Can You Answer This Job Interview Question: “Tell Me How You Handled a Difficult Situation”

Now on YouTube:

Before & After Answers to Commonly-Asked Job Interview Questions.

This week’s question is about handling difficult situations:

Tell me how you handled a difficult situation. 

If you aren’t expecting this questions, you will probably make one of two mistakes (or both):

1- you’ll talk about a difficult situation from your personal life

2- you’ll talk too broadly about a general experience

This is what happened in the mock interview you see here.  The candidate was not expecting the question and gave a broad answer about a general difficulty he had experienced in his personal life.

Instead, the answer should be work related, tell a specific story and connect to the lesson learned that makes you a better professional (and in a real interview, the most qualified candidate for the position).

In his after answer, this candidate tells about his work taking care of children in a crisis nursery, where it’s easy to become overwhelmed and get sucked into a family’s crisis. He quickly learned to refer parents to the appropriate staff members so he could focus on his task–taking care of the children whose families were experiencing a crisis.

His after answer is:

  • clear
  • specific
  • work-related

And in a real interview, he would explain how he would use that skill of focusing on the task at hand while referring others to appropriate personnel. It might look something like this: “At company X, this experience would inform my work in Y as it relates to Z.”

Throughout the spring and summer, I will add more of these “before and after” videos that contrast spontaneous answers to commonly-asked interview questions with more practiced, prepared answers.  Look for more next week…

2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
The mock interviews were conducted with University of Illinois Urbana Champaign students from Ann Abbott’s “Spanish and Entrepreneurship” course who worked with me on my social media presence as part of their course project in spring 2015.
This entry was posted in Career Advice, Careers for Humanities Majors, darcy lear, interview prep, Job Interview Questions and Answers in Spanish. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s