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How to answer "Tell me about a time you made a mistake" question

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

two men talking at a booth

Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something
The only person who never makes a mistake is the person who never does anything.

Why Do Interviewers Ask, "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake."

While this might feel like a trick question, the interviewer just wants to know if you’re capable of acknowledging and learning from your mistakes.

  • It also tells them a lot about your personality.

  • Are you the type of person who never wants to be wrong or wants to blame your mistakes on others?

  • Can you bounce back after a mistake?

Tips on Answering "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake."

  • Don’t talk around the answer or try to make it appear that you’ve never made a mistake.

  • Be human and authentic.

  • Take responsibility for your mistake. You might think that by diverting the blame to someone else, you’re making yourself look better in the interview, but that’s not the case. Showing that you took responsibility is a much better impression and demonstrates your maturity.

  • Don’t focus on the mistake, focus on what you did to resolve it or what you learned from it.

  • Just provide enough detail for them to understand. Then, talk more about the positive outcome.

Sample Answer to the Interview Question "Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake."

"In the first week of my internship at a non-profit, I was asked to research the addresses of a long list of prospects. After working on it for a full day, my supervisor asked to see how far I’d gotten. She realized I was compiling home addresses instead of work addresses.

I was embarrassed because I checked the original email and it did specify work addresses. We decided that I’d do a quick check-in at the beginning of each project for a while to make sure I understood all the requirements. Since then, I’ve learned to be better about reading emails more closely and also checking in with people mid point to provide progress updates to make sure we are on track."

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