Interview question – Tell Me About A Time When You Handled A Difficult Situation (With Examples)


Well, hello there! I’m Natalie, your career lifeguard and author of ‘Get Any Job You Want’.


Today we are going to talk about stories and their power.


Have you ever been asked this in an interview? “Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation.”


The real question they’re asking here is: How do you act when you’re stuck in a bad spot? Do you think on your feet well?


A lot of people get stumped when they get asked a scenario-based question like this one…


What you’ll learn today is:


  • How long should your story be?


  • How to create your story file and keep it with you for when you need it.


  • Have a basic theme to rely on if you do get stumped.


  • 2 good example stories that I’ll share for inspiration.


  • And, just for fun, 1 bad example of how this question has been answered.

If you’d prefer to watch the video click below to watch or keep reading….



How long should your story be?


Keep it short! 30 seconds to 1 minute: any longer than that, and you could be rambling. And rambling is definitely not a good characteristic. Even if you’re great at what you do, if you ramble, you’ll be less likely to impress anyone.


Stories are king here. They are the way in which you’ll be remembered. So tell as many as you can!


The first thing is to think about it. I have created a downloadable guide of potential stories to help you get your story juices flowing. You can also ask friends and colleagues, or send out an email to your friends engaging in a discussion about stories that have happened in your work life. Don’t think you have any stories? Well, you do, everyone does. 😀


Have a basic theme to go on if you do get stumped.


For example: I have a main answer that applies to a lot of different scenario-based questions, and it centres around communication. If I get asked, “Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation,” and I’ve got nothing and am drawing a blank, I say something like this:


“I tend to believe that any situation can be improved with better communication. Often times, situations get escalated because people are not clear on what the other person means or what is expected of them. With improving the communication full circle, and doing a little investigation and information finding, figuring things out and moving forward becomes a lot more clear.”


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Now, this is a back-up answer (only if you can’t think of a story.) A better example would be an actual story. I will share one of mine with you:


“Well, there was a time at work where two different high level executives asked me to do different things (completely opposite things, in fact.) This put me in a very awkward position because I didn’t know who to listen to and they were both very busy people. How I handled it was, I put them in contact with each other and made them aware of the conflict in a nice way. What ended up happening was, they apologized to each other, and they apologized to me and they agreed on what they wanted done. I was able to continue on with my job and they were more careful to check with each other in future.”


Another example of mine is:


“I was working at a gym and my co-worker had left sick halfway through the day. I ended up being left with an interview to conduct AND an orientation to run with 8 new gym members waiting at the exact same time. I literally had to be two places at once. This was a difficult situation and my manager had gone home sick so there was no one to ask for help. The front desk lady had to remain at the front and the trainers working that day all had their own clients. So how I handled it was, I asked the guy coming in for an interview to join me on the orientation. Then he got to see how I did it and he even jumped in to demonstrate a couple of the exercises. After the orientation ended I was able to finish up the interview and the crisis was averted.”


Okay, now for the bad example:


“I handle difficult situations all the time!”


“But can you give an example of one?”


“Oh, yeah, all the time, every day for me is a new difficult situation.”


And there you have it: the answer to a difficult situation!


Now I’d love to hear from you! What’s your story on this? Do you have a pickle that you’d like to share how you got out of it?


If you’d like to dive deeper with me, click the link below to get started. When you sign up you’ll instantly get the free tool kit to help you get any job you want, plus weekly updates with exclusive information that I only share through email.


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Do you have one person who could benefit from the information in this video? If so, do your friend a favour and share it with them.


And remember, the current system can be kinda messed up at times, but you can outsmart it and I’m here to prove to you that you’ve got what it takes and I’ve got you covered!


I’ll see you next time and I can’t wait!


2 comments on “Interview question – Tell Me About A Time When You Handled A Difficult Situation (With Examples)

  1. Just great writing on career issue! Natalie Mam, I want to thank you for this brilliant discussion. I have a difficult time when I was in the interview room for the first time in my life. I thought that time if I get the chance; never ever I will not enter any interview room again.

  2. Great blog post. I learned something. There will always be problems in work I hate those to be honest. Just recently I forgot to submit a milestone for a project on time. My supervisor reprimanded me of course. I took it well I was surprised. LOL! I was lucky enough to retain my job. Its my first time too to miss a deadline. I said sorry I promsed my boss I wont do it again.

    two thumbs up!

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