How to answer "How do you handle setbacks or failure?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This

Employers ask this question because they want to gauge your resilience and how you handle difficult situations. Everyone experiences setbacks and failure at some point, and it is important to have the ability to bounce back from these experiences. When employers ask this question, they want to see if you are able to identify your mistakes, learn from them, and move forward. They also want to see if you have a positive attitude and a growth mindset.

Additionally, this question can reveal how you handle stress and pressure. It is important for employers to know if you are able to handle challenging situations without becoming overwhelmed or giving up.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it is important to be honest and use specific examples. Avoid giving vague or general answers. Start by acknowledging that setbacks and failure happen, and it is important to learn from them. Then, provide an example of a specific situation where you faced a setback or failure. Explain what happened, what you did to try to resolve the issue, and what you learned from the experience.

It is also important to emphasize the positive aspects of the experience. Try to highlight any personal growth or improvements that resulted from the setback or failure. This shows that you have a growth mindset and are willing to learn from your mistakes.

Finally, be sure to explain how you would handle a similar situation in the future. This shows that you have a plan for how to prevent similar setbacks or failures in the future and have learned from the experience.

Sample answers

As a job seeker, you will likely face questions about how you handle setbacks or failure in a job interview. Here are some examples of good and bad answers:

  1. Bad answer: "I don't handle setbacks well. It really affects me when things don't go as planned, and I usually get pretty upset about it."

    Why it's bad: This answer is not only negative, but it shows a lack of resilience and problem-solving skills. Employers want to hire candidates who can handle difficult situations with a positive attitude and the ability to bounce back.

  2. Good answer: "When I face a setback or failure, I take some time to reflect on what went wrong. I look for ways to improve and learn from my mistakes. I also seek feedback from others to get a fresh perspective and identify areas for growth."

    Why it's good: This answer demonstrates a growth mindset and a willingness to learn from mistakes. It also shows that the candidate is open to feedback and collaboration.

  3. Bad answer: "I blame others when things go wrong. If someone else had done their job better, we wouldn't have had a setback."

    Why it's bad: This answer displays a lack of accountability and a tendency to shift blame onto others. Employers want to hire candidates who take ownership of their actions and are willing to work collaboratively to find solutions.

  4. Good answer: "I stay positive and focus on finding a solution. I break down the problem into smaller pieces and prioritize the most important tasks. I also seek input from others and collaborate to come up with the best possible solution."

    Why it's good: This answer demonstrates a proactive approach to problem-solving and a positive attitude in the face of adversity. It also highlights the ability to work well with others.

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