Talking about your failures in an interview might not be easy. The question ‘What is your failure in life?’ is frequently asked by interviewers to determine the honesty and attitude of an interview candidate. You have to be really smart while you answer this HR interview question.

While answering the question ‘What is your greatest failure in life?’ Be careful about the incident that you choose to explain. Mistakes that resulted in a huge loss should be avoided. Instead, talk about a lesson you learned, which is relevant from an interview perspective. Also, try to sound modest and acknowledge your shortcomings. In this blog, we have compiled some answers to help you shape the best response to ‘Talk about your failure in life and how you overcame the same.’

Get prepared for some of the most frequently asked HR interview questions and answers.

Possible Answer #1

“I have faced different challenges in my career. I have stood up to them to my full potential. In one of these tasks, I feel I did not deliver the expected outcome. It was during the initial years of my career. I was a part of a team with other experienced co-workers. We were given the responsibility to improve the target by 20% at the end of three months. Each one of us worked with great zeal to achieve it. At the end of the quarter, we could only manage to hit 16%. Although we were praised for the collective effort, I personally felt disappointed with my team’s collective effort. During the course of the task, I gained experience required for working in a corporate environment but I feel I could have given better results at the end of it. I took it as a motivation to yield improved numbers in the coming years. And when the next target was given to us, we managed to attain the given figures with ease. The team acknowledged my effort and growth at the end. Although it was not exactly a big failure it ended up being a guide for me in tough circumstances.”

Possible Answer #2

“I had been assigned field work to collect feedback from the clients. I was given a file which had the list of names and addresses. I had to take their feedbacks and signature under their mentioned names. I had been given a time period of three days for the task. There were total 60 names in the file. On the first day, I managed to record feedbacks and signatures of 30 clients. In order to finish up the task before the third day, I failed to take signatures from some of the clients. When I submitted the file early on day 3, I was informed about my mistakes. I was given a chance to get the missing signatures. I went back and collected the signatures before the day ended. It worked out fine at the end but I taught myself to be more vigilant about the upcoming works. I learned that though mistakes are inevitable, being cautious can reduce the chances.”

Possible Answer #3

“Once I was given the responsibility to enter client data into the system. I had done similar data entry work previously. I was given significant time to wrap up the task. I split the work according to my deadline. When just 2 days were left, I shut down the system without saving my work. I quickly realized the mistake and restarted the work just to finish it in time. Most of the lost data was recovered and I managed to complete the task successfully with a few mistakes. Thereon I have been observant on saving the work before shutting down my system. Although I am not proud of this callousness, it has improved me professionally as well as personally.”

Possible Answer #4

“I worked in an organization where we had to communicate in person with prospective clients to seal the deal. We had a whole team working continuously to cold call as many clients as possible, for which each of us were given a list of client names and contact numbers. At the end of the day, we had to come up with three interested parties. On a busy day, I was done with two of my targets and moved on to the third. As I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, I overlooked some details which were necessary to explain. Eventually, just before the end of day, this prospective client refused my deal which was a huge setback to my team’s daily target. I understood the gravity of my mistake and contacted the client again on the following day, and I made sure to apologize and also cleared out each and every point with precision. The client eventually agreed to the deal after a week and the load was finally off my shoulders. Yes, I messed up in the first place but I discovered fresh confidence after clearing up the mess.”

Possible Answer #5

“When I was a marketing intern, I was given the responsibility to collect data about consumer demands pertaining to a particular product, both online and offline through questionnaires. It appeared to be an easy task. So, without paying much attention to the details, I ran a survey and started collecting data one day. When the day was over, I had a significant number of questionnaires filled up. When I submitted them, I was notified that some of the questionnaires were half-filled. I realized I hadn’t checked the details before submission. I felt disappointed as it was a careless act. Being an intern, I was given a second chance. I pushed out the survey again and also went through each and every form in detail atleast 2 times before finally submitting them. I was praised for my efforts though I feel I did not deserve it in the first place, as I had goofed up initially! That is all about my failure in life, atleast upto this point in my career and how I plan to overcome the same.”

Possible Answer #6

“Over the years, I have gained experience through many incidents. In my professional life, I had one such incident which I am not very proud of. But it was important for it to happen. I worked in a company which was going through a tough phase. The head of the company assigned me the role to reinforce some major necessities which could bring the organization back on track. I said I would require just two weeks to do it. Maybe I underestimated the drawbacks. When I started working on the details, I figured out that it would take at least a month to bring out some changes. Being in charge of such a responsibility, I felt embarrassed for my poor time analysis. I requested for a few more resources to help me wrap up the task quickly and my boss agreed. In the end, I managed to revive the business unit with the help of my team. It was an important mistake which had to happen for the benefit of everyone, especially me. I learnt time assessment and management at this point of my career. So it is not exactly a failure in life, but it sure is an unforgettable lesson to me.”

Possible Answer #7

“I personally feel that failures shape you in a vital way. I have had my share of failures or mistakes in my life. The most significant one was at the beginning of my career. I was a member of a team in a reputed organization. At that time, I was completely new to the corporate work environment. The team was responsible for dealing with major projects in both India and abroad. All the team members were specifically ordered to deal with a particular area or region, for example my reporting manager was asked to handle entire APAC or the Asia-Pacific region, end-to-end. Being an amateur techie under him, I did not pay much attention to my region which was India. Instead, I just focussed on my codes and nothing else. I had to directly coordinate with two clients on call and face-to-face, but my poor communication skills led us to lose both of them in due course. This had a grave impact on our revenue numbers. I apologized to the team members as I did not know what to do or how to initiate a damage control. My manager was kind enough to teach me everything about client handling and managing IC work side-by-side. This incident made me realize that multitasking is essential in the corporate world.”

Possible Answer #8

“At some point in your career, you commit a mistake which can cause you embarrassment. I faced it once. Our team was given a task to prepare a presentation about ideas which can improve revenue generation. Each one of us was asked to use a particular font type and font size. By the end of the day, I had totally forgotten this little yet important detail. I prepared the presentation with great zeal but I did not pay any heed to the formatting. On the day of presentation, I went ahead to present my slides. When I finally opened the presentation, the font was not clear enough. It was a highly humiliating experience for me as my audience could not read anything. I quickly excused myself, unplugged the HDMI cable and within 5 minutes made a standard formatting change to manage my show. Later my team members appreciated my ideas, which was a great relief! Everything turned out to be fine at the end. Anyway, it was surely a day of enlightenment for me as I learned that attention to detail is important.”

Possible Answer #9

“I remember the day particularly well. The experience is almost as good as a real teacher! This is how things unfolded on that one fateful day. I was given the job to manually fill some data into a register. My boss had given me 3 days to finish the task. I thought it was more than sufficient time I could have asked for. I started delaying the task, hoping I could complete it on the last day itself. As a result, when I started working, it turned out to be more time-consuming than I had estimated. As a result, I could not finish the task on time. I meekly asked for forgiveness and an extension to complete the job. Although I submitted the task on the 5th day, which means I actually took 3 working days to complete it. Afterwards I felt so embarrassed. I had really been very callous. Since then I have learned a lot about time-management and punctuality. It was certainly an inspiring failure of my life.”

Possible Answer #10

“In a corporate work environment, the basic foundation is built on trust. A client must develop trust with the service provider. And to build that trust, one must clear out each and every detail of the deal in advance. Once, I was dealing with a client for a particular product. To secure the deal, I purposely hid some crucial details. When the pact was in an advanced stage, my client backed out all of a sudden. On inquiring, I came to know that this was a result of hidden costs and terms which I had not explained. To make amends, I apologized to the client. Tough the client did not sign the deal, he appreciated my honesty. After a year, I was finally able to bring him onboard and got him to sign the deal. Although it was a success, I knew I had failed at some point. From that day on, I have been adhering to the ethics of work. You can say it was unprofessional of me. It has been my memorabilia to never walk that path ever again.”

The question “What is your greatest failure in life?’ may come as a surprise to you. You have to make sure that you give a convincing answer. Accepting your mistakes brings out your honest side and also throws light on your positive attitude. Your interviewer should understand that this failure was a learning lesson for you. If you hit the right spot, all the right doors will open for you.

All the best!

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