In this post We will answer the Situational interview question: “Tell me about a time you had to communicate with a person who was difficult to communicate with?”
A sneak peek into the mind of the interviewer and WHY they ask this
What to say when you’re answering
And a concrete example to get you thinking!
Conflict with people is inevitable in the workplace, with people having different communication styles and personalities it’s not something you will get around if you’re working with other people. So the interviewer really wants to know HOW you navigate it when someone isn’t peachy all the time or they might be difficult to communicate with or unwilling to cooperate. This is an obstacle that gets in the way of productivity and they want to hear about how you’ve dealt with it in the past.
When did you turn someone’s Frown Upside Down? (Cheesy I know).
So here’s how you answer:
You answer it by telling your story using:
The SARI Formula which we’ll go through here. SARI stands for (Situation, Action Result and interesting Features)
The SARI Formula stands for (Situation/Task, Action, Result & Interesting Features)
You want to tell a powerful story that paints a good picture of the situation, how you rose to the challenge and the end result.
Step 1: The Situation (setting the stage) So For Example:
I was working with the development team on the company website. I needed to guide them with what we wanted and they needed to do it. The head developer who needed to make the changes was a bit difficult to communicate with, and since there was a lot of communication needed between the two of us to get the job done successfully I knew we needed to do something about it.
Step 2: Action:
What were the actions that you took and what outcome did they lead to? So for example: Action:
I asked him how he prefered me to communicate with him? I.E. via email or in person, on the phone etc.?
I asked him how much time he would ideally like for requests, since I wanted to consider his needs when working with him.
I asked him if there was anything else I could do to make working together easier for him.
Step 3: Result 1
So the Result was: He didn’t respond well. He wanted to communicate via email but he was really non – responsive. He wanted a ton of notice for anything which was not always possible, he said there was nothing I could to make working together easier. He was really just grumpy and unhappy in general.
He was a great developer though and I knew I couldn’t give up because we would just be starting again from square one. We had a job to do together here.
So 2nd action I took was, asking him what was going on. I just got really real with him, just went and sat with him and brought him a coffee and said: “What’s going on with you? Is everything ok?” I feel like our working relationship could be better and I’d like to make sure that you’re ok because you don’t seem like yourself?
He broke down and told me that he was overwhelmed. He was having issues at home with his wife snoring and he couldn’t sleep properly, he said he hadn’t slept in weeks, he had big backlogs of work and high expectations on him to do a lot in short amounts of time, he apologized for giving me the cold shoulder and being so difficult to work with. He appreciated my concern and wanted to make a better effort to let me know where he was at with things.
Step 4: Bonus interesting features
Highlight anything interesting about the story – So for me the learning here was, that this person was actually not a difficult person to communicate with under normal circumstances. But the thing that was causing him the problem was 2 fold, both his lack of sleep and a lot of work was making him cranky and snappy. His communication skills were fine the problem went deeper than what was on the surface.
And there we have it:
Can you think of a time you had an opportunity break down the communication barriers with someone?
How did you feel afterwards?
How did it turn out!
Thank you for reading! And remember Nailing the interview questions is great! But There is a lot more to interviewing than just answering the questions.
In fact if all you do is answer the questions alone, you’ve already lost at the interview.
There is a whole interview strategy at play and if you’d like to learn more you can get started with me by clicking the link below to grab my free guide:
You get free instant access and Ultimate situational interviewing guide.
What you’ll get when you download the guide:
An in-depth look at The SARI Formula (and the psychology behind it)
A series of Concrete Examples for the top 10 most commonly asked situational questions
Fill in the blank templates for each question
& if you are still getting stuck (because preparing your own stories is tough) I’ve also included
25 Questions to come up with your own stories much quicker.
You’ll also get the beautifully designed workbook, designed specially for you to prepare for your next interview.
By the end of working through the guide you’ll be totally ready for any situational interview question that gets thrown your way!
Click below and grab it now.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week right here in my digital house of www.nataliefisher.ca
In Work & Life