How to effectively answer - What is your biggest failure?

How to Answer Without Failing – What was your Biggest Failure?

“What was your biggest failure?” is a tough interview question that frightens interviewees.
Learn how to use it as an “opportunity” to impress interviewers.

We all experience failure in our lives, but how we deal with that failure determines our success. No one is perfect, and everyone has experienced failure at some point in their life. 

When asked about your biggest failure in an interview, you don’t need to shy away from the question. In fact, it’s important to be open and honest about what happened. 

By discussing your biggest failure honestly, you can show that you are willing to learn from your mistakes and grow as a person. Plus, talking about your biggest failure can also help you demonstrate qualities like resilience and perseverance. 

So how do you go about answering this tricky interview question, “What was your biggest failure?”

We’ll share some real-world examples of how others have answered this question. By following these tips and advice, you can feel confident when answering this challenging interview question.



15 Similar Questions in interviews to “What was your biggest failure?”

  1. What’s your greatest professional failure?
  2. Tell me about a mistake that you made.
  3. What was your biggest mistake, and what did you learn from it?
  4. Tell me about a decision that you regret.
  5. What’s your greatest professional regret?
  6. Tell me about your biggest failure.
  7. What has been your greatest failure?
  8. What did you learn from your biggest failure?
  9. Tell me what you consider as your greatest failure?
  10. What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?
  11. Tell me about a Time when you Experienced Failure and what you learned from it.
  12. What do you consider your greatest failure?
  13. How did you overcome your greatest failure?
  14. What is your greatest failure?
  15. Tell about your biggest failure and the lesson you learned from it.

On a side note, you may also want to prepare for interview questions about your fears!


Why do Interviewers ask, “What was your Biggest Failure?”

You may quickly imagine that the interviewer wants the challenge you. It may be partially true but there are many more important reasons why interviewers ask about your failure.

3 Big Reasons why interviewers ask you – What is your biggest failure?

1. The interviewer doesn’t ask you this question to make you feel nervous. It’s quite the opposite. They are asking because they want to understand how you deal with difficult situations and what you learned from them.

2. Many interviewers ask about failures because they want to know how you deal with them. Do you learn from your mistakes? Are you able to reflect on them objectively? Do you try to avoid making the same mistake in the future? 

3. Your answer to this question can say a lot about your character. So, it’s important to choose something you consider a failure, not just something that didn’t quite go your way. 

More importantly, your answer should focus on what you learned from the experience and what you’ll do differently in the future.

For example, let’s say you were interviewing for a job as a salesperson. You could discuss how, in the past, you’ve been successful at building rapport with customers and solving their problems.

However, you might also mention that you’ve realized that you need to work on your closing skills. As a result, you’ll make sure to spend more time practicing your closing techniques in the future.

Think of your biggest failure as an opportunity to showcase your resilience, problem-solving skills, and growth mindset. Don’t be afraid to share a story involving some adversity or challenge you had to overcome.

The key is, to be honest, and put a positive spin on the story. For example, rather than talking about how you failed miserably at a project, talk about how you took what you learned from that experience and applied it in real life.

Many times answering this question gives you to showcase your achievements in an impressive manner!

How to prepare your answer for “What is your biggest failure?”

Most of the time this question makes you naturally uncomfortable. Your response may be triggered by your reptile brain! Because it can be a fight or flight situation for most candidates.

The biggest worry on your mind is – What if I create a bad impression on the interviewer? What if it costs me the job? You may even feel overwhelmed!

Lets see how you can come up with a great answer for this daunting interview question!

6 Things to Remember when Answering – What is your biggest failure in life

1. It is better to write your answer down in advance to be clear and concise when giving your response.

2. Talk about a failure that had a silver lining or that you learned from.

3. It’s important, to be honest, and authentic when answering this question. After all, the interviewer is looking to see if you have the qualities they’re looking for in a hireable candidate.

4. No matter how you decide to approach this question, make sure your answer is positive and shows that you are willing to take ownership of your failures.

5. Be prepared to talk about what you learned from the experience and how it has made you a better person or employee.

6. Finally, always remember to stay humble – no one is perfect.

There’s a big difference between a good failure and a bad failure. A good failure is one where you learn from your mistake and become a better person. A bad failure is one where you don’t learn from your mistake and continue making the same mistakes repeatedly.

We would not recommend blaming anyone else for your failures. It’s important to take responsibility for your actions, and by shifting blame, you’re only doing yourself a disservice.

There are times when outside factors beyond our control can contribute to our failures. In those cases, it’s important to be honest about what happened and learn from the experience.

You may be asked about your biggest failure in an interview to gauge your ability to learn from your mistakes and become successful.

5 Factors in an impactful answer for interview question on failure

  1. Share a thoughtful answer: The interviewer may want to know what you consider your biggest accomplishment or failure to get a sense of what you value as important. Be sure to give a thoughtful answer that showcases your ability to reflect on your experience and articulate what you’ve learned.
  1. Make a connection to share your learnings from the failure: Often, our greatest failures can be turned into our biggest successes if we view them as learning opportunities. In your answer, try to connect your failure and how it has helped you become more clear-headed.
  1. Share an example of a time when you failed in a professional setting. Be honest about what went wrong and what you learned from the experience.
  1. Don’t try to sugarcoat your failure or make it sound like it wasn’t a big deal. OWN it!
  1. Talk about what you did to try to fix the situation and what you learned from the experience.

How to choose a good Failure for the interview

There is no perfect answer to this question, as everyone’s definition of a “good” failure will differ. However, here are a few tips to help you choose an interview failure that will work well for you:

  • Pick a failure that is not too major. Something like a failed test or project will suffice. Too big of a failure may make you seem like you’re not capable of bouncing back or learning from your mistakes.
  • Make sure the failure you choose highlights some lessons learned. Interviewers don’t want to hear about when you made a mistake and didn’t learn anything from it.
  • Try to keep your story positive rather than focusing on the negative details of the failure.

6 Tips to Effectively answer, “What was your biggest failure?”

When interviewers ask about your biggest failure, they’re looking to see how you handle difficult situations. They want to know how you bounced back from a setback and what you learned from the experience.

The best way to answer this question is to share a story about when you faced adversity and didn’t give up. Here are a few tips for preparing your response:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice telling your story out loud. This will help you stay calm and collected when you’re in the interview room. Be prepared for questions about why the situation happened and what you could have done differently. Make sure you have a good answer ready.

2. Don’t be afraid to share your failure

When interviewers ask about your biggest failure, they aren’t looking for you to share a story about something that went wrong in your past. They want to know how you handled the situation and what you learned from it.

So don’t be afraid to share your failures. Just focus on the lessons you learned and explain how those lessons have helped you become a better person and employee.

And if you’re still struggling to come up with an answer, here are a few tips:

  • Think about a time when you didn’t meet your expectations
  • A time when you made a mistake that had serious consequences
  • A time when things didn’t go according to plan

3. Be honest and don’t try to sugarcoat it

The best way to answer the question about your biggest failure is to be honest. Don’t try to sugarcoat it or make it sound like something that wasn’t a big deal. Be open and candid about what happened and how you felt about it. According to HireRight, a whopping 85 percent of employers have caught applicants falsifying their qualifications. 

Talking openly about failure can show that you’re self-aware and have reflected on your experiences. It can also demonstrate that you’re able to learn from your mistakes. Honesty is always the best policy, so don’t try to downplay your failures in an interview setting.

4. Own up to your mistakes and take responsibility for them

When interviewers ask about your biggest failure, they’re not looking for you to bash yourself. They want to know how you responded when things didn’t go your way.

The best answer is to take responsibility for your mistake and talk about what you learned from it. For example, if you lost a contract because you didn’t deliver on time, explain what steps you took to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.

If you can show that you’re willing to learn from your mistakes, interviewers will be more likely to trust that you’ll be successful in the future.

5. Have a positive attitude and focus on the lessons you’ve learned.

Try to have a positive attitude and focus on the lessons you’ve learned. For example, if you were laid off from a job, explain how that experience taught you the importance of networking and being proactive in your job search. Or, if you failed a class in college, talk about how you took that experience as an opportunity to learn more about the subject and improve your studying habits.

6. Highlight Your Strengths and Achievements when possible

Often interview questions about your failures are a big opportunity to talk about your strengths and highlight your relevant achievements! In simple words, this is when you can sell yourself effectively.

Generally, the strengths that you mention in your resume and the achievements that you add to your resume are a good reference.

But you can also refer to our comprehensive collection of examples of your strengths and weaknesses for the interviews here!



5 Sample Answers for “What is your biggest failure?”

We have written 31 carefully crafted answers for an interview question on failure in a separate blog post ! You can check them now.

At the same time lets look at a few ones right here.

Sample answer for freshers

  1. As an engineering graduate, I am constantly reminded of my biggest failure: submitting my project late by a week. It haunts me, and I know I could have prevented it if I had just managed my time better. We were asked to create and install a brand new system for our campus, and we only had two weeks to do it. The project called for a lot of precision and teamwork, so naturally, we were all very stressed. One night, about four days before the project was due, I was up until three in the morning working on it. I was exhausted, frustrated, and bleary-eyed and made a crucial mistake that set us back about two full weeks. I received a B+ and missed out on an A after my team completed the task. I felt as if I let everyone down afterward, which convinced me that I needed to manage my time better. After that, I recognized that I had to improve my time management skills.

Sample Answers for 2-5 years of experience

  1. It’s tough to say because it could be argued that everything I’ve done up until this point has been a learning experience. However, if I had to choose one thing, I would say that my biggest failure was not effectively targeting my audience with my marketing campaigns. It’s essential to know your target market and what they want to create effective marketing campaigns. Sometimes this can be not easy because you have to anticipate their needs and desires, but it’s essential to do your research to create campaigns that appeal to them specifically. Thankfully, I’ve learned from this mistake and have now implemented systems to track and measure everything I do. This has allowed me to be more strategic with my marketing efforts and get better results.
  1. My biggest failure as an accounting professional was not seeking more help and guidance when I first started. I was eager to learn and do everything independently when I first started. This resulted in a lot of wasted time and energy and some poor decision-making. If I had sought more help and guidance from more experienced professionals, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. In one instance, I failed to catch an error in data entry that resulted in an inaccurate financial report. Luckily, the error was discovered and corrected before any damage was done, but it was still a big disappointment for me. Seek out help and guidance whenever you can – it will make you a much better accountant (and person) in the long run. 
  1. There are a few things that stand out as my biggest failures as a project manager: 
  • One is not properly understanding the requirements or scope of a project before starting it, which can lead to significant delays and budget overruns. 
  • Another is not properly managing stakeholders, which results in them becoming unhappy and uncooperative. 
  • Not being able to foresee and mitigate potential risks has also led to some projects falling apart at the last minute. 

Thankfully, I’ve learned how to communicate my ideas and requirements so that there are no delays or properly managing stakeholders.

  1. I was recently promoted to a sales manager role, and during my first few months on the job, I realized that one of my biggest failures was not being more engaged with my team. I’m the type of person who likes to be very hands-off and let my team members figure things out for themselves. However, I quickly realized that this wasn’t the best way to manage a sales team. By not being more engaged with them, I wasn’t providing them with the support they needed, and as a result, their performance suffered. Thankfully, I recognized this early on in my tenure as a sales manager and was able to course-correct relatively quickly. But it was a lesson learned for me and something that I’ll keep an eye on.

5 Big Mistakes to avoid when talking about your Biggest Failures

Answering a question about your biggest failure in an interview can be difficult. However, there are certain mistakes that you should avoid making. Here are four of them: 

  • Failing to prepare for the question: This is one of the most common mistakes made by interviewees. You should always anticipate tough questions and be prepared to answer them. Failing to do so will likely leave you feeling flustered and could cost you the job.
  • Giving a self-pitying answer: No one wants to hear you wallow in your misery. Be sure to focus on what you learned from the experience and how it has made you a stronger person today. 
  • It’s important to be succinct when describing your biggest failure. If you ramble on, the interviewer may lose focus or get bored. So choose one or two key examples that best illustrate what went wrong and why it was a fail.
  • Also, avoid saying you’ve never failed. Everyone makes mistakes, and admitting to them shows humility and strength. Plus, it can help others learn from your experiences.
  • Don’t badmouth others either. This will only make you look petty and unprofessional. Instead, stay positive and constructive in your feedback.


So, what is your biggest failure? Do you feel tense thinking about it? It’s okay. We all have them. The key is to be prepared with an answer that shows you are willing to learn from your mistakes and grow as a person. 

And if you don’t have an answer yet, that’s fine too – be sure to think about it before your interview.

In the meantime, check out some of our sample answers for this question so you can start thinking about how you want to approach it. 

If you want to prepare thoroughly for your next interview, check out our extensive collection of Interview Questions for freshers and those early in their careers.

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