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    How to Answer: Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake

    Here’s how to choose the right mistake to talk about in a job interview and how to structure your answer so the interviewer learns what they need—plus five example answers.


    How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake” in an Interview

    by Regina Borsellino Updated 12/31/2022

    milan2099/Getty Images

    From planning and rehearsing your answers to common interview questions to changing your outfit five times to taking such a big buffer to account for traffic that you arrived an hour early and killed time at the coffee shop down the block, all your energy is going into making your potential employer think you’re the perfect professional. You’ve never gotten lettuce stuck in your teeth or forgotten to attach the report to an email. Would someone who makes mistakes have printed out three hard copies of their resume and placed them in such a nice leather portfolio?

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    So why is the interviewer trying to throw you off your groove by asking you something like, “Tell me about a time you made a mistake”?

    Why do interviewers ask “Tell me about a time you made a mistake”?

    Let’s get this out of the way up front. Perfection is impossible. Your interviewer knows that, so the fact that you’ve made a mistake in the past isn’t going to knock you out of consideration for this job. Rather, interviewers “want you to take responsibility for your mistake and talk about your key learnings, ensure you have a good attitude,” and demonstrate a commitment to improvement, says Muse career coach Jennifer Smith, founder of Flourish Careers.

    It’s easy to look good when you’re talking about your achievements, but your interviewer wants to know how you’ll react when things don’t go as planned. Your response can teach them:

    How you handle challenges

    How self-aware you are

    How well you acknowledge and admit your errors

    How you learn from mistakes and mitigate them going forward

    How do you answer “Tell me about a time you made a mistake”?

    When you put it all together, your answer should roughly follow the STAR method—an interview answer structure for behavioral questions like this one that includes laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of a past experience—but with some minor modifications to ensure you’re fully answering this specific question. Here’s how to make sure your interviewer comes away knowing you can own up to your mistakes and learn from them.

    1. Choose the right mistake to talk about.

    “I recommend talking about minor mistakes,” Smith says. While you may want to come prepared with a story from earlier in your work experience, Muse career coach Barb Girson, CEO of Beyond Sales Tactics, says that as employers are putting an increasing emphasis on emotional intelligence and humanizing the workplace, choosing to talk about a more recent mistake will also be just fine.

    And at least as important as the story itself is how you reacted to it. “Select a mistake that reflects your ability to own your errors, take in feedback, create a plan for improvement, problem-solve, and share lessons learned,” Girson says.

    Here are some kinds of mistakes you might talk about:

    Miscommunications Misunderstandings

    Lack of attention to detail

    Situations where you were reactive instead of proactive

    Errors on work products you submitted

    Missed deadlines Productivity issues

    Conflicts, disagreements, or coordination issues when working with others

    Fumbled presentations

    Knowledge or skill gaps

    Meanwhile, you should avoid talking about mistakes that:

    Can be seen as ongoing character flaws (e.g.,“I’m always late”)

    Involve integral skills for the job you’re applying to (e.g., a fundamental accounting error if you’re applying for a financial analyst job)

    Are legal, ethical, or otherwise controversial issues (let’s be real, if your “mistake” was taking a swing at a coworker or pocketing some inventory, you’re not getting the job)

    Are framed to be someone else’s fault (e.g., “I made an error in judgment by trusting my boss’s strategy”)

    Aren’t really mistakes (No, “caring too much” and “working too hard” don’t count.)

    And of course, you should also avoid saying you’ve never made a mistake or can’t recall any.

    2. Clearly lay out the situation.

    Before you get to the mistake itself, give your interviewer all the context they’ll need to understand what your mistake was and why it was in fact a mistake. But don’t feel the need to add in any extra details. Just briefly lay out what the overall goal was for your project, team, or company, and talk about what your individual tasks and responsibilities were.

    For example, Smith suggests you say something like:

    “I was responsible for coordinating the logistics for a live virtual presentation for 100 of our summer interns across the country. Our senior vice president of sales was joining us to talk about their career path and share advice with our interns.”

    स्रोत : www.themuse.com

    Interview Question: "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake"

    Everyone makes mistakes. What's important to employers is how you handle them. Learn how to effectively answer "Tell me about a time you made a mistake" in an interview to stand out among candidates.

    Interview Question: "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake"

    Indeed Editorial Team

    Updated October 3, 2022

    The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

    Video: Interview Question: Tell Me a Time You Made a Mistake at Work

    Holl, a career coach at Indeed, explains how to best answer the tricky interview question, “Tell me a time you made a mistake at work?”

    While discussing previous mistakes may not be your favorite topic, it is a good way to show that you are capable of growth and learning. During a job interview, an employer may inquire about your past work mistakes. By being prepared for this kind of interview question, you can show employers that you can handle a variety of situations.

    In this article, we share how to effectively answer, "Tell me about a time you made a mistake" during an interview.

    Related: Steps To Take After Making Mistakes at Work

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    Why employers ask "Tell me about a time you made a mistake"

    Employers ask "Tell me about a time you made a mistake" to see how you handle challenging situations. Admitting your mistakes shows a sense of integrity and also indicates that you understand that you might have some failures throughout your career. The key to answering this interview question is showing employers that you learned from your mistake. This common interview question shows employers your potential weaknesses and how you might overcome them.

    Related: 20 Common Interview Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

    How to answer "Tell me about a time you made a mistake."

    While this is a question sure to cross industries and situations, how the answer is treated will vary. Follow these steps to effectively answer, "Tell me about a time you made a mistake:"

    1. Outline your mistake

    Start your response by explaining your mistake. Instead of attempting to pass the blame, take accountability for your actions. When picking a mistake, choose a situation that you were able to fix. It's best to discuss minor mistakes rather than large ones. Focus on work-related mistakes rather than personal situations. Likewise, choose a situational mistake instead of one that suggests a flaw in your character.

    Related: 15 Resume Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

    2. Describe your actions

    Explain what you did to resolve your errors. Make it clear that you were actionable in this situation. The purpose of this interview question is to see how you handle mistakes, so emphasize that you are a problem solver. Also, make it clear that you took responsibility for your mistake and admitted that you made an error.

    Related: How To React to Mistakes at Work

    3. Emphasize positive results

    Focus on the results of what you did to fix the mistake. Show the employer that you are capable of handling anything, especially when you are at fault. Try to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Explain that in the end, everything turned out fine.

    4. Discuss what you learned

    You can make the lessons you learned the center of your response. Focus on what you learned and how you have applied this new knowledge to other situations. Explain that you now know how to avoid similar future mistakes and that you learned to be more careful. Show that this mistake resulted in you growing as a professional.

    Video: Interview Question: How Do You Handle Stress?

    Sinéad showcases strategies for answering the question: “How do you handle stress?”

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    Example answers for different job titles

    Here are a few effective answers to "Tell me about a time you made a mistake."

    Editor example

    "As an editor, I was responsible for proofreading the publication's monthly magazine. While I was quite effective at catching mistakes, one time I missed that the page numbers were all one page off. I didn't notice this mistake until we had already sent the files to the printer. I was quite worried about this small detail since the numbers wouldn't align with our table of contents. While the graphic designer was responsible for the design error, I took complete accountability for not catching her mistake.

    As soon as I noticed this mistake, I directly contacted the printer. To my relief, they were behind on production and hadn't started printing our pages yet. I was so relieved, and there was an incredibly quick turnaround. I had the graphic designer fix the error and then asked a few of my fellow editors to triple-check that everything looked correct. We got it sent back to the printer within hours and ended up having our perfect copies printed on time.

    This mistake taught me not to overlook even the smallest details. Even if something is almost always correct, I am sure to fully edit it. To make a publication look credible, I ensure that there are no errors, including formatting ones."

    Related: How To Recover from Mistakes During a Job Interview

    Creative director example

    "When working at my last agency, I made the mistake of sharing the news about a new client too early. While this normally would have been fine, the client ended up going with another firm at the last minute. Since I prematurely shared this news, my team was so excited about this new opportunity. When I had to deliver the bad news, they were all quite disappointed.

    स्रोत : www.indeed.com

    How to Answer "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake"

    Answer the interview question, "Tell me about a time you made a mistake" including what to say, what not to say, and examples of the best answers.



    Interview Question: "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake"

    By Alison Doyle Updated on June 22, 2022

    In This Article VIEW ALL

    What the Interviewer Wants to Know

    How to Respond

    Examples of the Best Answers

    Tips for Giving the Best Response

    What Not to Say


    A typical job interview topic is past work-related mistakes. One question the interviewer might ask about past mistakes is, “What have you learned from your mistakes?" Another is, "Tell me about a time you made a mistake."

    While the topic might make you uncomfortable, it’s important to know how to answer a job interview question about mistakes. Your response can help you get a job offer—or knock you out of contention for the job.

    Here's how to respond to interview questions about mistakes, with examples of the best answers.

    What the Interviewer Wants to Know

    The interviewer asks questions like this to learn how you handle challenges. Everyone makes mistakes, and the interviewer wants to know how you handle them when it happens to you.

    They also ask these types of questions to determine your weaknesses, and decide if you have what it takes to do the job well.


    When answering this question, you want to be honest, but you should also do your best to tell a positive story about how you became a better job candidate because of a mistake.

    Read below for more tips on how to answer this question, as well as sample answers you can tailor to your career experiences.

    How to Answer, "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake”

    The best way to answer this question is to talk about a specific example of a time you made a mistake:

    Briefly explain what the mistake was, but don’t dwell on it.

    Quickly switch over to what you learned or how you improved, after making that mistake.

    You might also explain the steps you took to make sure that the mistake never happened again.


    When talking about what you learned, try to emphasize the skills or qualities you gained that are important for the job you’re interviewing for now.

    You might also explain that something you struggled with a long time ago has actually now become one of your strengths.

    You want your example of a mistake to be honest. However, it's a good idea not to mention a mistake that would be critical for success in the new position. For instance, give an example from your last position that isn't specifically related to the job requirements for the new position.

    It's also a good idea to mention something that is relatively minor. Avoid mentioning any mistakes that demonstrate a flaw in your character (for example, a time you got in trouble for fighting at work).

    Sometimes a good mistake to mention is a team mistake. You don’t want to place all the blame on your teammates, but you can say that you collectively made an error.

    Examples of the Best Answers

    Here are some sample answers that you can use to help you prepare and practice your own response to this common job interview question.

    Note how most of these examples use the STAR interview response technique, in which an interviewee describes a Situation, Task, Action, and Result to explain how they responded to and learned from a workplace situation.

    Example Answer #1

    When I first became an assistant manager of a sales branch, I tried to take on everything myself, from the day-to-day operations of the branch to making all of the big sales calls. I quickly learned that the best managers know how to delegate effectively so that work is done efficiently. Since then, I have won numerous awards for my management skills, and I believe a lot of this has to do with my ability to delegate effectively.

    Why It Works: This answer demonstrates how the candidate is able to evaluate and learn from challenging work responsibilities, readjusting course as necessary. It’s a great example of how to turn a “mistake” or “negative” (a tendency to micro-manage) into a positive management skill (the ability to delegate).

    Example Answer #2

    I’m the kind of person who tries to learn and grow from every mistake. Years ago, a team I was working on failed to land a sale, and we were told it had to do in part with our ineffective visuals. Over the next six months, I spent much of my free time learning how to use various software programs to create enticing visual presentations. Since then, I’ve been continuously praised for my visuals in meetings and sales pitches.

    Why It Works: This response skillfully reduces the level of the candidate’s culpability for a critical work review by casting it as a team failing, then explaining how he took the initiative to increase his personal skillset to ensure that his team did better in the future. It highlights both his desire to learn and his dedication to being a strong contributing team member.

    Example Answer #3

    One thing I have learned from past mistakes is when to ask for help. I have learned that it is far better to ask for clarification and solve an issue right away than to be unsure. I know that your company emphasizes teamwork and the need to be in constant communication with one another, and I think my ability to ask (and answer) questions of my peers would help me fit in very well with your company culture.

    स्रोत : www.thebalancemoney.com

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