How to Talk About Failure in a Job Interview

You know it's coming as you sit there in the interview: You can't just talk yourself up forever. It's true, employers are looking closely at how you deal with failure. And they definitely don't want to hear you spin a trait like perfectionism into a weakness.

Some hiring managers consider the failure questions the most important of any candidate search — so says strategist Terina Allen. "We want leaders and team members who are comfortable with ambiguity, those who are comfortable with change, and those who are able and willing to adapt," she writes in Forbes. "In order to hire high performers and leaders with these qualities, we need to better assess whether job candidates are willing to accept failure as an option."

Plenty of research actually backs up her theory. In February, Notre Dame University published a study showing how failure, especially big failures, can lead to discovery and innovation that playing it safe will not. That doesn't mean you should just tell a hiring manager all about how you hit rock bottom: Your potential employer is largely looking for evidence of your resilience and ingenuity. Failure is simply a pretext for showing how well you solve problems, whether they're job-based or interpersonal.

One of the biggest drivers of burnout is fear of failure. Making mistakes shouldn't hold you back, especially not when you're looking to move on to your next big adventure. Get comfortable thinking about the ways in which you've messed up — they're the key to doing things better going forward.