‘Describe a difficult situation and how you handled it’ is one of the most asked behavioral questions in interviews. Such questions assess how you would act in a particular situation, allowing the interviewer to predict your performance and reaction in case a similar occurrence happens in the workplace. Therefore,you have to rack your brain and reflect on a real experience before offering an answer.
This article suggests the best responses to this question which you will definitely find helpful in your upcoming interview, but before then, let’s find out why interviewers love behavioral questions.
Why Do Interviewers Ask Behavioral Questions?
Two types of questions are asked in interviews: ‘traditional’ and ‘behavioral.’ Traditional questions are generally straightforward and require specific answers, while behavioral questions like the one above require drawing from your experience. Interviewers, therefore, mostly ask behavioral questions to get a better perspective of who you are and how you react to different situations. These types of questions allow the employer to know you beyond your resume.
They are most common in interviews with super-qualified candidates (as per resume standards), such as second interviews. How a candidate reacts to a specific problem tells the interviewer whether they will be a good fit for the entity and if they can handle stress, behave in a professional manner and whether they have the right skills.
How To Answer
The best way to answer behavioral questions is to use the STAR format, which we hope you have heard of. The acronym stands for situation, task, action, and result. Let’s expound on that.
Start by mentioning an actual work-related situation to give the interviewer some context since your answer will only work if the interviewer follows through. The situation must also lead to a positive result; therefore, don’t pick an experience with a downbeat ending.
After mentioning a work-related situation, tell the interviewer what the challenge was. Remember to offer as many details as possible without being verbose.
This is the most important and awaited part of your answer as you get to tell the interviewer how you handled the situation. Ensure your action reveals a great thought process and skills such as communication, problem-solving, and leadership. Additionally, throw in some technical skills.
What did you achieve? Remember, as we mentioned at the start, the results must be positive. Also, remember to be as detailed as possible.
Dos and Don’ts
There are a few things that you should and should not do when answering the question above. Let’s find out.
- Always tell a story with a positive outcome. The situation must have a positive result.
- Choose a work-related situation, as the interviewer usually is less interested in your personal life when asking behavioral questions.
- Reveal your thought process.
- Ensure that your story brings out important skills such as problem-solving and leadership.
- Don’t mention problems that you created in the first place
- Don’t paint others in a negative light. Avoid speaking ill of your former workmates.
- Don’t be too dramatic
- Don’t dwell on the negative aspects
- Don’t be too cocky
- Don’t be too humble to the point of downplaying your strengths.
Remember, you cannot escape such questions in modern interviews and must, therefore, adequately prepare beforehand. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that behavioral questions can be asked in almost every aspect of your job.
Here are some of the best answers to the above question:
In my previous job, I encountered a customer who kept yelling and lamenting. I had only been with the organization for a few months and inwardly knew that this was probably my first test. Instead of interrupting the customer or matching their attitude, I let him vent while making notes on what he wanted to be solved and later assured him that the complaints would be well addressed. I also politely asked for clarifications and made additional notes. I then started working on some things he wanted and got others to help. We finished in record time, and he was pleased at last. He apologized before leaving, citing too much pressure from work. Despite the bad encounter, the customer became a trusted client.
I was lucky to find a job with a multinational corporation shortly after graduating college. Even though I was an exceptional student, I didn’t have enough experience, which was quite intimidating. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I approached a senior staff member and asked her to mentor me, to which she agreed. She guided me through every aspect of the job, and within a few weeks, I became one of the most promising junior employees in the organization.
I was asked to handle a challenging project I had no idea about in my former role. I accepted the challenge and got to work immediately, finding out as much as possible about the project and talking to the right people. By the end of the third day, I had covered every piece of material related to the project and contacted everyone I could. It was one of the most successful projects in the company’s history and earned me the best employee of the year award.
One of my team members quit working for my former organization without giving any notice. Her timing was wrong since we were at the end of an exhausting project. We, therefore, had to cover her part to meet the tight deadline. I rallied the team members, and we subdivided the remaining tasks equally. We also worked during the weekend and occasionally took work home. All in all, we completed the work at the right time and received recognition from even the CEO.
The most challenging situation I have ever found myself in was deciding who to let go of in my former job since the company was downsizing. I decided to fire two of the most recent hires, but only after reaching out to some of my contacts who gladly took them in after I broke the news to them. I also ensured that the top-most manager wrote their recommendation letters.
While working as a cashier, I bumped into one of my colleagues taking cash from the cash register when no one was around, and from the look of things, it wasn’t the first time. Even though we were friends, I knew that somebody innocent would have to take the blame for the theft if I didn’t do something. I stopped him from stealing and later informed the supervisor. Even though he was let go and felt betrayed, I was happy that I prevented an innocent person from losing their job or getting their salary cut to cover the loss.
I once noticed that one of my colleagues wasn’t happy with a joke my immediate manager made but couldn’t speak out. She felt attacked and retreated to her desk with a sad look since she had once experienced what the manager made fun of. Despite being the organization’s newest employee, I walked up to the manager and told her that not everyone had received her joke well, however harmless it appeared. She hadn’t realized and was so remorseful that she convened a meeting to apologize.
I had a former colleague who kept coming to work late and failing to do her part during team projects despite several warnings. She was given one final warning when her case reached the top-level executives and she promised to change. However,not long after, she came to work an hour late and asked me to lie to the manager to save her from getting into trouble. Even though we were pretty close, I chose not to be an accomplice or enabler. Even though her contract was unfortunately terminated, we got a new hardworking replacement who positively impacted the team’s morale.
I was once faced with a dilemma while working in a top-level management position. The company was experiencing financial hardships, so we either had to downsize or slash the salaries of the top managers to stay in business without firing anyone. After weighing the two options and realizing that saying no to a pay cut would render at least ten employees jobless, I convinced the other managers to compromise and ensure that none of our employees, who had been loyal to us in good and bad times, was fired. The company doubled its profits three months later, and everything returned to normal. We also managed to retain all our employees.
A junior employee once approached me and asked me to be his mentor. I was dealing with the loss of a friend at the time and was therefore going through a rough patch. However, I remembered the early years of my career and what having a mentor meant for me. Despite not being in the right mental space, I decided to give him a chance and did my best. Ten years later, he turned out to be one of the most successful managers in the industry and reached out to thank me personally.
These sample answers should help you answer the above question when asked in an interview. Ensure that you follow the STAR technique when confronted with such questions and you will be good to go. We wish you all the best in your upcoming interview.