Job interviews can be one of the most anxiety-inducing experiences. There is a need to market your brand while maintaining authenticity. The question of describing a difficult situation and how you handled it is open-ended. This is a behavioral-based interview. It is a test of character and your ability to work well with others.Let us know about that the How to handled interview questions?
Your first point of call is to do your research on the company. Pay attention to the type of work environment that is presented. Every company has a set of values that they display and they normally have documented evidence of how their company culture is manifested through their business relations. The importance of this is that this will help you to tailor your work experience to fit into the skill set that the potential employer will value.
Through asking an open-ended question the recruiter is giving you a chance to set the narrative by selling your skills. This is a strategic move on their part as by allowing you to direct the course of the interview, they are testing your abilities to prioritize issues. They want to know if you know what is being asked of you as this will manifest in your ability to do what is required of you when you get the job. The behavioral traits and skill sets that are valued are those where you demonstrate your problem-solving skills and adaptation skills. The recruiter wants to know that you can be level-headed in a crisis. The environment of work is one where you might encounter unexpected situations and the show must simply go on. This article will guide you through the thought process that is required in formulating a response to the question. Furthermore, this article will give you a list of what you should not do. Lastly, we will be providing a sample of questions and responses.
What you should not do?
- Do not be fake humble or have a sense of a savior complex in responding to questions. What is meant by this is do not feign perfection. This is because this makes you lose your authenticity and makes you inaccessible. No one likes someone who feels that they are incapable of wrongdoing
- In your description of a difficult situation please refer to work-related experiences, if that is not possible which is very possible in an entry-level role. Try and use skills that come from environments where you had to coordinate with people. This could be a leadership position in a society that you were a part of or some volunteer role in your school or community.
- Do not badmouth your previous employer. This will reflect badly on you even if you had a bad experience. When you do that leads the recruiter to think that you are scapegoating your employer. The primary focus should be on selling your brand to the recruiter.
- Dress appropriately, neutral colors and jewelry
- Maintain a good posture when sitting
- Try to not sway your hands when speaking
- Maintain some direct eye contact
- Pace yourself when speaking
- If it is a virtual interview, have a neutral background with no noise and bright colors
Firstly the floor is yours. It is very important to use structured thinking to formulate a response and to elaborate on it appropriately in a relevant manner. You have to lead the recruiter. Have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Involve the recruiter in the narration of events and in narrating this difficult situation, the recruiter should not be confused as to the principle behind the story. Be strategic! The narration should also reflect how you used your skills to solve the situation.
These sample responses aim to demonstrate a pattern which you should strive to follow when presenting yourself. Nine scenarios have been set up as well as the skills that are valued by the recruiter when responding to questions.
Sample response 1-Mental health issues
In the year XXXX, I developed a mental condition due to personal problems. The effects of this were that I was in denial about the effect that my health had on my productivity. The breaking point came one morning when I failed to get out of bed. I have always considered myself to have above-average organizational skills and it was hard for me to admit to myself that those organizational skills had been impacted by the state of my mental health. I decided to speak to my supervisor about it. I benefited immensely from letting my supervisor know that my functioning was impaired as a result of my mental breakdown. I had always been told that I should not disclose the state of my mental health and it was refreshing that my employer did not see me as a commodity. We discussed the way forward about how I would be doing my work from that time including my most productive hours. The nature of corporate is that there is an obsession with productivity and people are seen as a means to an end. I had been caught up in the trap of productivity to the point that I was measuring my value as an employee while neglecting the humanness in me. Before I am an employee I am a human being who lives in a body.
I benefitted from the power of dialogue. If I had not decided to be kind to myself I would not have been able to bring up the issue of destigmatization of mental health issues in the workplace. By having the courage to admit that I was not doing well, I was able to be a healthier employee as health is wealth. The principle behind this is that if your brain is not doing well you are generally not doing well either. I learned to admit when I am not doing well and that contributed to an improvement in my mental health. I demonstrated assertiveness and my ability to take charge of the situation as well as prioritize issues. These are skills that are of paramount importance and can be applied to any work settings.
Sample Response 2- Workplace bullying
In the year XXXX, I faced a dilemma. I felt as if I was constantly being overlooked and bullied at work. The power dynamics made it difficult for me to be able to issue a complaint. This is something that is not new in the working world. It is normally easier to deal with this issue when the person who is exhibiting abusive tendencies is not your senior. In a country where 61% of people are aware of basic bullying, most of them agree that most of the bullying comes from the bosses. The majority of people who report this bullying normally lose their jobs. My implementation strategy was that I did some research on my bully’s victims and created a network with which I would use to document the abuse. The onus was on me to prove that I had exhausted all means to cope with my boss’s behavior and how my work was being impacted negatively. I made use of HR as the first point of call and I was helped immensely. This was an emotionally taxing event for me because I was not sure if I would succeed in my complaint due to the facts that statistics reveal. I demonstrated my mental strength and resilience. Furthermore, I demonstrated that I am assertive and I will fight for myself. What this shows is that if I can take charge of my life. I can be trusted to be aggressive about my work and be goal orientated to achieve excellent results. I had to take paid leave when my boss was made aware of the fact that they were being investigated. I managed to reset my life and find joy in my work environment again.
Sample Response 3- Dealing with the absence of boundaries
This issue involves defining boundaries and sticking to them. I was working in the role of XXXX and I was constantly being asked to work after hours and being called at inappropriate times for work purposes. At first, I would pick up the calls and the effect of this is there was no longer a clear divide between my work life and home life. Work was haunting me when I was home. I noticed that this did not seem to be happening with other people. I was consistently overburdened with work that exceeded the scope of my contract. I thought of quitting but I was not in the position to do so. I had a lack of confidence in expressing myself in the workplace. I was saying yes too many times even when I did not need to. I solved the situation by referencing the terms of my contract when I was asked to do an errand that had no relation to the work I was being paid to do. For my words to match my actions I became inaccessible after work hours. My relationships were being affected by non-emergencies from work. The difficult situation in this regard was my conflict with setting boundaries. I felt bad that I would have to assert myself as I felt that would appear as if I am getting arrogant. I freed myself from the trap that most employees fall into. I will refer to this as a trap of a perpetual state of servitude. I began to understand that my relationship with my employer had to be reciprocal. I must work and they also have to respect me as a professional. Understanding how to navigate the issue of boundaries in the workplace is important in the workplace and workplaces can easily turn toxic when boundaries are not reinforced. There is nothing wrong with having difficult conversations with an employer as that facilitates a work culture of reciprocal accountability.
Sample Response 4- Feeling overburdened
The issue involved being overburdened with diversity and inclusion activism as a woman of color. While I appreciated that my workplace seemed to have a commitment to diversity and inclusion and my employment being a testament to that fact. As the subject of diversity of inclusion, I became burdened with being the person who had to advertise every single diversity and inclusion event. Even when I was not specifically asked to do it, there seemed to be an expectation that I was the one who was meant to facilitate the process because why not. I was the woman of color at work. I expressed my sentiments about how I felt that it was unfair that I was no longer allowed to breathe freely at work without being an activist. An extensive discussion was had about the policies with regards to the diversity and inclusion program. The implementation strategy became that the company became more intentional about employing specific people to deal with activism in the workplace. I learned that it is important to have a good working relationship with the people who supervise you as that becomes beneficial when you face situations that you did not expect.
Sample Response 5- Dealing with mistakes
I was working as a supervisor and I faced a difficult situation where my subordinate had genuinely made an error that had cost the company a substantial amount of money. It was a very stressful moment as I had to reassure the person who had made the error that their place in the company would not be threatened by that. What made this particularly difficult was that as the supervisor I also had my supervisor and those further in the hierarchy were pressuring me to terminate their employment. I had to have a heated exchange to protect this employee who was being crucified for making one mistake. They did not have a track record of negligence. I proved to my supervisor that if that was the stance they intended to take whenever someone made a mistake, they were overlooking the human capacity to make mistakes. I essentially put my job on the line on the precept of my values. I demonstrated consistency and reliability as I did not compromise my values for a paycheck. Furthermore, I proved my capability to cooperate with my colleagues as I valued them enough to see them as human beings and I fought for the company to humanize their interactions with employees. I admit that in some instances that would have appeared as if I have difficulties with following protocol and authority however I believe that I managed to identify an issue with legitimate company protocol,
Sample Response 6- When you do not get along with your colleagues
I had a communication challenge with my co-workers. There seemed to be a lot of tension in the air and this was affecting our productivity. I suggested with regards to staff grooming where we had to have team bonding activities. Sometimes the line between a good working relationship and a bad one comes from the fact that when colleagues do not know each other, the effects of this can be telling in how they treat each other. The power of workshops was emphasized. The effects of conducting workshops that dealt exclusively with staff grooming and we performed recreational activities that brought us closer to each other. I learned that if I wanted a non-toxic working environment, I had to actively make an effort to know my co-workers. While my objective at work was to work, the truth is it is impossible to perform well if you do not have some form of friendship with the people you meet every day.
Sample Response 7-Personality clashes
I am an introvert so I prefer to work in silence. I would go on to say that I tend to get frustrated around overly familiar people. When someone overpowers the conversation it tends to unnerve me. I felt as if my colleague was constantly always in my space and silence for me is not something that I view as negative. I had to find a way to let my colleague know that I fail to be productive when someone is consistently in my space. I first thought of asking HR for a replacement partner then I realized that would have been unnecessary. This is because we were not fighting it was just a personality clash. I decided to talk it out with my colleague. I began the conversation by saying “May we please talk about something over coffee?” What this did is that we had a friendly date where I politely told my colleague about my feelings and a way forward. I thanked them for their support and highlighted the great things about our partnership. I let them know that I loved working with them because we did work well together. I demonstrated good interpersonal skills and my ability to work in a team.
Sample Response 8- Team dynamics that leave you feeling isolated
I worked in a team of x people and I felt like I was being excluded. I had convinced myself that I was inadequate because I was young. Everyone else on the team was older and exuded confidence. I felt as though I did not even deserve to be in this room of giants. The effect of this is that I developed increasingly low self-esteem. I had imposter syndrome. I was failing to realize that I had worked hard to get my foot in the door. I was now performing badly and I confided in a friend about how I felt isolated at work. I would feel tongue-tied when it came to expressing my opinion. I was intimidated to be in a room of people who were so smart and senior; I had convinced myself my opinion would not matter. My friend helped me to get out of my head by mentioning that I needed to learn to be more outgoing at work. I took initiative by finding out my teammate’s interests to build a relationship. The feelings of isolation gradually faded away as I felt that I was now truly part of the team. From then I managed to demonstrate my ability to progress within my field. I can accept help and see where I am wrong. I am teachable and I believe in taking charge of my life and that is something that will manifest itself in the quality of my work.
Sample Response 9- Someone attacks your work
I faced a situation where I felt that I had worked hard and that my work was of above-average standard. Imagine my disappointment when my supervisor commented that my work was not of the usual standard that I normally present. I was devastated and I felt like a failure. I had never received a bad review before. I felt really bad and I had the urge to be defensive. The truth is my supervisor was indeed correct that I could have done better. I was not willing to admit to that at the time, in all honesty. I thought of arguing then realized that I would only be trying to force that I was right when I wasn’t. I thought of how being emotive would lead to discomfort in the room and cause some embarrassment for observers. What the supervisor had stated was merely constructive criticism and not an attack on my qualifications and ability. I took notes and when I had the chance to present the work again I demonstrated that I had listened to the constructive criticism and I managed to incorporate it into my work. I demonstrated that I am a good listener with the ability to be objective. I feel that someone honest with themselves even when it is uncomfortable is someone with a skill set that an employer can value. I can look beyond myself and I am committed to self-improvement.
This is not a comprehensive list of all you can talk about. The key to a comfortable interview is your ability to apply the events in your life to the question. All the best with your job search!