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Tough Interview Questions: How to Talk About Past Mistakes

by Apr 6, 2018

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that any interview isn’t going to be filled with easy questions. Any interviewer is going to ask you a tough question or two.

These questions are challenging for a reason. They usually ask you to highlight something or some event in your career where you maybe didn’t perform at your best. A common prompt along these lines is this: Tell me about a time where you made a mistake at work?

Yikes. How do your answer such a question in a positive way? Jane Burnett has a few pointers in her article here that we also recommend.

  • Pick the right mistake: Try not to pick an anecdote that was a total disaster. As a rule of thumb, you want to pick something that wasn’t so bad.Conversely, don’t pick something so tiny that the interviewer thinks you’re over confident.

“She says to talk about one that is ‘big enough to show you’ve got the bumps and bruises of real experience, but small enough to convey you are generally highly competent.’”

  • Avoid mistakes that call the job you’re up for into question: Try to stay away from mistakes that involve actions central to the job you’re interviewing for. For example if you’re up for a job as a Copywriter, don’t mention the mistake where you missed a huge typo in a company-wide email
  • Don’t blame others: One of the worst things you can do is place the blame on your coworkers, or worse, your boss. Whether it’s true or not, it never looks good to throw others under the bus while taking the blame off of yourself.


Photo by Jeremy Beadle on Unsplash

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