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Answers to 7 Common Interview Questions: Tell Me About a Time When...

  • October 20, 2023
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To perform exceptionally well in a job interview, the job candidate has to be prepared. The best way to do so is to put together a list of possible interview questions, then have mock interviews where you video record your responses to dissect later.

What follows is a possible response to the dreaded “Tell me about a time when....” In the majority of interviews, hiring managers ask what are called behavioral interview type questions because they want to find out how you behave and deal with specific types of situations. Some of the questions include: 

  1. Tell me about a time when you failed.
  2.  Tell me about a time when you managed a conflict. 
  3. Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult customer. 
  4. Tell me about a time when you missed an important deadline. 
  5. Tell me about a time when you learned from a mistake. 

You get the picture? When you are answering the question, talk about what happened and what you did to resolve the situation. Here is a possible answer to the question, “Tell me about a time when you learned from a mistake.” 

“About 15 years ago, I was in charge of developing a new suite of products for the company I was working for. Our team was getting pressured to add a lot of extra benefits that we were told the customer wanted. Because the company offers premium products and competes on impeccable customer service, I relented, even though I thought we should create a minimum viable product to let customers test.  Because of all the extra benefits and functions, production costs went through the roof. Fortunately, we recovered all the costs because the products sold well. But the customers didn’t value the extra benefits and functionalities that we spent time creating. Today, when developing new products, the team quickly creates a prototype – a minimum viable product, that we test. Based on feedback, we then create the product. This saved us a lot of time and money.” 

The response above works because the candidate clearly outlines the problem and how she recovered from the mistake. Remember that the response offered to the interview question, “Tell me about a time when,” is only a guide, and therefore it is the job candidate’s responsibility to tweak the advice offered. 


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