How to answer, “What career regrets do you have?” in an Interview

Questions about career regrets in your interview are always challenging. Everyone has regrets. It’s part of human nature. That doesn’t mean you want to highlight them in an interview. So how do you answer it in a way that is honest, but also going to land you the job?

Why They’re Asking About Your Career Regrets

While the interview process can be friendly, they’re not asking you those questions to be your friend.  Interviewers are trying to discover what kind of person is sitting in front of them and whether they’re going to be a useful and productive member of their team.  This isn’t your chance to open up about your struggles, as much as it might seem like it.  Asking what career regrets you have is a clever way for hiring managers to get you to admit failings or flaws you otherwise might not mention. Don’t fall for their ruse.

Related: How to Prepare for Behavioral Job Interview Questions

How to Answer This Question

Don’t answer it.  At least don’t answer it in a direct way. This is a question that is probably best answered with short non-answers that turn the question around on itself.  Resist offering an actual work regret that makes you look bad. Definitely don’t talk about regretting taking previous jobs, or big work problems that you had.  Be honest in a way that makes you look good.

Find a regret that you can make positive, like regretting not getting into your career niche sooner. You can also say something about how you thought you might regret something challenging about your career, like the focus it’s taken to get where you are, but then admitting that you don’t regret it at all.  You could also take a regret like not taking a job opportunity and build it into a positive that you learned from, like looking to expand your career with a new job opportunity.

If possible, don’t use the word regret at all.  Rephase it, so that the negativity attached to the word doesn’t get attached to you in the interviewer’s mind.  Keep your answer short and simple, and turn it toward the positive quickly. It is also reasonable to say that you don’t really have any regrets, or that while you may have the occasional regret, you know that you made the best choices that you could with the information at hand and that you prefer to be forward moving and focused on the positive future outcomes.

Related: How to answer, “Why do you want to leave your current job?”

Stay Positive

Career regrets are real and can be emotionally challenging for the best of us.  However, an interview is not the time to delve into those moments.  This is a chance to show them how you can reframe challenges into positives and stay focused on the real goal: getting the job.

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