Tell Me About a Time You Were On a Team Project That Failed

In a job interview, the interviewer wants to get to know you and understand how you react in certain situations that you are likely to encounter on the job. They cannot get this information by just reading your cover letter and resume. Therefore, they will ask you questions to get an understanding of your behavior in situations related to the job. A common job interview question is ‘Tell me about a time you were on a team project that failed.’

Even though you’re at a job interview and you want to impress the interviewer, he or she asks you about a time you failed. Asking about a time you failed on a team project might sound like a trick question. It’s not; you can actually use these questions to your advantage by demonstrating that you learned from failures and that they made you a better professional. But how do you answer a question regarding failures in general and team effort failures? Read all about it in this blog.

There are also several other questions the interviewer can ask to get more information from you, such as:

  • Tell me about a time when you failed.
  • Describe a time you had to bounce back from a setback.

In this blog, we discuss why the interviewer is asking questions about working in fast-paced work environments. Also, we tell you what you should focus on when answering this question. Furthermore, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why Interviewers Ask About A Failed Team Project

Before you start preparing your answer to the interviewer, it’s important to understand the goal of the interviewer when he or she asks about failures. The interviewer wants to get an in-depth insight into your character and personality.

This means that he or she will ask you questions that will show you react when you encounter situations and how you handle conflicts in the workplace. Of course, you want to make the best impression possible, and it might feel uncomfortable to share a story about a time your performance was less than impressive. However, as mentioned earlier, you can use questions about failures to your advantage.

Interviewers are not interested in exposing your flaws and this question is not asked to find a reason to reject you. The answer you give to ‘Tell me about a time you were on a team project that failed‘ reveals a lot about your character and personality. By asking this question interviewers try to reveal several things, such as:

  • Whether you’re self-aware and honest enough to admit failure and take responsibility for it.
  • If you can explain what you learned from a challenging situation.
  • If you can bounce back from a setback and learn from failure.
  • How you handle criticism and feedback as a professional.
  • If you can think and react quickly when needed.

Of course, the interviewers know that everybody makes mistakes and has had a failure at some time in their career. Therefore, ensure that you are able to discuss these situations and explain how you handle failure and how you use the lessons learned to accomplish success in the future.

Behavioral Interview Questions About A Failed Team Project

It’s important that you understand what the question ‘Tell me about a time you were on a team project that failed‘ asks from you. These types of questions are called behavioral interview questions. These types of strategic interview questions require you to provide the interviewer with an example situation that you experienced in professional work environments.

Behavioral job interview questions focus on work situations that you experienced in the past and how you responded to them. These questions are meant to uncover your past behavior in work situations. Your behavior in past situations is the best indicator for interviewers on how you are likely to approach similar situations in the future.

Behavioral job interview questions often include topics such as teamwork, leadership, creative thinking, project management, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

Behavioral job interview questions usually start with:

  • Tell me about a time when
  • Describe a time when
  • Give me an example of a time when

Job interview questions about failures are often asked in behavioral job interviews. The interviewer is interested in how you react when you face failure. Is this something that gives you extra motivation for the next projects with renewed enthusiasm and energy? Or does failure hurt your ego, and do you decide to take a different approach in the future? All this information is used by the interviewer to gain more understanding of your personality.

STAR Interview Technique To Answer Behavioral Questions

Behavioral job interview questions are best answered by providing example situations according to the STAR method. This way, you can give interviewers exactly what they are looking for. Also, it allows you to provide a concise and to the point answer about how you acted in previous work situations.

Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.

Situation

When you answer the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the specific teamwork situation or challenge you and your team were facing. Also, make sure to provide relevant details that led to the failure. When the interviewer asks you questions about a time you failed, make sure that you provide all the details necessary for them to understand what you were up against.

Task

After you describe the situation, talk about your specific responsibilities and what your role was in your team. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task during that specific teamwork situation.

Action

Then, talk about the actions you took to resolve the challenges you were facing while under stress. Provide the interviewer with a step by step description of what actions you took.

Result

Finally, talk about the outcomes of your and your team’s actions. In this case, how the actions you took led to failure. Here you answer questions such as What happened? And What results did you get? Also, provide the interviewer with information about what you learned from the situation. Make sure to focus on yourself and positive learning experiences.

Structuring your answer according to the STAR interview technique allows you to provide a strong, concrete, and concise answer. Below there are some additional tips you can take into consideration when preparing your answers according to the STAR-method:

  1. Try to be as specific as you possibly can.
  2. Keep your answer concrete and concise.
  3. The focus of your story should be on your contribution, your thought process, motives, and, actions.
  4. Recent situations are usually better, but if you have a great example that you learned from earlier in your career, you can use this too.
  5. Try to use different types of scenarios when preparing your answer. This way, you can use one that is most applicable if the question is asked.
  6. Always stay positive even when situations can have outcomes that were not that positive. Focus on what you learned and emphasize what you would different if you would encounter a similar situation in the future.

How To Answer Job Interview Questions About Failed Team Projects

Your goal is, of course, to make the best impression possible during your job interview. However, just like anyone else, you need to be able to discuss your failures even though it’s a sensitive subject. By preparing your answer, you can actually use this question as an opportunity to steer it into a positive direction. By finding strength in your failed situation, you can impress the interviewer. Being able to admit that you failed in the past is a sign of confidence and shows that you are committed to the task at hand.

Whatever scenario you decide to go for never tell the interviewer that you cannot recall any failures or that you do not make any mistakes. Avoiding this question will or not answering is not an option. If you can demonstrate the interviewer that you were able to find strength and courage even though you were disappointed due to failure, this will show that you have the right character and indicate how you will behave if you would encounter such a situation again in the future.

When you give your answer, make sure to go into detail on why the project failed. Discuss the situation, what your role was, and what mistakes were made during the project. The interviewer knows that nobody’s perfect, so being able to demonstrate such an example shows that you can reflect on yourself.

Example Answers To Job Interview Questions About Failed Team Projects

Below some examples are given that you can use for inspiration to describe a team project that failed.

Example answer 1 – Tell Me About A Team Project That Failed (Experienced Position):

‘In my previous job, I was working with my team on a project for one of our largest clients. Another, more senior team manager offered me to provide additional team members due to the size of the assignment, but I chose the option to keep the project within my team as I thought that we were able to handle it. I was going to actively be involved in the project and take on tasks myself too.

The scope of the project and the work that needed to be done proved to be too much for the team. The project was divided into three parts, and we failed to reach the deadline for the first part.

I ended up deciding to request the additional team members that I should have added in the first place. Together with the other team manager, I was able to figure out which of these team members could add value to my team, and we were able to finish the second part of the project in time. By doing so, we were able to regain the trust of the client.

The initial failure in the process hurt my ego, but the bounce-back was all due to our team effort. I realized that teamwork, discussing the scope of projects with more experienced managers, and prioritizing is the way to go when taking on large projects like the one that I was responsible for.’

Example answer 2 – Tell Me About A Team Project That Failed (Graduate Position):

‘During my summer internship at a local bank, I was working as a data analyst. I worked on a project that involved processing large amounts of data, and I was asked if I could help to structure this data and get it all in a new system that was implemented recently. I did not have any experience with the new software system, and due to time constraints, I did not take the take to fully get acquainted with it.

On the first day that I worked with this new program, I accidentally deleted half of the data. I notified my team leader that put me in contact with our software implementation team. I also took immediate responsibility by figuring out a way to undo the caused damage. It was a very stressful moment for me, but I was able to get the deleted data back in cooperation with the software implementation team.

The project worked out fine, and all deadlines were met, but it was a stressful situation to be in, especially since I was determined to make the best impression possible in that team. I learned that when I encounter stressful situations such as learning to work with new software within a short time frame, I should seek advice from more experienced co-workers upfront on the best way to approach a project.’

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