Behavioural Interview Question – Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work


In this post, we’ll cover:  

Why this question is asked/What they really want to know
What to say when you’re answering/How to answer
And we’ll go through the step-by-step, you’ll be able to wrap it up gracefully without rambling.


So, stay tuned.


So, what’s the deal here? Why are they asking this?


They want to see how you handle mistakes. They want to see how you see mistakes, what your overall attitude is towards them. The question is designed to get inside your head and view how you handle screw-ups and how you think about them and how you internalise them.


You might have guessed it—we’re going to be using the S.A.R.I. formula.


The S.A.R.I. formula, if you haven’t heard of it before, it stands for: Situation, Action, Result, and Interesting features. The formula comes in many different forms, so you may have heard of the S.T.A.R. interview formula or the S.A.R. formula, and it’s basically all the same: Situation, Task, Action and Result.


So, now that you know about that, in my head, I always think of it as a story because it can be hard to remember all these pieces. A story always has a beginning, where you introduce what the task or the situation is, the middle has the meat of the story or the action happens—literally where the action took place, and the hero comes in and saves the day—and then the ending, which is the result, where you wrap it up, and you tell how the story ended happily. Interesting features sprinkled in are always great because they make you more interesting, and they add appeal to your answer, and they make you memorable.


So, how do you answer this one?



Step 1: Situation or Task


So, setting the stage: You want to present the mistake that you made. For example—we’re going to use a specific example—say you forgot to invite someone to a meeting that was a key decision maker, and you scheduled the meeting, and you forgot to invite this key person.


Step 2: What did you do?


This is the action portion—the meat of the story. What action did you take? The first thing that I always say is that I own up to the mistake. That’s what top candidates always do. No excuses. Flat out “This is what happened, and this was my oversight, and this is what I plan to do about it.” So, with the action, you can talk about how you proceeded to fix it. What options did you choose? You go through the scenario of what you did, and you describe exactly your actions. You want to be careful to only talk about what you did because if you say “we” or “us,” that kind of dilutes your story, and you want to make sure you’re talking about you the whole time because that’s what they care about.


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Step 3: The Result


So, what was the end result? Let them know how it turned out, how you handled it, how you fixed it, and how it ended.


And 4 is the bonus: Interesting Features


For interesting features, you could wrap up with a cool little saying like:


  • “It’s not a mistake; it’s a lesson if you never repeat it.”


  • “The biggest growth moments happen from mistakes.”


  • And “Mistakes are rich with experience. They mean character building, learning and lots of growth.”

So, don’t shy away from talking about them. Embrace them, own them, and make sure you tell them how they ended up and how you were able to fix them.


And there we have it. What is your attitude towards when you make a mistake? How do you deal with things when they don’t go perfectly? You want to show maturity in your answer and that you got to the facts—you just decided what you were going to do, looked at the situation and took the best course of action that you could to fix it. You want to show that you took responsibility, and you owned up to it, and you want to highlight what you learned in the end.


Thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more help with these types of questions, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide. You can click the link below and get free instant access, and it’s called The Guide to Situational Interviewing.


What you’ll get when you download this guide… It took me a long time to put this together. It’s going to have an in-depth look at the S.A.R.I formula, step-by-step broken down, and the psychology behind it. It’s going to have a series of concrete examples for the top-ten most commonly asked situational questions. It will have fill-in-the-blank templates for each and every question, so you can fill in your own answers and your own stories. And if you’re still getting stuck—because preparing your own story is tough—I’ve also included 25 questions to come up with your own stories much quicker—25 questions you can ask yourself to get your mind thinking. You’re definitely going to come up with some great stories. You’ll also get this beautifully designed workbook that is specifically designed for you to prepare for your next interview. By the end of working through this guide, you’ll be totally ready for any situational interview question that comes your way. So, don’t miss out! Grab it right now. You can click below and have it instantly.


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So, thank you so much for reading, and I will see you next week here at my digi house of


In Work & Life
-Natalie Fisher


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