MBA Interview: Mistake - What did you learn from it?

Tell me a time when you made a Mistake. What did you learn from it?

You might have written, re-written and edited the creases out of the failure essay. So when the admission team asks you again about failure, it might not come in a straightforward manner. Most Alumnus would rephrase the question to - what would be the biggest mistake you have made. Don’t get fooled by the wording. We all make mistakes, every day. That is part of learning. The question is not that.

When someone asks you about failure, face to face, looking for signs of pain, it better be authentic. We as humans have improved our lie detection technique. Interviewers trained with a primer in unravelling incongruent stories would grill you down to the last details, forcing you to connect events, particularly the reverse sequence as authentic applicants could slice and dice the chronology and expand on any aspect of the failure. Even the most well-crafted failure essay if made-up could break down inconsistency when details on location and timeline are re-examined. The applicant making up the story would forcefully slowdown as he connects the story or makes silly grammatical mistakes. Slowing down of narrative might be misconstrued as a process of reflecting on the results, but if the pace varies while reflecting on your biggest mistake/failure and picks up while narrating about the greatest accomplishment, then the alumnus would judge your story as a lie.

Most of us are defensive about our failures especially when it is within 2-3 years. But with essays, you should have become desensitized about them.

What mistakes can be mentioned without jeopardizing your admission chances?

I hope you have offered enough context on your failure essay.

If you are still unsure on the examples that are worth mentioning, here are a few scenarios to ponder:

1) Underestimating Complexity

Despite gaining experience, complexity in a project might arise from the lack of perspective on the talent requirement, the pressure of complying with a deadline and regulatory and technological limitations emerging with each phase of the project. Some of the problems might have been anticipated during project planning. Rarely would all scenarios have been accounted before implementation. With the complexity of the project, the problems tend to multiply.

The chance of failing is high if the resources, talent or support from the management is not optimum.

Most examples where the applicant have underestimated the complexity of the project occurs during the initial part of their career. However, even for experienced professionals, there are genuine challenges that arise when the product, despite extensive planning is designed with assumptions on customer behavior and market dynamics. With no companies having a Crystal ball, marketing and product placement decisions are based on cues left by the previous generation. With the tastes and cultures transforming every 7 years, failures could also result from the complexity in anticipating user behavior. If you were part of marketing campaigns, mistakes/failures would be in plenty.

While describing the complexity, limit the use of jargons. Convey the complexity in the budget, team management, user preference and company goals. Include a narrative on the competition to establish multiple forces playing into the dynamics.

2) Misreading personal Motivation

Leading a team first-time around is one of the steepest learning curves for most as individual motivations are revealed at crucial junctions of a project.

Download F1GMAT's MBA Admission Interview Guide for Complete Interview Tips

MBA Admission Interview Guide

The Guide offers detailed examples and strategies to answer about yourself, career summary, innovation, frequent job switch, managing change, ethical dilemma, made mistake, contribution for the school, handling conflict, the greatest accomplishment, low grades, difficult boss, backup plan, industry, role and gives you tips on managing first impression, improve likeability and lists the questions that you should ask the MBA Admission interviewer.

Pages: 204

The Guide includes commonly asked MBA Admission Interview Questions for:

1) Booth School of Business
2) Columbia Business School
3) Ivey Business School
4) Johnson Graduate School of Management
5) Insead
6) Kellogg School of Management
7) Stanford Graduate School of Business
8) London Business School
9) Harvard Business School
10) MIT Sloan School of Management
11) Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (Team Discussion Strategy + Interview Tips)


1. Importance of MBA Admission Interview  
2. How to do Gap Analysis for MBA Admission Interview Preparation?  
3. 5 Conversation Plan for MBA Admission Interview  
4. Focus on the Interaction  
5. How can you control First Impression in MBA Admission Interview  
6. How to improve likeability in MBA Admissions Interview  
7. Avoid these 4 Handshakes  
8. How to highlight Personal, Cultural, and Academic Dimensions of your personality  
9. What motivates an Interviewer?  
10. How to Fine Tune your answers according to MBA Admission Interviewer's Personality Type  
11. How to answer the “Tell us about yourself” introductory question?  
12. How to answer Walk me through your resume?  
13. 5 Follow-up questions to expect  
14. What is the greatest accomplishment in your professional career?
15. What is your leadership style?  
16. How would you contribute at the School Community
17. What is the most difficult obstacle you overcame?  
18. Are you a Creative Person?  
19. How do you define Success?  
20. How to answer about Innovative Solutions?  
21. Answering Frequent Job Switch
22. How did you Handle Conflict?
23. How did you manage Change?  
24. Give an Example of an Ethical Dilemma you faced. How did you handle it?  
25. Answering Greatest Accomplishment
26. How did you Handle a Difficult Boss?  
27.Tell me a time when you made a Mistake. What did you learn from it?
28. How to summarize your Career?  
29. How to explain low grades?  
30. How to answer Scenario Questions?  
31. How to answer the Backup Plan Question  
32. How to discuss about Industry Experience & your Role?  
33. What Questions should you ask the AdCom after an MBA Admissions Interview?  
34. 7 Things to Consider for Skype MBA Admission Interviews  
35. 5 Must Read MBA Admission Telephonic Interview Tips  

Download MBA Admission Interview Guide

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