Behavioural Interview Question – Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult co-worker


In this post, we’re going to answer the situational interview question: “Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult person.”


I love this question! This is my favourite one, I think.


In this post, you’re going to learn:


  • Why this question is asked


  • How to answer it step by step


  • And how to wrap it up gracefully

So, stay tuned.


OK, why is this question asked?


So, the interviewers asking you this question, they want to see how you handle when you have a problem with somebody in your group or somebody that you work with. So, things like this come up at work all the time, where you don’t agree with someone, or you’re trying to get someone to do something for you, and you can’t because they don’t want to.


So, how do you answer this question?


You may guess that we’re going to tell a story. So, using the S.A.R.I. formula, which we’ll go through here… S.A.R.I. means: Situation, Action, Result, Interesting features. And how you answer it is tell the story with the beginning, middle and end. So, the story should be memorable, interesting and include enough detail to paint a picture for the interviewer.


So, they want to see that you don’t get personal or caught up in workplace drama. They want to see that you deal with the situation at hand diplomatically and are focused on the outcome that you want. It’s easy to get caught up in emotions of anger, frustration. They want to see that you just get to the point and diplomatically deal with the problem.


So, let’s talk about the key actions that you would take and you might answer the question.



First, Step 1: Set the stage


This is the situation, where you describe what’s going on. So, an example here might be dealing with a lovely co-worker, who is a very nice person but who isn’t deadline-oriented, so they just don’t pay attention to deadlines, let’s say. Say you were working with this person, and you were working on an important thing that needed to be completed by a certain day, and he wasn’t meeting deadlines, and you were sure he wasn’t going to meet this one coming up. So, that’s how you set the stage.


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So, Step 2 is where you talk about the action that you took


So, the action here, for example, might be that you approached your co-worker and figured out what was going on, and you offered to help him.


And Step 3 would be the results that came from your action


So, then you would explain what happened. For example, when you spoke to your co-worker, he mentioned that he was overworked, he was frustrated, and he didn’t have time to do everything that was expected of him. So, how you solved the situation was you offered to help him, and you offered to get some projects off of his plate by speaking to his manager with him so that he could meet the deadline that you had needed met.


And Step 4: What did you learn?


This is where the interesting features come in. So, you learned, for example, that to seek to understand first, to seek to help second… So, not to go in with anger or frustration, which is what most people would probably do when someone wasn’t doing what they needed done. So, instead of this, you took a different approach, which worked out very well because your co-worker was appreciative you understood him, and you were able to get the project completed on time.


And there we have it—a solid example of how to answer the behavioural question: “Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult coworker.”


Thank you for reading, and if you’d like more help with these types of questions, you can click the link below to get the free instant access to the downloadable Free Guide to Situational Interviewing.


In this guide, what you will learn (and you can get access to immediately)… What you’ll learn is an in-depth look at the S.A.R.I. formula and the psychology behind it and why it works. You will get a series of complete, concrete examples for the top-ten most commonly asked situational interview questions. You will also get fill-in-the-blank templates for each question, so all you need to do is fill in the blanks with your own personal stories, practice them, and you’ll be set to go. And if you’re still getting stuck because preparing your own stories is tough (It’s difficult to come up with them on the spot.), I’ve also included 25 questions that you can ask yourself to come up with your own stories much quicker and more effectively. You’ll also get this in a beautifully designed workbook designed specifically for you to prepare for your next interview. By the end of working through this guide, you’ll be totally ready for any situational interview question that comes your way. That’s my promise to you. So, download it now!


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Thank you so much for reading, and I will see you next week right here at (my very own digital house)


In Work & Life
-Natalie Fisher


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