How to answer: ‘How do you handle failure?’ in a job interview

Workers in each and every job experience failure every now and then. It comes as no surprise that the interviewer will ask this question. They will want to find out how you will handle the failure. How you will be able to stay focused and composed when faced with failure.

Apart from that, the hiring team will also want to see if you can admit to failure and the lessons you have learned from it. This question is another way of learning about your weaknesses to find out if you are fit for the job. It is quite difficult to talk about your failures as compared to your successes. However, there is a method of effectively responding to this question without appearing unqualified for the job. As a matter of fact, being able to deal with failure, learning from it and forging ahead is a sign that you can be successful at work.

How to respond to interview questions about how you handle failure

The best way for you to arrive at a suitable answer for this question is to brainstorm and think of instances in which you fell short on the task. Select an instance in which you accepted your lack of success, owned it, got a lesson from it and what you did to ensure that it didn’t occur again.

It is much more convenient for you to talk about failures that occurred a while ago. Along with that, mention the steps you have taken to improve yourself and what you have been able to accomplish after taking those steps.

Sample answers to: ‘How do you handle failure?’

Your answer to this question can begin with a general statement. For instance, you can begin your response with a statement like:

“I have always believed that no one is perfect, so I accept that I have failed in some instances. My goal is to devise ways in which I could prevent a similar occurrence in the days to come.”

“I listen to my fellow colleagues at my company for what they have to say about my work performance and advice on how to better myself. In addition to that, I attend training seminars, workshops and watch online tutorials to improve my job skills.”

Give an example of a situation where you failed and solved it successfully

The hiring team will most likely suggest you narrate to them an instance of a failure that you resolved eventually. You can come up with something like this:

  • ‘In 2016 while I was working at the Lazarus restaurant as a manager, I went through a one year phase in which earnings were not increasing. This was appalling as revenue had been growing consistently over the years. After doing my research, I realized that a couple of my business rivals had a competitive advantage over me. They were acquiring a chunk of my customers through social media strategy, online promotions, and advertisements. I came to the conclusion that I needed to incorporate online marketing into the business. I, therefore, started to attend annual conferences and several seminars to learn more about digital marketing. In addition to that, I employed an intern that is well versed with technology, to help in developing a new marketing plan. We created our website, started a Facebook campaign and instituted a loyalty pact. After making these changes, our earnings appreciated by twenty percent in the next quarter.’
  • ‘At the start of my job, I had a tendency of not providing enough information to my clients. Eventually, this led to a depreciation in the earnings of the company. The moment I became aware of my mistake, I instantly owned it. I contacted the client, relayed the lacking information and why I did not feel the need to make this information known to him. It took quite some time to convince the client, but he finally understood and accepted to work with us. I realized that communication is very important. It helps to establish a trustworthy relationship with clients.’

More examples

  • ‘I was conducting a project for an important client in my previous place of work. At the time, I was overconfident which led me to assure him that it would be complete within a fortnight. I thought it could be done. However, the project took three weeks to be completed. This infuriated the client. When I thought about it, I came to the realization that I should have been more realistic in my estimation. I also learned that a client will not be mad if you are honest with them. They will, however, be disappointed if you do not keep your word. I, therefore, learned from this experience and improved my skills at managing what clients expect during projects that I conduct for them. For instance, the next project I did for another client, I promised it would be complete within five weeks but finished it in three. He was very impressed.’
  • ‘At my previous job, our chief executive officer put me in charge of interviewing and employing fresh graduates for our company. I decided to employ someone who seemed to be fit for the position but also portrayed some questionable traits. It was a bad idea. He was very lazy and had a bad attitude. He ended up disappointing the team and had to be sacked. I realized that I needed to be keen, and consult my teammates if I am in doubt about something. I learned that a decision to employ someone is critical. This enabled me to become much better at managing. I have employed ten more individuals without any repeat of the same misstep and the experience has been great. It was a great learning experience at the start of my career.’

What not to say to the interviewer

Avoid mentioning any failures that may make you appear like you are unqualified for the job. Do not mention failures that will show your inability to carry out the job. You do not want to show the employer that you will fail on the job.

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic