Failure is an integral part of each successful journey. And it doesn’t matter whether we talk about your entire life–personal or professional, or about a short episode you had with this or that company. Hopefully you made some impact, but for sure you also had your share of failures and setbacks.

We fail so we can learn and improve and eventually become the better versions of ourselves–at least that’s the attitude hiring managers are typically looking for, in a great job candidate. But how to demonstrate this attitude in an interview? And what exactly should you say when they inquire about your ways of dealing with failure?

We will try to find the answer in this article. Let’s start with some interesting answers to the question. Below the answers you will find some additional explanations and hints, which should help you formulate your own, genuine answer.

 

7 sample answers to “How do you handle failure?” interview question

  1. I try to take each failure as a learning experience. They say for a reason that there are no holidays in as school of life. One lesson follows another one, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. I try to not dwell on my failures for too long. Because there is always new goal to attain, new dream to follow. At least that’s my attitude to life. You cannot always win, and it’s important to forget the failures quickly, and focus on the future.
  2. As a woman, I have a tendency to get emotional when I fail, in both personal endeavors and in my professional life. I may cry for five minutes or five hours–if it is a painful failure. But than I am able to make a thick line and forget about it. Sure, I’d love to just get over it without emotions, but each of us has their own way of dealing with life, and I am on the emotional end. I want to assure you that this doesn’t have a negative impact on my performance in work.
  3. To be honest, I focus on effort, and not on the eventual results. I learned this lesson in my early years, when I competed in athletics on a semi-professional level. Success depends on many factors–and you can control just a few of them. You cannot control what your competitors do, how the situation on the market develops, or some unexpected events, like the virus pandemic, for example. I am well aware of it, and that’s why I get easily over failures. As long as I know that I tried my best, I just accept a failure as an inevitable outcome in the given situation, and move on.
  4. To be honest, I cannot say, because I haven’t experienced a big failure in my life yet. I got to the school of my choice, I passed all exams, and I was lucky on a good relationship that has been lasting for years now, and will likely turn into a marriage. Sure, there were some small setbacks, or if you want bumps on the road, but nothing that will make me think or rue about some decisions or missed opportunities. Certainly I will experience some failures later on, but I am yet to tell how I will handle them.
  5. My way of dealing with failures is analyzing them in detail. Looking back, I try to understand why exactly I failed, and what I could have done differently, or better, in order to succeed. Sometimes it is easy to find a culprit and sometimes I am not sure. But I always try to analyze things, and learn from my failures. At the end of the day, life always resemble a sinusoidal curve–sometimes we are up, and sometimes we are down. That’s how I see it, and do not find it hard to deal with failures.
  6. Speaking honestly, a bottle of gin can do the trick for me at times, or a lonely day in the nature. I’m not a drunkard, or anything like that. But sometimes it helps to clear your head, to do some reset, call it a turning point, and then start with a fresh and clear mind. I also think that it helps when you have around you people who support you in hard times–be it colleagues at work, or friends in your personal life. I also try to be such a colleague, and help others deal with failures.
  7. I handle them with acceptance. I have learned long ago that what we cannot change, we can only accept. Sure, the world has a lot of expectations on young people today. Unless you are somebody by your 25th birthday, you are considered a failure in most circles. In my opinion, this is completely wrong and a terrible baggage that we have to carry on our shoulders. Each of us has their own journey, and in my opinion it is completely fine to fail. The only way of not failing is actually not trying anything extraordinary. I am ready to try to achieve big things in your company. And if I fail, I will simply accept it and try another time…

 

Do not be afraid to show your emotional side

The 2nd answer from my list may surprise you–a woman admitting that she cries when she fails. However, remember that the hiring managers are not robots. They also have their emotions, and definitely have understanding for yours. What’s more, to show compassion and to be emotional is actually a plus for many jobs.

Do not try to hide your emotions. Honesty is a highly sought-after quality in today’s employment market. Once they see that you can admit being emotional in certain situations (for example when you experience a big failure), they won’t doubt the credibility of your other interview answers.

Focusing on present and future is better than dwelling on the past

It’s a curse of mankind that our mind always thinks about failures, missed opportunities. We waste a huge portion of our life thinking about what we should, or could have done better in some situations, and how our life would have been different if we had done so.

But this is a totally pointless thought. First of all, we cannot turn back the clock. And secondly, we probably could not have decided otherwise. We acted the best way we knew, in the given circumstances of the moment. Eventually we did what we had to do.

Ensure the interviewers that you understand this principle. Instead of dwelling on your past failures, you focus on the present, and the future.

 

Do not be afraid to come up with an unconventional answer

For sure you know how it goes in the interviews. Most job candidates come up with typical answers, saying the same thing gurus from some big websites in careers niche advice them to say. And while these answers are OK, they are nothing special, nothing a typical hiring manager hasn’t heard a hundred times before.

If you want to stand out in an interview--and you should try to do so, especially when competing with many people for the job, you should not be afraid to say something unconventional. For example that you are still waiting for your first big failure (see sample answer no.4), or that a bottle of gin, or vodka, or whiskey or whatever helps you forget (see sample answer no.6, of course additional explanation is necessary in this case :)).

Saying something else than everyone else, you can easily end up being the one candidate everyone remembers at the end of the interviews. And that should be your goal after all…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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