Interview Question: Missed Deadline Reactions and Responses

Nilda Melissa Diaz
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice Contributor Last Updated: August 30, 2022
Tell Me About A Time When You Failed To Meet A Deadline

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You need to be ready for a mix of traditional and behavioral interview questions during a job interview. An example of a behavioral-based question is ‘Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn?’ While some questions are simply meant to gauge your educational or professional background, behavioral questions are meant for you to describe a time when you actually exhibited a skill in your life. Hopefully, through your response, you will show what you can do at the company you are applying for.

This particular question can be difficult to answer because most people do not openly discuss times they failed. The interviewer is not expecting to interview a perfect person. It is okay to admit you failed to some degree as long as you mention how you grew as an individual from it. The What did you learn part of the question is arguably the most important part.

This question might also be phrased as ‘Describe a time when you failed a task.’ No matter how it is phrased, you can easily respond to it by preparing responses beforehand and utilizing the STAR method. And keep applying for other jobs once you reach the interview stage for a particular job. The MyPerfect Resume Builder can help you build a resume that aligns to the needs of a job advertisement in just three simple steps.

How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About a Time When You Failed to Meet a Deadline. What Things Did You Fail to Do? What Were the Repercussions? What Did You Learn?’ Behavioral Interview Question

1. Use the STAR Method.

All behavioral interview questions can be answered with the aid of the STAR method. This acronym stands for these key elements:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

First, start with the situation you were in. For this question, that would be whatever project you were working on that you missed the deadline for. Be as specific as you can in laying out what you were facing.

Next, the task is whatever the goal is you were striving for. Action refers to the actions you took during this process. Describe why the deadline was missed. The result portion of the STAR method for this question will be you discussing how you were reprimanded and what you learned. If you learned a skill that you successfully implemented at a later date, that would be a great thing to bring up.

2. Do Not Pick Too Huge of a Deadline You Missed

If you missed a deadline that resulted in a company losing a million dollars, that would not be the best thing to bring up during this question. The interviewer wants to see how well you handle failure and that you can learn from it, but if you admit to making a gigantic mistake, that may make the employer uneasy.

Pick something with lower stakes. You can even talk about a time you missed a deadline on a school assignment or another example from your personal life.

3. Do Not Blame Others

There are a number of reasons why a deadline might have been missed, but you certainly do not want to pass the blame onto others. Employers want people who can own up to their mistakes and grow as an employee. Blaming others will make you look petty, and the interviewer will assume that if hired, you would blame everyone else in the event a mistake got made.

Even if the deadline was missed due to a coworker’s or boss’s failure, you still want to take a share of the responsibility.

4. Avoid Saying You Have Never Missed a Deadline

It can be tempting to avoid the question entirely and say that you have always submitted assignments on time. This is not what interviewers want to hear. Avoiding the question will just make it seem like you are hiding something.

The thing you want to focus on in your response is what you learned from this moment. Growth is a highly valuable trait in an employee, and it is something you want to exhibit.

Sample ‘Tell Me About a Time When You Failed to Meet a Deadline. What Things Did You Fail to Do? What Were the Repercussions? What Did You Learn?’ STAR Interview Answer

In college, I had two essays due within a couple of days of each other. I mentally switched the due dates for them in my head, so while I submitted one early, the other one was submitted a day late. It was a silly mistake on my end. I talked to the professor about the situation, and while I was marked down a few points, I still managed to get a “B” on the assignment. The professor recommended that I start keeping track of all assignments in detail in either a journal or on my phone so that something like this would not happen again. I maintained such records throughout the rest of my academic career and never submitted something late again, and that habit has since come in handy in the workforce.

The expression ‘Practice makes perfect’ holds true when answering behavioral interview questions. Plan out responses beforehand, and you will ace them in the actual interview.

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