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Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How?

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Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How? [#permalink] New post 08 Jun 2013, 22:39
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This is a tricky one. Isn’t it? How do you tell the evaluator about your failures & weaknesses without making them look bad on your application? Blunders are all too common on this one. Let us discuss how we can safely negotiate this question with an attempt to possibly score few additional points.

First, do not duck the question. The last impression that you want to give is that you can’t take tough questions. That will be unacceptable to the adcom. Similarly, there are easy answers which just won't do, ex. ‘I am a perfectionist and that at times works against me’. This is just as bad or maybe even worse. Everybody, including your evaluator, is rational to believe that no person is perfect. An answer like this will make him/her question your credibility. And that is definitely not something you want to happen.

Now, find an authentic imperfection or a situation where, you would like to have acted differently. When you talk about these situations, the overall sound has to be very positive. DO NOT blame others (boss/colleagues/clients) for the incidence; take it on your chin. The most important part is to demonstrate how you have worked to correct or improve on it. Talk about the lessons learned. If possible cite the example of a similar situation later where you did the right thing. That will demonstrate that you are an authentic person, can face difficult questions, and is ready to learn. The idea is to see every mistake as a learning opportunity.

However, before you go overboard with finding that authentic imperfection, please hold your guns. Some weaknesses are unpardonable. Example, I am lazy, I can’t tolerate dumb people, I stole other people’s credit during a project, etc. All and all, this is a section where you should largely look to play safe. There is typically not too much to gain but a lot to lose in case of a bad answer. An example of a ‘good’ weakness is 'I am not good with technology, and I see that as a major weakness in this day & age (for somebody who is not from core technology background)'. Again, the most important part is to mention the learning. And in case of weakness, the effective steps to address the weakness.

And lastly, keep weakness/failure answers handy for your interviews, irrespective of whether your application essays/profile ask for it or not. You don’t want to be guessing at the interview. Personally, this was one mistake which almost cost me my own admit few years back. Just a little awareness will see you safe and sound.
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Re: Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How? [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2013, 05:15
Related but unrelated question.
Can I use a non-professional failure as my failure story?
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Re: Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How? [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2013, 19:33
Thanks for bringing this sub-topic up... this is extremely relevant.

By 'non-professional' if you mean your personal life experience, then I will suggest you to avoid that. If its w.r.t your experience with an agency/initiative outside your job/profession, but not personal-life (strictly speaking!), then it might still do.

The intention of the question is usually to know a professional failure. However, citing a personal failure experience will give an impression that you might not have had a very challenging work experience.

Hope the answer was helpful.

TechWithNoExp wrote:
Related but unrelated question.
Can I use a non-professional failure as my failure story?

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Last edited by AskAnshul on 10 Jun 2013, 23:25, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How? [#permalink] New post 10 Jun 2013, 03:11
Thanks, you have some good insight.
Hypothetical question: If I had failed to win the gold medal because of a mistake (got silver), at the amateur Olympics would that be considered an acceptable failure. Lets say I was able to learn from my mistake and write about it.
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Re: Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How? [#permalink] New post 10 Jun 2013, 23:22
Hmm... You can actually use such a case IF you can show that this was a major event in your life (and your growth). However, my other concern is that getting a silver is not exactly a 'mistake' :) . But, if you actually did commit a 'mistake' that led to you losing the gold, then that might still do. I hope you get what I am saying here.

TechWithNoExp wrote:
Thanks, you have some good insight.
Hypothetical question: If I had failed to win the gold medal because of a mistake (got silver), at the amateur Olympics would that be considered an acceptable failure. Lets say I was able to learn from my mistake and write about it.

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Re: Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How? [#permalink] New post 11 Jun 2013, 04:11
TechWithNoExp wrote:
Related but unrelated question.
Can I use a non-professional failure as my failure story?


Important thread and interesting questions. This is really one of the toughest topics to write about.
I found here some MBA failure essay samples, it may help figuring out how to write such essay and which stories to use.
Re: Discussing failure & weakness in Essays - How?   [#permalink] 11 Jun 2013, 04:11
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