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Tell me about a time you failed

By Victor Paquet (Mergersight Operations) and Carlo Leopardi & Tommaso Arona (Boston University partners)



By asking this question the recruiter is looking for a few things. Your ability to persevere, your problem solving skills and ability to move on/learn from your mistakes are all tangible qualities interviewers are searching for.


The interviewer will be looking for your ability to persevere. Are you effectively showing that you will continue to work hard and be focused in the face of challenges and adversity? Will you give up when things get hard or continue on your way no matter the obstacles?


This is a skill that most if not all recruiters naturally expect from applicants. Your answer should show off the fact that you can take a problem and find a solution, or worst case, manage a crisis. Make sure to mention the step-by-step actions you took to negate the negative implications of the failure. (More on this in formatting at the end).

Ex. After failing to pass the first round in a school wide stock competition, you and your team were devastated. However, after a team debrief you decided to...

Moving on/Learning from mistakes: With this component of the answer the goal is coming across as someone that is able to move on. Being stuck on a problem or situation for too long will require valuable resource and time. Therefore recruiters are looking for your ability to move on even if a mistake is made.

Ex. After trying out for a third time for your...

Lastly, tie it back. How is the lesson you learned in this situation applicable to scenarios you might face on the job? This should be a very brief sentence but it should be complimented by ideas brought up before.

Formatting your answer

STAR Method. This is a technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.


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