What they want to know
Everyone has made a mistake or two throughout their career. But what sets the best candidates apart is being able to discuss your mistakes and express what you learned from the situation. Employers often ask this question because it’s raw – it makes you self-reflect and even puts you on your toes (if you weren’t already standing on them!). Interviewers want to learn if you are self-aware, can accept feedback or criticism, and care about doing your job better.
The most vital thing is, to be honest. The worst thing you can do is answer this interview question with something on the lines of “I honestly can’t think of a time I have made a mistake at work.” Newsflash! You are human, and it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. And be sure to explain how you overcame the mistake. It will demonstrate your resilience and problem-solving abilities!
Pro tip: Don’t blame other people in your answer. Not accepting any of the responsibility for the mistake you discuss is essentially like answering “what’s your greatest weakness?” with a strength – you don’t want to do that.
Example answering tell me about a time you made a mistake
“One time, I dropped the ball on a deadline. I was in the middle of a big software migration, and my boss asked me if I had time to run a report for him. I was swamped that week and was engrossed in this migration project that I was working on for weeks. Time slipped away from me, and I forgot to run the report, and my boss was irritated and missed her deadline. But I learned from this situation that I need to have better communication with my team and not accept more work if I don’t have the bandwidth to complete it.”
This answer is an excellent example for answering this interview question. It addresses the mistake, explains the result, and illustrates the learning moment. The interviewee did not blame anyone else but themselves. Plus, the mistake wasn’t earth-shattering. If you have a terrible mistake in your past, it may be wise to share one that is a little “softer.”
Need help answering more common interview questions?
Don’t worry; at JSG, we have an arsenal of interview prep advice to help you nail your upcoming job interview. Good luck!