General Question

chelle21689's avatar

How do you answer, "What is your greatest failure?" in job interviews?

Asked by chelle21689 (6786points) August 26th, 2014

To be honest I can’t think of a good answer. I can think of tiny little ones like maybe a grammar error or forgetting someone’s name, etc. I do have one in mind but I think it’s too big of a mistake I’ve made where it might turned them off.

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22 Answers

kritiper's avatar

Claim you never had one.

elbanditoroso's avatar

“After I killed my old boss, I should have made him harder to find. I won’t let that happen again.”

Yes, I’ve had the same question in interviews, and I have usually tied it to a decision that made sense at the time based on the facts I had, but in the end didn’t work out.

They don’t really care what the failure was – what they want to know is if you learned anything from the event. Everyone has made mistakes.

gondwanalon's avatar

Didn’t you ever set a very high goal and then fail to reach it?

My response would come very smoothly because I’m not ashamed of it.

I was able to achieve my highest goal in life which was to become a veterinarian.

Coloma's avatar

Being born post industrial revolution. lol

dina_didi's avatar

I think you should not answer something really terrible because that will make them think you are not good for the job. Tell them something like a grammar error as you mentioned and tell them that you are trying to avoid big failures because you are determined and you love what you are doing.

Pachy's avatar

Everyone fails at things from time to time. It’s how we learn. Remind yourself about any work, school or personal failures you’ve had, and briefly write about one. Then—and this is very important—explain what you learned. This question is seeking to uncover, among other things, your ability to rise above failure and profit from the experience. Answer it simply and forthrightly.

chinchin31's avatar

Say you have none.

I hate when people ask these kind of stupid questions in interviews. Interviews are such a joke. The other questions I hate is what are your weaknesses. If you really have a weakness that might affect you getting the job will you actually say it. It is such nonsense. Clearly anyone that actually bothers to answer this question is a liar so why bother ask it . Most people will just tailor it to suit the job which proves nothing in the long run.

What if you can’t remember your biggest failure or what you remember in the interview is something that could affect your getting the job.

Interviews never prove anything. People lie. If it was the truth then why would there be so many books out there entitled ” Tell interviewers what they want to hear”. Obviously if you are telling interviewers what they want to hear you are not being yourself and they are therefore hiring the wrong person.

chelle21689's avatar

Thanks everyone!

Coloma's avatar

@chinchin31 I so agree. I also love the ” Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 111 years?”
How the fuck could I know?!!!
I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, or, maybe, I might just buy a one way plane ticket out of this mess. lol
Being a philosopher at heart the irony that anyone can predict where the hell they will be in X amount of years is just laughable.

No, I will not be sacrificing my soul for your company until I have one foot in the grave.haha

chinchin31's avatar

Say you don’t remember because you only focus on positive things in life not negative. :) Dwelling on negative things hinder productivity. Any major failures in my life I have always immediately learned from them and then immediately sought to implement future preventative measures to ensure they never happen again. I am constantly looking for ways to develop and improve myself. ta daaaaaa

You don’t have to answer the questions directly. It might be refreshing to them if you challenge the question. It will show that you are a thinker and not just a robot answering questions. :)

Coloma's avatar

@chinchin31 Yes, however, employers want the “right” answers, which automatically cancels out honesty.

Darth_Algar's avatar

My usual response is “applying for this job”.

Coloma's avatar

@Darth_Algar LMAO! No kidding, especially in this economy where many of us are making about ⅓rd of what we used to.

chinchin31's avatar

@Coloma .. Yeah and then employers always want to know .. oh why did this person leave the company after 6 months. BECAUSE THEY LIED TO YOU IN THE INTERVIEW DUH. The corporate world is just a sad place.

chelle21689's avatar

Lol, you guys are making me depressed. Corporate world isn’t ideal but sadly enough I think it fits my life schedule and makes good money. Maybe one day I’ll find out what I love doing. But until then, I pursue HR and hope the work environment is nice and not stressful from gossipy colleagues that pick on you.

chinchin31's avatar

@chelle21689 You can never escape gossipy colleagues. If they aren’t doing it face to face they are doing it over the internal messaging service. I have worked long enough in the corporate world to know this. If you are just interested in making money then fine stay there but it you are not trust me the corporate world will drive you crazy.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

It’s difficult to call it failure when so much is gained in the process.

Not learning that sooner was probably my biggest failure.

oh wait

fluthernutter's avatar

Maybe I’d feel differently if I were applying for a big corporate job, but I’ve always been pretty honest about these questions. I think the key is to keep the details relevant.

For instance, I told them that I was “fired” from my last job because my boss had a temper. After a particularly bad day, he was just lashing out (verbally) at his wife. Even after she started crying, he just did not relent. I had had enough. I told him off and I quit. So did most of my co-workers. I told the interviewer that if she wanted to know the real story, she’d have to speak with my old boss’ wife instead. If I hadn’t told them that in the interview, they wouldn’t have known to ask.

The interview isn’t just a hurdle to jump. It’s a chance to tell them about yourself. Or, in my case, to tell my side of things.

pleiades's avatar

@chinchin31 It’s all a test to see how you answer it. They don’t actually want to know your greatest weakness. They want to see if you’re intelligent enough to turn a weakness into a strength. For instance, if someone in digital marketing asked me, what my greatest weakness was, I’d answer: My greatest weakness is that I’m a sucker for the latest technology, I’m always keeping up to date with the latest gadgets and software and it’s something I truly enjoy. (Something a long those lines)

To answer the OP I think a great way to answer greatest failure would be to use something light yet resourceful to the company. Like say, you were offered a leadership position in the past but had to turn it it down because you were too determined to finish school (see, trade a + with a +) OR say something a long the lines of, “I wish I had asked my prior manager if there was anything more I could have done because I felt underutilized) [A jelly actually helped me with the underutilized thing and I used it in my interview and talked about how my skills would help this company and how I was underutilized at my prior position]

It’s important to know that you can kind of kill like 3 birds with one stone by them asking one question. It’s all about how you web the answers together. It’s true you don’t want to take too much control of the interview, but I’d say each answer should have at least one example of what you’re answering. If you answer one sentence answers you’re probably going to be too robotic for the company or come off as unprogressive for the company.

And take the YouTube “Interview Simulations” they help, and be prepared for all of a sudden panel interview. It happened to me I had to pull pages from comm. 103 haha. Plenty of eye contact and make sure you’re engaged with everyone. Most importantly be enthusiastic, don’t be a stiff, be yourself and let the interview flow it’ll be over in like 7 minutes max haha.

Here2_4's avatar

First, accept my apology. I only just noticed this question.
When I was a teen, I applied for a summer job. On the application, I was asked that question. I wrote, “Being a perfectionist.”
During the interview, the manager asked me why I listed perfectionism as a short coming. I told her because I would get so focused on fixing my mistakes, I would overlook other things needing to be done. I was hired on the spot. She was impressed that I could see my own character flaw for what it was, because it meant I was ready to work on it. She also said she would love some extra quality control working there.
It was only a summer job for a high school kid, but her reaction was so enthusiastic, i never forgot it.
The point here is, they want to know you recognize your flaws, and are willing to work on them. For someone else, the correct response might be, “I am shy, and don’t always speak up for myself. I believe I lost a good opportunity because of that.”
For another, perhaps, “I get so focused on my work, I forget lunch, and then mid afternoon I have an angry tummy to deal with.”
The best flaws to have, are flaws which can be rehabilitated to a positive.

chinchin31's avatar

OMG my mind went blank once. I was saying something positive about my last company and completely forgot what I wanted to say.
So embarrassing.

I was honest and said my mind went blank and changed the direction of the conversation.

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