Can You Tell Me About a Difficult Work Situation And How You Overcame It

Can You Tell Me About a Difficult Work Situation And How You Overcame It?

The creative ways interviewers ask questions are increasing and as a potential employee or an applicant, you have to also up your game to provide the most needed response to open-ended behavioral interview questions like “Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?”

It’s an interesting one to answer since you would prefer not to seem like a superman yet you additionally can’t cause it to seem like you’ve never managed a challenge. It’s a convoluted inquiry to answer because various individuals handle difficulties in an unexpected way.

So how do you go approach this question? This article contains the necessary information to help you give the appropriate response to the interviewer. Before we do that, let’s dive a little into the purpose of this question.


Why do interviewers ask this question?

Like every other question in the interviewer’s arsenal, the question “Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?” is asked for a purpose. The main aim of this question alongside other behavioral questions like “how do you handle stress?” is to know more about you as an applicant.

In every workplace, there are bound to be difficult situations. During an interview, this question allows them to assess your behavior and you handle challenging situations during work. They use the response you give to make predictions about how you will behave in the future while working with them.

In addition, the interviewer expects you to sell yourself. They want you to flex your storytelling skills and also want to learn how you communicate during that difficult situation.

Now that we’ve gotten an understanding of the interviewer’s perspective, let’s take a look at how to answer the interview question: Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?


Answering the question

Answering how you overcame a difficult work situation shows the human side of yourself, everyone has had a challenge in the workplace or as a first-time applicant at school. So it’s important you do not project yourself as a superhuman.

Just be sure that the story you tell has a happy ending. An ending where there was a positive result at the end of the challenging situation and how the lessons were learned. Let’s look at some important tips that will help you ace this question during your interview.

Experience, not imagination

Your imagination is a powerful tool, but when it comes to this, it is not the best to use. The story you want to stick to should be real, it should be something you have experienced and felt. This way you get to be calm and consistent in telling your story.

As stated earlier, everyone has been through a difficult time at work. So you do not have to be an artist and make up stories that didn’t happen. The bad thing about making stories up is the possibility of making them sound like exaggerated stories.

So what you want to do right now is to go back, think of those moments (I know some are dropping in your head), write them down, and pick the one you can use.

Be all about your action and approach

Now that you’ve picked a pretty interesting challenging situation, what you want to do next is to stick with your deeds during that situation. Do not get carried away by the “sweetness” of your story. Take your time to explain your strategy and approach and how that strategy of yours took you out of the challenge. You can also throw in a few pointers on why that particular approach you took was the best.

Now the results

“For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction” that’s what the great Sir Isaac Newton said. While you focus on tour action, approach, and strategies used, you also want to discuss the results of the approach you used. That it is important you pick a real story, a real story that has a positive result, that is, a happily ever after.

The answer that you provide should indicate that the strategies you used brought about a transformation in the workplace and there were lessons learned while using that approach. In case the example you chose to stick with didn’t have a really good ending, you can chip in how the difficult situation challenged and helped you become a better employer.

These tips can be summarized using the S.T.A.R format. S.T.A.R is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Approach, and Results. Using this format will help you faster in getting a story.


What to Avoid

Do not make it all about you.

Yes! I know it’s your story but for an interview do not make it all about you. You can sing your praises when you want to impress a colleague. The interviewer will not be impressed if the difficult situation you are describing does not involve communication with other people. It’s a workplace and it is a challenging situation, so it’s alright if you say you got stuck at one point you needed to ask for help. This will give the interviewer the impression that you cherish teamwork and promote a healthy professional relationship

Do not paint anyone bad

Sometimes a challenging situation can be caused by someone’s mistake and you had to solve it. It is of essence that you do not bash and start your story by saying bad things about how careless the person was. All you have to do is come up with the difficult situation and how you solved it. Talking bad about other people is not professional nor is it ethical.

Do not get unprofessional

Life can be hard and difficult situations can arise at any time, that doesn’t mean you talk about how challenging it was when you had a fight with your friend or something not work-related. Your example of a difficult work situation should be strictly work-related. This is your first interview ever, don’t worry, you can use academic or volunteering scenarios. Just be professional!


Final thoughts

Information is power. No matter how tough this question might have seemed, I am sure that when you are asked “Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?” you will definitely have an answer or even multiple answers. Just be creative enough to put yourself on the top list of candidates to be considered for employment. Good luck!


Interview Questions

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