Interview Question: Tell Me About a Time You Missed a Deadline

Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: January 06, 2023

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The days have passed when interviewers are only interested in your concrete skills and information such as where you went to college. Today, potential employers are focusing more on figuring out how an interviewee is likely to act on the job when certain situations arise. Since past actions are a good indicator of what may happen in the future, behavioral questions are the best way for hiring managers to determine if you would be a good fit. They learn this information by asking behavioral interview questions.

Behavioral questions such as ‘Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline for a project/assignment’ are designed to help an interviewer get to know you, but they also present a unique opportunity for you to put yourself ahead of the pack of candidates. You can highlight the positives of each situation you encountered and show that you have what it takes to think differently and be prepared.

When interviewers ask this specific question, they really want to know how you react in stressful situations, whether or not you take accountability for your mistakes, how you learn from these situations, and what your work ethic is like. The question may appear as ‘Discuss a time when your time management skills failed.’ Take the time to learn the STAR method for answering this and other behavioral questions during your interview for the best chance at acing the interview.

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How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About a Time When You Missed a Deadline for a Project/Assignment’ Behavioral Interview Question

1. Be Careful With the Example You Choose to Share

Because the entire point of an interview is to make yourself look good, you need to be sure to choose a relevant story with facts that allow you to present it in a positive way. There is nothing good about missing a deadline, and you will look foolish if you try to spin it as a success. Everyone makes mistakes. Interviewers know this, so simply embrace the occurrence and say how you changed and learned from the mistake. People love honesty, and it is even more refreshing when employers hear that their employees are taking accountability for their mistakes and working to keep them from happening again.

Example Choose To Share

2. Tell the Interviewer What He or She Wants to Hear

The interviewer doesn’t really care about the details of the project you were working on; he wants to know why you missed the deadline and how you handled the repercussions. Simply be honest and explain the situation. The STAR method is ideal for answering these behavioral interview questions. STAR is explained as follows:

  • ST– situation or task
  • A– action
  • R– result

When applying the STAR method to behavioral interview questions, lay out the situation surrounding the issue or the task you were given. Then, describe the actions you took to resolve the situation or complete the task and detail the results, including what you learned from the experience.

Star Tell What He She Wants To Hear

3. Emphasize the Positive

In some cases, missing a deadline is outside of an employee’s control. If that is true of your situation, use that to your advantage and emphasize that the only reason it happened was because of an outside event. However, that is not always possible. With this type of question, you must highlight the end result – or what you learned and how you improved – in order to be successful. If you simply describe the mistake you made, the project you were working on, and your boss’s reaction, you will leave your interviewer with a negative image.

Instead, make your answer work for you by ending your response with a very positive, clear message about what steps you took to improve and where you are on reaching your goals.

Emphasize The Positive

4. Remain Confident

You may have been asked to share a story about a failure, but that is no reason to lose your focus and confidence. Remember, everyone has both large and small failures under their belts. Acknowledge that the missed deadline occurred, and move on by demonstrating that you haven’t made the same mistake again.

Writing Checklist Illustrastion

Sample ‘Tell Me About a Time When You Missed a Deadline for a Project/Assignment’ STAR Interview Answer

I was once given a deadline to produce an article for a client on a short turnaround time. I believed I could handle the article in addition to the workload I already had, but I miscalculated how long it would take me to write it. The morning the article was due, I realized I would not make it in time and contacted my boss to explain the situation. I apologized, explained what happened and asked for an extension, which he granted. I learned that I need to be honest with myself about the workload I can handle each day. I also learned that when accepting assignments, I need to include a time buffer to ensure that even if unforeseen events arise, I am able to meet my deadlines.

To be successful in this type of interview, you should practice until you are sure of yourself. Taking this extra time and effort can help raise you above the competition.

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