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Interview Questions: How Did You Handle A Difficult Situation at Work?

about 1 year ago

Interview Questions: How  Did You Handle A Difficult Situation at Work?

Interview Questions: How Did You Handle A Difficult Situation at Work?

Anyone who has had an interview will have heard some variation of the question, which is no surprise as it is one of the most common job interview questions. Different variations of the question include:

  • What did you do in the past when faced with a problem at work?

  • Tell me about a difficult situation you encountered in a previous job, and how did you resolve it?

  • Describe a problem you had to solve in a previous position.

  • Talk me through a difficult task, and how you handled it.

  • Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake or under-performed on a task and how did you overcome this?

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask This?

This question gives hiring managers the chance to see how candidates respond to situations that often do not have a clear and simple answer. It also gives the hiring manager an insight into how candidates may respond to unexpected challenges and difficult situations that might arise.

What about the Candidate?

A question like this gives you the chance to shine and demonstrate your person-to-person communications abilities when recalling the situation. Also, as you’ve been asked to recall an experience (instead of responding to a presented scenario), the question will be less stressful to answer.

How to Respond?

The best way to respond is to follow the STAR method, so remember:


Begin by describing the challenging situation or task that you were working on.


Then describe the action(s) you took to resolve the situation. Make sure you’re specific with your explanation of each step you made to ensure the problem was rectified.


Finally, what were the results of your action(s)? What would have happened if you didn’t take the action(s) you did? And what did you learn from the experience? 


Things to Think About…

First, make sure you’re prepared for the question, and really think about what challenging situation relates to the role that you are interviewing for and make sure it’s a recent example! Also, make sure what you say is appropriate and avoid saying something you’ll later regret. For example:

  • Don't say anything bad about your former or current workplace or co-workers.

  • Don't be too self-congratulating to the point you're putting yourself in a superior light.

  • Don’t over-emphasise your shortfalls, unless you also highlight your development.

  • Don't choose to talk about a situation that isn't job-related unless it is an entry/graduate position.

Example Answer:

I was working on a project that was behind schedule and I was under pressure to get things back on track. I ended up working late nights and weekends to get the project finished on time. It was a difficult situation, but I learnt a lot about time management and project planning.

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