Job Interview Question: How Did You Handle a Difficult Situation

“How do you handle a difficult situation?” is one of the most common job interview questions

Employers like to ask the question: Tell me about a difficult situation, conflict or challenge you faced in the workplace. You will most likely be asked this question in one form or another. The employer is checking your critical thinking skills by asking you to relate a specific instance where you: a) took charge in handling a challenging situation or conflict, and b) collaborated with your coworkers as a team in order to do so.

The employer is checking your critical thinking skills, approach to the problem and the level of responsibility you take in challenging situations. So it is important that you think of good examples that involve you handling and resolving a problem.

Interviewer: Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation at work

Interviewee: One time a customer was yelling at me, I don’t write the rules, so I let her know that and went and got my manager.

It is important to make sure that you use an example that demonstrates your ability to handle a tough situation. It does not make sense to use an example that involves elevating the situation to a superior and not being the one responsible for the resolution. This is also a good chance to show your ability to work as part of a team. Being able to analyze a problem, utilizing the advice and suggestions of others demonstrates good critical thinking skills and shows you are a team player. In order to tell an effective story and frame your example, use the PAR model:

P stands for Problem – What was the problem or challenge you were facing?

A is for Action – How did you and your coworkers analyze the problem and what actions did you take in order to solve it?

R is for Result – What was the positive outcome as a result of your actions?

Ending the story strong is necessary. You want to show that you learned from the experience and created a positive situation or environment for all parties involved. let’s look at a good example of a candidate who has structured his answer well. Here, we have a project manager working with 2 of her colleagues to meet a deadline. Her colleagues were not able to agree with each other on the details of the project:

Interviewee: One time, while working as a Project Manager at Slate Construction, I was working with 2 of my colleagues to meet a deadline on a proposal we were drafting. They could not agree with each other on how to approach the proposal and the deadline was near. It was obvious we needed a to work better as a team, so I invited them both to lunch where we were able to openly discuss the details of the project, allowing both of them to hear the full scope of each other’s plans. Having lunch together gave them the opportunity to see that they both had similar visions of the big picture but disagreed about smaller, less important details. After hearing both of their plans we made a single list using the best and most efficient ideas that we all agreed on. In the end, we ended up drafting one solid proposal that was under budget, making our client very happy. It turned out that afterwards, the two worked together even more; producing some of the best projects we had in my time with the company. I feel that the experience helped me improve my ability to collaborate and work as an integral part of a team while growing in my leadership skills as well.

Remember, when answering the question pertaining to a time you were faced with a challenging or difficult situation in the workplace, use examples that demonstrate how you stepped up and took a leadership position by collaborating with your coworkers. Remain upbeat and positive when giving your answer and use the PAR system to frame the story. How did you handle a difficult situation at work?. Its a standard job interview question. So answer this tactfully.