During a job interview, you may be asked to talk about a time when you failed at something. Hiring managers ask this question to assess how you would deal with failure at work.

This question stumps even the most prepared interviewee simply because no one wants to highlight their failures in front of a potential employer. But the purpose of this question isn’t to focus on what went wrong but how you moved past it.

Let’s discuss how to talk about your failures in an interview in a way that speaks to your strengths. Distinguish yourself from others with confidence, compelling responses and the art of storytelling.


  1. What Does Failure Mean To You?

  2. Interview Question: “What Is Your Biggest Failure In Life?”

What Does Failure Mean To You?

First things first, let’s define failure. Failure is when something doesn’t go as planned. For instance, failure to achieve your sales targets for the quarter or failure to meet the deadline.

In a professional setting, it’s not uncommon to fail at something. As human beings, we’re bound to make mistakes, which, if not corrected, often lead to failure. But there’s always an option to learn from our failures.

It’s only when you repeat the same mistakes that it becomes a problem.

Interview Question: “What Is Your Biggest Failure In Life?”

The “what is your biggest failure in life interview question?” is aimed at assessing how you deal with a high-pressure situation. It’s a type of behavioral question that seeks to understand how you would solve a problem.

Here are some key features to consider while answering this kind of behavioral question:

  1. Pick An Instance That Aligns With The Job Description

You have to talk about situations that align with the job you’re applying for. For instance, don’t talk about how you failed at baking a pizza for a financial role. Choose instances from a time when you interned with a firm, participated in a group project or worked on something in college. This way, the interviewer can make sense of how you’d handle a similar situation in your new role.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Your Weaknesses

You may think that talking about your weaknesses shows you in a bad light—and in some situations it does. But when you do discuss what you’re not great at, it shows resilience and a willingness to learn. Knowing your weaknesses shows you’re self-aware. But you also have to express your wish to improve and work on particular areas.

  1. Highlight Your Strengths

The “what is your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?” interview question is the right platform to highlight your strengths. Think of a problem you’ve tackled that tested your teamwork or collaboration skills. Communication, leadership and problem-solving are other strengths you can focus on.

  1. Weave A Story

Storytelling is an effective way to convey your ideas and make them stick. Start by describing the situation in a compelling way. “I was part of the editorial team working with six of my batchmates,” is a great introduction to set the pace for what’s next. You can then talk about what you failed at and how you overcame it. Keeping the interviewer engaged will help you build rapport with them.

  1. Talk About What You Learned As A Result

First, you must think of any failures as learning experiences. They’re not a reflection of your abilities, rather they offer lessons to do better in the future. If you failed at meeting a deadline, you can talk about learning the importance of time management.

Let’s consider a tell me about a time you failed sample answer:

“As the editor-in-chief of my college magazine, I was responsible for coordinating between writers and editors. Once, one of the writers delivered an article on time but due to an oversight, I took too long to send it across to the editor. This resulted in the magazine issue being delayed. I apologized for my mistake and made sure that the next issue went perfectly. Not only did it go out on time but it was also our best issue till then based on reviews.”

Interviews can make you nervous, affecting your confidence. Even if you know what you’re going to say, there may be times when you forget because of your nerves. Practicing your answers and preparing in advance will help you crack your interview.

Harappa’s Ace The Interview course will teach you the best way to answer the most commonly-asked interview questions. With frameworks such as the PAM (Purpose-Audience-Message) and the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result), you’ll craft excellent responses to any interview question.

Explore topics such as What are the Common Questions to Ask an Interviewer, Top Interview SkillsTips for Interview & How to Prepare for Campus Interview from Harappa Diaries to crack your next interview.

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