deal with defeat?

Just a test: Like so many difficult interview questions, this classic shouldn't be misunderstood as the “ultimate truth”.

What is the question really about? In our experience, applicants who are unprepared for preliminary telephone interviews or personal interviews are often caught off guard by questions of this kind.

Right strategy: After all, it's not just about talking about a problem, an obstacle or an unpleasant situation in everyday work, but above all about what solution has been found for it.

Too honest: In no case should existential professional defeats be discussed in the stressful job interview situation, which then become a knockout criterion in the hiring decision.

Examples of unfavorable answers

So please do not name such serious failures that make it seem inconceivable that you are the right person for the vacant position.

Answers that contain examples of "lasting failures" must therefore under no circumstances be given.

  1. "My earnings figures were so weak that I was given notice."

  2. "I have repeatedly criticized my colleagues openly in front of everyone else, which led to my being completely isolated in everyday work."

  3. "My IT strategy was useless because it was not sufficiently coordinated with the other departments."

  4. "I pissed off my best employee at the company with my tantrums."

  5. "I just couldn't get along with the major Asian customers and their lengthy negotiating style."

  6. "I made wrong decisions about the restructuring."

Your biggest failure: Good answer -> learning success

In job interviews, your answer to the question of failures, setbacks, difficulties, problems, conflicts and defeats will always be convincing when you have ultimately found solutions.

Or you have at least one learning success for similar problems in the future.

For tactical reasons, you can include examples from the distant past in your answer.

Better look back

Many executives have only developed and expanded their style of conversation, their power of persuasion and their assertiveness over time.

It is therefore advisable to select examples that are somewhat in the past for the question of failure. Often these are experiences from the first job as a project manager or manager.

Presumably, you too entered into critical appraisal interviews differently than you do today.

Perhaps you were too brash in your tone, too violent in your emotions or not ready to compromise afterwards when it came to smoothing things out again.

Example manager

“In retrospect, I would see my first critical discussions as a manager as a failure. At the time, I was not very prepared for this additional responsibility, I wanted to present convincing results quickly and gave professional aspects more weight than personal ones.

As a result, this led to a high-performing employee subordinate to me then quitting without warning. He felt too pressured. That was a personal defeat for me.

At the time, I reflected intensively on my management communication and also took advantage of intensive coaching. In short, I made sense of the damage. I didn't have to experience anything like that anymore. "

Multiple leaders make you look better

Or choose an example of a failed project that failed due to an unclear distribution of competencies.

Example project work

“Hmm, a failure, I have to think about that first. For us it was mostly going well. But the cost cutting working group comes to mind, when we received the instruction from the management to agree on cost reductions in a management round.

Somehow that wasn't going right. Actually, everyone wanted the other to save. In the end, that was very unsatisfactory.

I then initiated cost-cutting programs in my area and hoped to convince with a good example. Unfortunately, a jointly supported cost cutting program did not materialize. "

Tactically answering questions about failure

So if in future interviews you should be asked what your biggest professional failure was, you will be better prepared now.

First: You now know that the question “What was your biggest failure?” Is actually “What have you learned from your failures?”.

Secondly: In the run-up to job interviews, assessment centers and management audits, you have considered three specific examples ("critical incidents") from your professional experience that clearly and credibly illustrate what your part was in the failure to be described and what you have since then do differently.

Third: You have tactically selected examples of failures that you show as an authentic applicant who also makes mistakes, stands by them and can reflect on his behavior. But on the other hand, be careful not to mention such fatal errors, omissions or violations that make you appear completely unsuitable for the new position.

EXTRA: Answer these questions too!

Prepare yourself just as thoroughly for other key questions in job interviews as for the question of failure.

  1. What is your contribution to the company's success?

  2. Why did you apply to us?

  3. Tell us a little about yourself!

  4. Why do you want to work for us so badly?

  5. Why did you choose this particular job?

  6. Why should we hire you?

  7. Where do you see your strengths?

  8. And where are your weaknesses?

  9. What makes you different from other applicants?

  10. Why do you want to become a manager?

  11. What are your strengths and competencies as a manager?