Everyone hates interview questions that focus on failure. We don’t like to admit to our weaknesses. We are trying to sell ourselves, after all, so why would we want to discuss any of that? The uncomfortable reality, though, is that you will likely be asked one or two questions that get you talking about something other than your victories. You need one failure and one weakness story ready to answer these questions and their variants.
The good news is that you really only need credible examples of one failure and one weakness. Most interviewers are not going to keep drilling for negatives. One great answer to illustrate each kind of question will serve you well, and you can spend the rest of your time and energy preparing your victory stories.
You might hear the questions like this:
“When did you fail to achieve your goals?”
“Tell me about a time that you missed a deadline.”
“Tell me about a time you had to bring bad news to your boss?”
“What are you not good at?”
“What weakness are you working on?”
Answering these questions is easy if you know how. Actually, it is a lot like answering a more positive question in that you want to tell a story with a positive outcome. The difference is that you are starting with a negative and explaining how you learned from it, made changes or compensated, and how you have learned and grown from the experience.
For example, you might say something like this:
Early in my tenure with my current company, I was given a project to revamp our customer follow-up processes. My boss estimated that it would take about two weeks to complete, but he gave me three weeks. My mistake was that I delayed starting the project for a few days. When I dug into the details, I realized that it was more like a four week project as there were people and resources needed that were not immediately available. (Failure Admitted)
After that experience, I made an important change. Now, I review the details of every project that comes my way as soon as it is assigned. I work to identify resources, potential roadblocks and any other concerns right away. (What you learned)
I never made that mistake again. I recently completed a $200,000 budget project two weeks early and was recognized with a “Chairman’s Thanks” award. (Example of Improvement)
To explain a weakness, give an example of how it manifested itself, what you learned, how you compensate or changed, and an example of success. Use the above framework to craft this answer.
Everyone makes mistakes and nobody is great at everything. Smart people reflect on and learn from them. If you can tell this story well, you will have nothing to fear from these interview questions. Think, prepare and practice for success.
There is a lot more interview advice available right here!
See Question 1: Tell me about yourself. — Question 2: Why do you want to work here? — Question 3: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.
Question 4: When have you failed? — Question 5: Why did you leave? — Question 6: Where will you be in five years?
Bill Florin is a Certified Employment Interview Professional and President of Resu-mazing Services Company.