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How to Successfully Talk about Failure in a Job Interview

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Failing is just as important as succeeding, but we hardly ever see it that way. But maybe it’s time to change that. This is how to talk about failure.

We constantly talk about our achievements and how these should always be included in your resume, but what about our failures? Aren’t these important? Why don’t we pay more attention to our failed attempts to succeed?

Most people think that talking about past failures will only make them look unprofessional in recruiters’ eyes but, quite surprisingly, that’s simply not the case. In fact, someone who isn’t afraid to talk about their past failures has a better chance of getting hired because failures give concrete examples on experiences where you were faced with a challenge which you overcame and which taught you a valuable lesson.

From this point of view, failure makes a better teacher than success and is more appropriate to talk about in a job interview. Failure teaches you more important lessons than all your little successes and achievements combined, as these allow you to think about your mistakes, figure out what went wrong, and improve your game until you get it right.


Next time you are invited to a job interview, you better be prepared to talk about your failures. Some interviewers may ask you to do so, anyway, so you might want to have an ace up your sleeve.

See Also: How to Answer Tricky Interview Questions

1. Define Failure

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When asked to talk about a time you failed, you can explain to interviewers how you see failure. In order to do that, you first need to pick an example where you think you’ve failed. You have to think this carefully, though, so that it makes sense and that it’s an example that you can talk about with recruiters. So, this could be a group project that went wrong and not being able to deliver up to standards or within the given deadline. The choice is really up to you as long as this is an obvious failure from which there is a lesson to be learned. After you are done talking about your failure, finish it off with what you think failure means to you. A quote on failure from a person that you look up to could fit perfectly here.

2. Tell a Story

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Pick a real failure and prepare to talk about an example where you failed miserably so there is no chance employers will think that you are just playing with them. No matter how bad you messed up, there is always a way to make it look like a lesson that you had to learn the hard way. I won’t say that the more serious the failure is, the more likely you are to make them believe you, because that’s not true. Just make sure that you are convincing. An effective way to do so would be to use the rule of three in storytelling. This will help them remember your story, even after they are done interviewing the last candidate.

3. Focus on What You’ve Learned

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There’s really no point talking about failures if you don’t know what purpose they served in your career development. Realising what good came out of this will also help interviewers understand their real value because these are what made you the professional you are today. This is to show employers that you have come to acknowledge your mistakes, and if you ever find yourself in the same situation again, you will choose to act differently and, ultimately, do better.

Failure isn’t something that you should be embarrassed about. Quite the contrary; it’s more like something to be proud of. Besides, every successful person has been through a series of difficult situations multiple of times before they managed to do well in their careers.

What’s your opinion on failure? Should you talk about it in job interviews? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!