It's a scary question, isn't it? You've been asked to share a story about a time you messed up at work.
But no, don't let that scare you. There are many reasons why interviewers ask this question, and they aren't trying to trip you up on purpose. Many interviewers just want candidates to prove they're willing to be authentic with potential employers.
Here are some STAR answer examples of questions about mistakes that might help you answer this question successfully when the time comes.
We realized that we needed to make some changes to the copy
S - My team and I were working on a project when we realized that we needed to make some changes to the copy. It was a very busy time and we didn't have time to go through the entire document and make sure all the content was correct, so we decided to just fix the parts that were most egregious.
T - My task was to go through each page of the document and make sure it made sense. If there were any errors, I would correct them with our designer.
A - I went through each page and made sure that the sentences made sense and weren't confusing in any way.
R - The result of my actions was that we were able to make some adjustments to the copy before sending it out for review.
The new product had a few bugs that needed to be ironed out
S - I was working as a customer service representative at [company name] and the company I was working for had just launched a new product. The product was very popular, but it had a few bugs that needed to be ironed out.
T - My task was to deal with customers who were having issues with the product and help them get through their issues in a timely manner.
A - I went above and beyond my duty as a customer service representative by taking the time to investigate each issue myself, rather than delegating it to someone else. This allowed me to solve problems faster, which resulted in happier customers.
R - As a result of my actions, I received several different accolades from my manager, including an award for "Best Customer Service Representative" and an increase in pay.
Creating a marketing campaign for our client
S - I was in charge of creating a marketing campaign for one of our clients. The client was looking to shift its brand image from an old-school, traditional look to something fresher and more modern. I had a few ideas, but they weren't really what the client was looking for. So I sat down with them and we discussed their goals, needs, and expectations. We came up with a new concept together that was more in line with what they wanted and it turned out great!
T - My task was to create a marketing campaign for our client. They wanted something fresh and new, but not too trendy or over-the-top so that it would still appeal to their target audience of 30-60-year-olds who are looking to invest in real estate in the next 5 years or so.
A - I did some research online about what kinds of campaigns have worked well for similar companies in the past, which allowed me to come up with some concepts that would appeal to both my client's brand image as well as their target audience at large.
R - After discussing these ideas with my client (along with some others we came up with), we decided on one specific concept that they liked best based on what they were looking for in terms of results.
I saw that he wasn't making any progress on the website
S - I was working for a small business and we had just hired a new employee. The employee was supposed to be working on our website, but instead, he was busy doing other things. He kept telling us that the website was almost done, but it never seemed to get finished.
T - My job was to manage the website's design, so I needed to keep an eye on this employee's progress and make sure that he was doing what he said he would do.
A - When I saw that he wasn't making any progress on the website, I went into his office and asked him what was going on. He told me that he thought his workstation was broken, so he didn't know how to fix it or even where to start fixing it. I told him that if he had any issues with his equipment or software, then I would help him solve those problems first before we started working together again.
R - After solving his technical issues, we were able to make some real progress on the site!
My company was experiencing some issues with our database
S - My company was experiencing some issues with our database, and it was my responsibility to make sure it was working properly.
T - I had to fix the database so it would function well again.
A - I spent hours trying to fix the problem on my own before I realized that there was a hardware issue that could only be resolved by our IT department. I contacted them and they resolved the problem within minutes.
R - The database was fixed, and we were able to continue doing business as usual without any further issues.
The client was unhappy with the progress
S - I was working with a team of engineers on a project. The final stages of the process were to be completed in two weeks, and we were working on the designs for the final prototype. The client was already unhappy with the progress we had made and wanted to see more results.
T - My role was to work with the engineering team to come up with a new design for our prototype that would make it work better than before and faster than anticipated.
A - I spent my spare time researching new technologies that would be able to help us achieve this goal and discussed them with my team members during our weekly meetings. We decided on using 3D printing technology because it would allow us to create highly complex shapes that would have been impossible using traditional manufacturing methods.
R - After implementing this new technology, we were able to create prototypes much faster than before. Our client was so impressed by our progress that they decided not only to include us in their next project but also to give us an additional bonus pay for being so productive!
I wasn't able to resolve a customer's issue
S - I was working in a customer service role, and I wasn't able to resolve a customer's issue. The problem was that the customer had ordered a product, but it hadn't arrived yet.
T - The customer was concerned about the status of their order, so I should have looked into it and found out what was going on.
A - I told them that if they didn't hear back from me in 24 hours, then probably their package had been lost in transit. The customer called back two days later to tell me that their order had not been delivered yet. They were upset because they had purchased the product for an important event that weekend, and now they wouldn't have it for the event.
R - I apologized for my mistake and explained that I had made a mistake when handling their order. The customer accepted my apology, but they still needed a replacement product before the event on Saturday afternoon. I contacted our warehouse manager to see if we could get another shipment sent out immediately. The manager said yes and ensured that the customer would receive their replacement item before noon on Friday morning.
I was tasked with sending out an email blast
S - I once made a mistake when I was working as a marketing assistant for [company name].
T - I was tasked with sending out an email blast to all of our customers, and I had to make sure that it included all of their information. I went through our database and found the correct email addresses, but I accidentally copied over the wrong name for one of our customers.
A - When I realized my mistake, I immediately sent out another email blast with the correct information and apologized for any inconvenience this might have caused.
R - Luckily, it did not cause any problems for our customers or for anyone else who received it.