interview questions / Job market

How to answer ‘What has been your biggest disappointment?’

Oh Yikes!! they are asking me to tell them how how bad I am . This can be the reaction that we feel when we hear these questions or similar ones such as “what are your weaknesses?” . This can hit your confidence in answering the question. Do not worry, they are not trying to catch you out, they are actually using this question to look for positive attributes! 

Delete "MISTAKE"If you are like every other Warwick student then you will never have failed at anything or have anything to be disappointed about (except maybe that A instead of A* at A-levels). We all make mistakes and things do not go as we expect, it is inevitable. To think otherwise will come across as arrogant to a recruiter and this is unlikely to endear you to them.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not the time to bring up a genuine disaster either as this can bring up emotions that may go beyond disappointment and be more difficult to handle in what can already feel like a pressured situation.

You want to choose an example where you have managed to take something useful from a difficult or disheartening situation. If you have since been able to avoid what went wrong, or subsequently succeeded in a similar situation as a result of what you have learned, then this may be a good example for the question.

So what are they looking for?

DISCOVERY / Cardboard with charts and text - concept (Click for more)It is not the failure itself that they are interested in, but how you managed and responded to the situation, Recruiters do not expect you to be perfect, no-one is. They want to know:

  • Do you have integrity and take responsibility when things go wrong – or do you blame others?
  • Are you self aware enough to understand when your actions (or inaction) have caused problems – or do you think everything beyond your control?
  • Do you learn from your mistakes – or was it a one off and would never happen again so you do not need to worry?
  • Are you resilient? Do you deal with setbacks and still move forward positively – or do you let it bring you down?

Another thing that they maybe looking at is your approach to risk. An example where you took a risk may resonate for a creative/ innovation role. But if they want someone who is highly organised and methodical may not want someone who is perceived to take unnecessary risks. This highlights the need to understand the job role you are applying to and the culture of the organisation/ department as well.

Ultimately it is about learning to fail well, which means accepting that failure happens and your part in that failure, learning the lessons that come from this and letting this improve your decision making for the future.

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