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Framing Your Failures: How to Turn Missteps into Interview Opportunities

Being able to be eloquent about your failures is a key interviewing skill and helps interviewers know that you’re confident, steady, and risk-tolerant. How can you best discuss examples of ways you’ve tried and not succeeded? Interviewers are not looking for disingenuous, cliche answers such as, “I care too much,” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Neither are they looking for a parade of your insecurities. Discussing your failures is an opportunity to show humility, insight, and growth. Here are three tips to stand out from the crowd when you discuss failure.

  1. Don’t shift blame. You made missteps—own your error. Employers are not interested in hearing how everyone around you messed up. They need to see that you can take responsibility for your decisions.

  2. Show reflection. Failures only become opportunities when you learn from them. Show how you recognized the problems and what insights you gleaned.

  3. Demonstrate process. Explain how you have adjusted your method so that you will not make the same mistake again. You have a process that is dynamic and can be adjusted—and enhanced—by the lessons of failure. Show how your failure has made you better at what you do.

What was your best failure? The one you grew from the most? Share your tragedy and triumph with us.