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Tell Me About a Professional Failure You Have Had (VIDEO)

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter discusses answering a question an interviewer might pose asking you To discuss a professional failure you have had.


Today, I'm going to talk with you about a new hot question interviewing that is a variation on an old one that has been taken to a much more extreme level. The original question was, "Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Tell me about a mistake that you made and what you learned from it."

That was the original framing of the question; what see it is by how it has been taken to an extreme. "Tell me about a professional failure that you had." Notice we are no longer talking about mistakes. We' re talking about a failure, something far more extreme in everyone's mind. "Tell me about what you've learned from it (that part is the same). Tell me about what you could have done differently (This is taking responsibility for the failure)." These at a whole new dimension to the original question.

There when I used to advise people that have answer the original question, I would tell them to talk about something early in their career for you might've learned that it just doesn't pay to buckle down and work harder. What you might've learned is communicating the difficulty, making sure that you reach out for help so that no one is surprised that things don't come in on time.

Today, when someone is asking about a failure, I want you to think seriously about this. I don't want you to go back to that beginner's scenario because I think it is a week answer. What I believe there are looking for something far more self-reflective. They don't expect you to confess that you are the most incompetent employee at the list to organizations that you worked for. They are asking for specific instance where you struggled.

You might talk about something where you are assigned the responsibility, perhaps, didn't reach out early enough to get consensus on some of your thoughts, trying to force things through that weren't really wanted and learned from this the importance of getting consensus at times from key stakeholders.
That's always a good answer to work with. If you are in your 50's, you can talk about this happening in your 30's. in your 1st leadership role. If you're in your 40's you can talk about something more akin to that 1st answer that I gave earlier -- a time early in your career where you didn't communicate all that well until it was too late and then the impact on the organization, project, others and how grievous a mistake it was.

Part of the way you answer this is theatrical. You can't make it seem as though you have a canned answer. You have to act in a way that seems as though your agonizing over this because part of what they're looking for is a personality type who has a degree of self-reflection.

You can't answer this question by saying, "I never fail than anything in my life. I had been an A+ performer every step along the way. There has been no instances in my life, no circumstances professionally where I messed up." WRONG ANSWER!

Steve Jobs failed. Barack Obama failed. Donald Trump failed. Everyone fails the question is what you learn from it and what you understand that you could have done differently to avoid the worst circumstances from the failure.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.


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2 thoughts on “Tell Me About a Professional Failure You Have Had (VIDEO)

  1. I made a decision without the consent of my leader and did not tell him.
    This made my leader look like he wasn’t in control for he wasn’t aware of
    it. I learned miscommunication is bad.

  2. I made a decision without the consent of my leader and did not tell him. This made my leader look like he wasn’t in control for he wasn’t aware of it. I learned miscommunication is bad.

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