They asked, “Tell me about a time you did something wrong.”
Even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, talking about past mistakes is a good way to show that you can grow and learn. An employer may ask you about mistakes you made on the job in the past during a job interview. By being ready for this kind of question, you can show employers that you can handle different situations.
This article tells you how to answer the interview question “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
Why do employers ask, “Tell me about a time you did something wrong?”
“Tell me about a time you made a mistake,” employers ask, to see how you deal with problems. Taking responsibility for your mistakes shows that you are honest and that you know you will fail at some things in your career. In an interview, the best way to answer this question is to show that you’ve learned from past mistakes. This is a common interview question that shows potential employers what your weaknesses might be and how you could get around them.
How to answer “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
Even though this question will be asked in many different industries and situations, how the answer is handled will vary. To give a good answer to “Tell me about a time you did something wrong,” follow these steps:
1. Outline your mistake
Tell me what you did wrong to start your answer. Don’t try to blame someone else for what you did; own up to what you did. If you have to pick one, pick a mistake you were able to fix. Talking about small mistakes is better than talking about big ones. Focus on mistakes at work instead of your own problems. Also, pick a mistake that was caused by a certain situation instead of one that shows a flaw in your character.
Tell us what you did to make up for what you did wrong. Show that you could have stopped this from happening. The point of this question is to find out how you handle mistakes, so emphasize that you are good at finding solutions. Also, make it clear that you know you did something wrong and that you own up to it.
3. Pay attention to the good results.
Watch what you did to fix the mistake and how it turned out. Show the employer that you can deal with anything, even if you made a mistake. Try to think about what’s good about what’s going on. Show that in the end, everything worked out.
4. Share what you have learned.
You can talk about the lessons you’ve learned in your answer. Pay attention to what you’ve learned and how you’ve used it in other places. Tell them that you’ve learned how to avoid making the same mistake again and that this has made you more careful. Show how this mistake has helped you do your job better.
Different job titles get different answers.
If someone asks you, “Tell me about a time you did something wrong,” here are some good answers.
“As an editor, it was my job to check the monthly magazine for errors before it went to print. I was usually good at finding mistakes, but once I didn’t notice that the page numbers were all off by one. I didn’t realize I’d made a mistake until after I’d sent the files to the printer. The numbers didn’t match up with our table of contents, so I was worried about this little thing. Even though the mistake was made by the graphic designer, I took full responsibility for not catching it.
I called the printer as soon as I saw this mistake. To my relief, they had not even started printing the pages yet because they were behind on making them. Everything went back to normal so quickly, and I was so happy. I had the graphic designer fix the mistake, and then I had a few other editors check three times to make sure everything looked right. We sent it back to the printer within hours, and the perfect copies came out right on time.
I learned from this mistake that I shouldn’t miss anything, no matter how small. Even if something is almost always right, I will make sure to edit it thoroughly. I make sure that a publication doesn’t have any mistakes, including ones with the way it’s put together, so that it looks like it can be trusted.”
A creative director as an example
“When I worked at my last agency, I told everyone ahead of time about a new client. Most of the time, this would have been fine, but the client decided at the last minute to go with another firm. I told my team about this new chance too soon, so they were very excited about it. Everyone was very sad when I had to tell them the bad news.
I told my boss and my team that I was sorry to fix the problem. I told them I just wanted to tell them how excited I was, but now I see how important it is to wait until all the contracts are signed and processed. From this, I learned that I shouldn’t make any big decisions until I have everything written down. By buying them lunch, I made my team feel a little bit better.”
A manager of marketing as an example
“I wanted to make a good first impression when I became a manager for the first time. Because I wanted to make a good impression, I took on more work than I could handle. I ended up feeling tired and stressed out all day because I had too much to do. When I talked to my mentor, she told me that I needed to give my team more work. I did what she asked and gave my team more things to do.
At the end of the day, these changes were good for my team. Some people even said they didn’t have enough work and would be glad to have more. After I gave them this work, I finally had the time I needed to work on the rest of my projects. I ended up doing better work, and my team was able to grow in their roles as well. I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that I can do a lot, but not everything.”
Sales representative example
“I’ve learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made over the years. When I first started working, I wasn’t selling as much as I wanted to. This was the mistake that made me the most mature. I went to my boss and asked for help instead of giving up. He told me that my biggest mistake was not following up with customers enough. When I did what he said, my numbers did indeed double. This taught me that following up on leads is important and that I can always do better.”
Financial planner example
“When I was an intern, I was a lot more shy than I am now. During my internship, I was afraid to ask questions. I always thought people were too busy to help me. During my performance review, my boss told me that he didn’t think I was learning enough. He said I should ask questions to learn more. I asked a lot more questions after we talked, and I learned a lot in that role. When I finished school, they offered me a job.
I learned how important it is to ask questions from this mistake. I ask all of my clients a long list of questions now that I’m a financial planner. I want to learn as much as I can about money so I can help them make better decisions.”