Gearing up for a job interview takes a bit of thought and preparation. You’re going to come up against many behaviour- and situation-related questions when you sit down at the table with a hiring manager.
Today, I’m going to cover an interview question that comes up a lot:
“Tell me about a time when you were part of a failing team.”
I’ll teach you:
Why interviewers ask this question
Step-by-step instructions for creating your response
How to wrap it all up gracefully
Why are you being asked about this?
The reason prompts like these are used in job interviews is that hiring managers want to know how you respond to pressure.
What they’re really asking is “Will you step up to the plate in a time of need? Are you going to be a contributing team player? Do you approach your job with a learning mindset?”
For this particular question, you can incorporate a story from work, school or volunteering. The person interviewing you wants to see your ability to turn around a situation that wasn’t going well with a group of people. Your story should start with how the team was failing and how you played a part in getting everyone together and turning it around. Your response here will demonstrate people skills, communication skills and overall resourcefulness.
If you’ve been tuning into my other blog posts, you might have guessed how this is going to work—we’re going to use the S.A.R.I. Formula. You might have heard this technique referred to as S.T.A.R. or S.A.R. It’s all the same, and it all works. The reason it works is that you’re developing a structured response, and the steps are easy for you to remember.
The S.A.R.I. Formula:
For these kinds of job interview questions, you’ll need to tell a story. And to tell a story, you need a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you introduce what you’re going to talk about. The middle is the meat of the story. This is where the action happens, and you’ll want to spend most of your time on it. The middle is where the hero (you!) comes in to save the day. You’ll wrap it all up with a happy ending. Interesting features sprinkled throughout the story always add appeal and make you more memorable—we’ll talk about those, too.
I’ll give you an example from my own work experience.
Step 1: Set the stage.
“We were about to make a big office move. Everyone was frantic. Out of the 75 people there, it seemed like no one was on the same page. It was our mission to execute a flawless relocation, without any interruption of service to customers. It seemed like an impossible task, given our lack of clear communication.”
Setting the stage here means talking about the team mission and why it looked like the team was on its way towards failure.
Step 2: Action.
“I took it on as my personal mission to make sure our relocation was smooth. I knew that communication and approach were the keys to accomplishing this. I brought the team together into a meeting each week to go over key progress points for the move. In these meetings, everyone had a chance to bring up their concerns and speak together in a safe place.”
The meat in the middle describes the steps taken to get the team back on track. In your own story, you’ll want to describe the solutions you came up with and how you were able to implement them.
Step 3: Results.
“My team was able to communicate, and all of the missing pieces were put together. The relocation happened without a hitch.”
In my case, everything worked out well. What were the results of your actions? You’ll want to explain how the team came together to see the project through successfully.
Step 4: Interesting Features.
“I learned that the team wasn’t communicating enough (or at all), and consequently, misunderstandings happened all over the place. By bringing everyone together, our problems were solved.”
Whenever possible, highlight what you’ve learned from your experience. In my case, I learned that opening up communication together finds solutions to problems!
If you’d like more help with these types of interview questions, download my free situational interview guide here: The Ultimate Situational Interview Q&A Guide
In The Ultimate Situational Interview Q&A Guide, you’ll get a breakdown of the S.A.R.I Formula seen here. You can dive into the psychology behind the S.A.R.I. Formula and follow along step-by-step examples of the top 10 most common situational questions asked in job interviews. You’ll read real-life examples from the lives of me and my clients to inspire you in the creation of your own stories.
Included with The Ultimate Situational Interview Q&A Guide are fill-in-the-blank templates for each question. You can simply pop in your answers, and you’ll be off to the races!
And if you’re still stuck (because preparing your own stories can be tough), the guide also includes 25 questions for you to ask yourself to come up with your own answers more quickly and effectively.
Plus, it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful workbook that was created specifically to help you prepare for your next interview. If you work through this guide and participate in the exercises, you will be ready for any situational question that comes your way—that’s my promise to you!
Until next time,
In Work & Life
– Natalie Fisher