Almost every job interview question that is asked will be an endeavor to evaluate whether you are the best candidate for the position, or not.
Two of the toughest behavioral interview questions are about:
- Challenging experiences that you have had in your professional life.
- Difficult situations that you have faced in your previous jobs.
What was the Most Difficult Situation you have faced in a workplace?
One of the common questions is when the interviewer wants you to describe a specific difficult work related situation that you have faced in your previous job and how you handled it. This interview question is asked in order to evaluate your communication skills, your ability to solve problems/issues and your conflict resolution abilities (i.e. analytical skills).
Try to remember some of the difficult/hard work situations that you have experienced. There can be any number and different types of cases, most probably:
- If you are in the customer service field, you might encounter one of those difficult customer service situations, where the problem is tough to solve, takes time and the customer was quite incited and angry.
- It might have been any delicate issue with team-mates, co-workers or a serious distinct problem in a project.
Your answer should illustrate your abilities to deal with difficult situations effectively.
While answering the question, break the situation into fragments as follows:
- Describe the situation you encountered in detail.
- Tell how you’ve used your skills to analyze the problem before you considered subsequent actions (i.e. solutions).
- Explain the solution that you selected and your approach – why did you decide to take this particular resolution?
- Finally, describe the outcomes/results and what you have learned from that situation.
Any company would want an experienced person, who is able to rise above complex situations. Therefore, make it a point to describe a work related situation in which you utilized your strong personal and professional skills.
Further reading –
- Problem solving interview question.
- Conflict resolution interview questions.
- Situation based interview questions.
- Case study interview questions.
How Did You Handle Your Most Challenging Experience in Your Previous Job?
One of the frequently asked questions related to your professional background is about the ‘most challenging experience’ that you’ve dealt with in your line of work.
The difference between a question about a challenging experience and the previous question, regarding a difficult situation, is not semantic. While a difficult situation refers to specific work related events or issues, the so called ‘challenging work experience’ often, but not always, relates to a job experience over an extended period.
When you are asked such a question, make it a point to listen carefully to the interviewer. Would the interviewer like to hear about a particular case, such as discussed in the above question, or may he/she mean – a general experience?
A past challenging experience can be any different job role, new responsibility, different job opportunity, career change or even a new position.
For example, if you were promoted to lead and manage a team, it is definitely considered a challenging professional experience. Another example is managing changes in the workplace as it requires using external information and utilizing different resources.
In most cases, the interviewer wished to observe learning agility (i.e. quick learning ability) and the ability to adjust to changes (i.e. tolerance skills) – These two factors can be the most important deciding factors for candidate selections.
Further reading – Examples of Strengths and Weaknesses Interview Questions.
Therefore, first, decide which of the toughest experiences in your work life you wish to discuss. There are several factors that classify the gravity of the experience, so it would be wise to select a valuable one. Here’s how to structure your answer:
- Address the experience that you’d like to talk about.
- Explain why it was challenging for you and the goals you have set to achieve it.
- Use action words to tell how you have planned, initiated, originated, established, decided, thought, listened, guided, coached, led, motivated, developed etc etc. to achieve the above goals.
- Finally, analyze the results.
Also, you should be expressive enough to report if you handled it alone and/or whether you required assistance from others, because the answer can be cross examined by follow up questions.
Receiving assistance for others is absolutely OK as it shows that you know how to communicate with people, use their strengths and knowledge to your benefit, and that you are able to work effectively in a team environment.
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