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How to answer "Tell me a time when you made a mistake" in an interview as a new grad?

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Software Engineer at Taro Communitya month ago
  1. I'm not sure what theyre actually trying to ask here
  2. I feel like as a new grad i just do what im told haha. I almost always trust my seniors instincts and judgement over mine. If I suggest something and its wrong I admit it and rectify it but I dont have a good response. My mistakes are usually pretty small and can be easily corrected i.e. there's no million dollar losses happening. I havent taken down prod or have any interesting stories about mistakes

I was asked that in an interview and I was stumped. I used the advice in the behavioral course to say like yeah usually before making huge decisions I always get others inputs on things so I've never made a huge mistake with severe consequences.

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(2 comments)
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    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a month ago

    “If I (am) wrong I admit it and rectify it”. This sounds like reasonable “action” part of STAR. Documenting something, or just learning and applying the new knowledge are good, reflective actions.

    You don’t need a huge mistake to answer this. The point is about being reflective, and learning from mistakes.

    I had a phone screen with a candidate once who said they’d never made a mistake and never missed a deadline in a 20+ year career. That’s ridiculous.

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    I'm not sure what theyre actually trying to ask here

    Well, they're trying to figure out how you respond to mistakes, similar to any other candidate. In particular, they want to make sure that you're cognizant of the fact that you can make mistakes and have some level of humility overall. You'll be surprised at how many candidates (including new grads) will say arrogant things like "I'm extremely careful, so I never make mistakes". They think that's a positive hiring signal when it's actually a red flag.

    New grads don't have any real track record minus internships, so the goal of a behavior interview for them is mostly a personality check, probing for core emotional maturity. Being able to admit when you're wrong is a vital part of aforementioned maturity.

    If I suggest something and its wrong I admit it and rectify it but I dont have a good response.

    This is good enough to pass a behavioral interview as a new grad - Roll with this. As mentioned in the behavioral interview course, another option to deepen your response is to share a story about a non-career mistake you made: https://www.jointaro.com/course/master-the-behavioral-interview-as-a-software-engineer/when-you-dont-have-an-answer/

    As a new grad, you have been an alive human on Earth for 20+ years. There is no way you don't have a real story about making a mistake after all that time, haha. I did tons of stupid stuff in high school and college.