How to Discuss Failure

When interviewing for a job, you do everything you can to impress the hiring manager. The last thing you want to discuss is your failures. However, interviewers can’t get enough of this subject because your response is very telling. No one is perfect, but the way you handle your mistakes offers insights on your level of self-awareness, personal accountability, definition of success and willingness to take risks — all incredibly important to a potential employer.

Expect to be asked about your biggest failure during your next job interview and prepare a response that presents you as the kind of person who isn’t afraid to fail, as long as you learn something along the way. Use these tips to discuss failure in a manner sure to impress a potential employer.

Choose Something Relevant

Interviewers want to hear about a failure relevant to your professional life, so keep your personal blunders under wraps. While you may consider your divorce or a poor real estate investment your number one failure, a job interview isn’t the time or place to broach subjects of this nature. Choose a mistake directly relevant to the job, so it can easily be put into context. For example, if you’re searching for a job as a medical billing specialist, choose a failure you experienced in this position or a similar one, instead of something that happened when you were working your way through school as a banquet server.

Be Open and Honest

At first thought, telling the interviewer you’re a perfectionist who has never made a big mistake may seem like the best route, but that will just make you appear arrogant. The interviewer knows you’ve made your share of gaffes because that’s part of being human, so be honest. When detailing the mistake you’ve chosen to share, explain exactly what happened and the role you played in the failed outcome. Passing the blame onto someone or something else gives the impression you’re not accountable for your actions. You want to gain the respect of the hiring manager, and the only way to do this is owning your flaws.

Share What You Learned

Everyone makes mistakes; it’s what you learn from them that counts. Position the blunder as an incredible learning experience that helped you grow personally and professionally. Explain you’re actually glad it happened because you emerged from the situation stronger than ever. No one wants to hire a candidate who is constantly second-guessing themselves because they’re afraid of failure, so put a positive spin on it. Looking back with regret at past blunders accomplishes nothing, but using the experience as a way to become better in the future is everything.

Prior to making a hiring decision, employers want to learn as much as possible about candidates — including insights on their highest and lowest moments. Instead of viewing questions regarding failure as a trap, use them to position yourself as a strong employee the team would be lucky to have. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you find your next behavioral health position, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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