There are numerous questions that one may be asked while on an interview. For instance, Tell us about yourself, What is your greatest strength, and Tell us about a time in which you handled a conflict on the job, are all common queries made by potential employers or interviewers. While most interviews are meant for employers to learn more about a job candidate and determine whether they are the right fit for the company, interviews can also frighten candidates based on a few specific questions.
Tell me a time when you failed.
This question. Does anyone really have a great answer to this question, or know how to answer it properly? I can say without doubt that I was thrown off when I first heard it in an interview. However, without fail, it is one of the most common questions that interviewers will ask a candidate—you best be prepared to answer it. After some deep reflection and a lot of practice over the past year, I think I truly nailed down my answer to this question through the experience of a major mistake I made that led me to failure made upon transitioning into my freshman year at the University of Michigan.
I was a straight-A student at my small, private high school. I valued my education and I valued being one of the best in my class. Did I have to work especially hard to get where I was? No. Did I realize that at the time? Probably not. Said mindset made my first classes at UofM particularly difficult. I didn’t grasp the concept of all-nighters or library dates. For the majority of my life, I coasted in school, and I thought that college would be the same.
This, unfortunately for my grades, was not the case. I received the first C+ of my academic career on my first paper in First Year Writing. Although I am not proud to display them, you can find two freshman year papers here. I don’t remember exactly how I handled this situation at the time, but knowing myself, I will assume that I first laughed, then teared up, then cried. Probably all while on the bus to north campus. After calling my mother and spending too long at the dining hall, I made up my mind that this would not happen to me again. My writing—my one true mode of expression—would improve. True, I could really only go up from where I was, but I was going to put as much effort into my writing as I had to until I was satisfied with the result.
Weekly office hours with my professor and multiple stints posted-up in the library allowed me to gain the confidence that I needed to find my voice and truly write. In that semester, I went from a C+ to an A in the class—all through hard work and superior guidance.
It was the second semester of my sophomore year in which I decided to apply for the minor in writing. A surprising 180 from the girl that cried about her first paper to the Minor in Writing applicant, right? I worked hard on my application. It went through more edits than any paper I had written before or after. After a few short weeks, I received news that I was accepted into the first ever Minor in Writing cohort that the University of Michigan has seen. Only 14 students were selected, and I was one of them. I was truly proud and honored.
At this point in my life, as a senior looking over the edge to life after graduation, I have found writing to be one of my top strengths, and I am confident telling that to potential employers. When asked about a time in which I failed, I gladly tell the story about my freshman self who couldn’t write. It seems like a silly analogy to use in professions such as public relations, publishing, or marketing communications that truly value writing skills, right? This is where the Minor in Writing comes in. I can tell that story because there is a happy ending. I have worked in various modes, mediums, and styles throughout my time at the University of Michigan and it is because of the opportunities afforded me through the MIW.
In an interview that I had recently, I was asked to describe the work that I have worked on through the Minor in Writing program. I was able to tell two senior officers at a huge digital marketing and public relations firm that I have written an academic paper only to have repurposed it into a children’s magazine article and again into a PSA. I also spoke of my capstone project, working to create a comprehensive 40 page fundraising manual. They must have been impressed, because I was offered the job. My EPortfolio is a culmination of my work and the ultimate means through which to express myself and display my writing. Creating this with my career in mind has allowed me to develop a domain that I am proud of and that I can truly say leveraged me against other candidates in the job search. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had through the Minor in Writing, and I am proud of the work that I have accomplished. Take a look at the Portfolio Requirements in order to gain a better understanding of when this work was produced.
Please take a look around and explore Kaitlin Mansour’s past four years at the University of Michigan through the writing presented on this website. For more information regarding the various styles of writing, please click on the landing pages (Creative Writing, Academic Writing, New Media Writing, Professional Writing, Why I Write) for unique explanations. I hope you enjoy!