Common behavioral interview questions: Describe a mistake you made at work

I am trying to prepare for the question, “Describe a mistake that you made at work and what you learned from it?” How do I go about brainstorming this question?

Start by thinking about a time that you or your team made a mistake on a project–the more specific, the better. Did you make assumptions that were incorrect or inaccurate? Were there any cultural or communication barriers involved? Was there a gap in communication, and if so, what was it? Perhaps there was a lack of clarity or not enough context.

Consider the following example: Imagine that two stakeholders received the same Excel spreadsheet, but one interpreted the table to mean x, and the other thought that it meant y. Perhaps the database developers thought that the table measured time in weeks, while the business team assumed that it measured time in months. In this example, the ideas and information were mis-labeled and poorly communicated, which meant that the different teams were not on the same page.

To fix this issue, you would begin by identifying the point of confusion or miscommunication. Then, you could start creating a more efficient pipeline of communication or more precise rules for labeling information. And to answer the question, “What did you learn from your mistake?”, you might say something like, “We standardized all of our spreadsheets so that time was always accounted for in weeks (unless clearly labeled otherwise). Now, we have a system that is more efficient and effective.”

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