With interviews, as with anything, preparation is key. Learning how to get just a little better at job interviews is one of the best-value things you can do for yourself. The best preparation consists of thinking through how you want to answer common questions, so you don't get caught off guard.
One of the questions you're likely to be asked in an interview is "Tell Me a Time When You Had to Deal With a Difficult Person". We’ve all worked with difficult people before. Whether it’s a co-worker, boss, or customer, difficult people can be a challenge to handle. When an interviewer asks you to tell them about a time when you’ve had to work with a difficult person, they’re really trying to assess your conflict resolution skills, ability to work under pressure, and how you handle difficult situations. In this blog post we will share tips to prepare you on how to answer this question.
What does the interviewer want to find out?
Many people assume that their CV alone can adequately convey their achievements, but that presupposes the interviewer has had time to read your CV before the interview when many interviewers are just too busy.
Behind every interview question, there is a concern or another question.
Your job is to process the question, thinking about what the interviewer concerns might be. In other words, why is the interviewer asking you this question?
When an interviewer asks you to tell them about a time when you’ve had to work with a difficult person, a concern might be
your ability to be flexible and work in a diverse environment.
Make sure to choose a story that demonstrates your problem-solving skills, provide context, focus on your actions, highlight your strengths, and end on a positive note.
The most important is to remain calm and professional as you tell the story (and answer any follow-up questions), spend more time talking about the resolution than the conflict, and mention what you’d do differently next time to show “you’re open to learning from tough experiences.”
Also equally important is to be honest in your responses.
Examples of the best answers
You've been asked in an interview to talk about a time when you had to work with a difficult person. This is a common question, but not an easy one to answer. We have an example response that you can answer.
“In my last three jobs, I have worked with people from very diverse backgrounds and cultures. The only time I had difficulty was with people who were dishonest about work issues. I worked with one woman who was taking credit for work that her team accomplished. I had an opportunity to talk with her one day and explained how she was affecting morale. She became very upset that others saw her that way and said she was unaware of her behaviour or the reactions of others. Her behaviour changed after our talk. What I learnt from that experience is that sometimes what we perceive about others is not always the case if we check it out.”
Key points to remember
When asked what achievement are you most proud of, take a few moments to think about your response before you answer. You'll want to make sure your response is relevant to the job you're interviewing for and highlights qualities or skills that would be valuable in the role. You should also be honest in your response and prepared to discuss the details of your achievement if the interviewer asks follow-up questions.
1. Choose a story that demonstrates your problem-solving skills
When choosing the story to share with the interviewer, make sure it’s one that shows how you were able to solve a problem and resolve a conflict. This tells the interviewer that you have the ability to tackle difficult situations and come up with solutions that benefit everyone involved.
2. Provide context
Before diving into your story, make sure to provide some context to the situation. Who was the difficult person you had to work with? How long had you been working with them? What was the nature of your working relationship? Providing context will help the interviewer understand the situation
3. Focus on your actions
In telling your story, make sure to focus on the actions you took to resolve the conflict. What did you say or do to address the situation? How did you communicate your concerns? Did you seek the help of a supervisor or mentor? Highlighting your actions will show the interviewer that you are proactive and willing to take the initiative to resolve a difficult situation.
4. Highlight your strengths
When answering this question, it’s important to highlight your strengths. For example, if you had to work with a difficult co-worker, you may have demonstrated strong communication skills or the ability to remain calm under pressure. Whatever strengths you showed during the situation, make sure to highlight them in your answer.
5. End on a positive note
Finally, when answering this question, make sure to end on a positive note. Talk about how you were able to resolve the situation, any positive outcomes that came from the experience, and what you learned from it. The interviewer wants to see that you can learn and grow from difficult situations, and that you are able to handle conflict in a positive and productive way.
When answering the question “tell me a time when you had to work with a difficult person,” make sure to choose a story that demonstrates your problem-solving skills, provide context, focus on your actions, highlight your strengths, and end on a positive note. With these tips, you’ll be able to impress the interviewer with your conflict resolution skills and ability to handle difficult situations
By following these tips, you can be sure to craft a strong answer that will impress your interviewer and demonstrate your value as a potential new employee. Good luck!
Do you have any other tips for answering difficult interview questions? Share them with us in the comments below!