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Describe a Difficult Situation and How You Overcame It?

describe a difficult situation and how you overcame it

Have you finally landed a job interview for your dream job?

But are terrified of what questions they will ask?

Researching the types of questions, you may be asked is normal. And the best thing you can do for a job interview is prepare and over-prepare. There’s nothing like being too organized or ready for a situation.

While often job interviews will have the typical, tell me about yourself and your strength and weaknesses questions. They don’t stop there. Interviewers are there to find out as much as possible before they hire you. So they’re going to ask open-ended questions.

Open-ended interview questions such as ‘Describe a Difficult Situation and How You Overcame It’ allow your interviewer to gauge many things about you. We’ll touch on that next…

describe a difficult situation and how you overcame it

Why Do Employers Ask Behavioral-Based Questions?

Behavioral-based interview questions are there to see how you articulate yourself and how you can think under pressure. These are significant indicators of your personality and how you would deal with the job position up for grabs. The things they are looking out for are;

  • How attentive you are.
  • What are your priorities.
  • Using your initiative.
  • Communication skills.
  • Whether or if you accept responsibility for your errors.
  • How you handle conflict, deadlines, and other constraints at work.
  • The quality of your leadership abilities.
  • Your capacity to think quickly.

Employers ask this question to see how applicants will react to challenging circumstances on the job. Applicants who can answer these questions and prove that they can handle challenges in the workforce are, of course, more desirable candidates.

Especially if you are looking at a role that manages several people or higher up the food chain, they want to know you can handle difficult situations.

describe difficult situation and how you overcame it guide

Using The STAR Method

The STAR method is the most popular method for answering any behavioral interview question.


Set the setting or describe the circumstance. Describe the company you worked for or the assignment you were assigned.


Describe the task you had to complete to solve the issue.


Describe how you intervened in the incident or resolved the problem. This should introduce the main asset you want to highlight.


Describe the outcomes of your activity. Describe how you contributed to the solution of the problem or how you helped the organization develop in any manner.

It would be best if you considered using this technique when preparing for any interviews or questions.

Tips For Answering the Question “Describe a Difficult Situation and How You Overcame It?”

  • Keep it positive.
  • Read the job description pick out key points they are looking for in an applicant.
  • Choose a real-life situation.
  • Provide the important details and be concise.
  • Show the process you went through while in the situation. Highlight your problem-solving skills.
  • Explain your actions and prove your communication, leadership, and technical skills.
  • Conclude with the positive outcome.

Things To Avoid

1 Blaming other people.

2 Focusing on negativity.

3 Choosing a situation where you caused the problem.

4 Coming across as egotistic.

Example Answers

You want to pick a situation where you can explain clearly what you did like the STAR method describes. You must select a problem with a straightforward task and outcome, which shows your strengths.

Example 1

“In my previous position working as a business analyst, I had experience with a very energetic client and was eager to make things happen.

However, he never really had a clear plan or vision of the outcome. They were new to the business and had great ideas but no way to tie them together. The client was frustrated, so I decided to take a different approach.

I decided to create some ideas the customer hadn’t thought of before. After a few powerful sessions of brainstorming and visualizing ideas together, we developed an excellent solution that the client was super happy with. I received three other clients from this customer as he was so pleased with our work.”

Example 2

“In my previous job role, there was a situation with a co-worker who was not completing tasks to the expected standard. There was a team of four people, and unfortunately, he was bringing the team down and offloading work onto other people. I could have got a manager involved; however, this was out of character, and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I decided it was my task to discuss with him in private and explain his work and efforts were bringing the team down, and the extra workload was taking its toll. Due to my actions, he ended up confiding in me, explaining he had some personal problems in his life. I encouraged him to speak to a supervisor to get the correct person to help him.

A few weeks later, he returned to work having had the personal time he needed, and his work was back up to standard, and the team gelled well again. I was thrilled with the result, and he was very grateful, along with my colleagues.”

describe difficult situation and how you overcame it

Example 3

“As a customer service assistant, I deal with challenging customers daily. One customer arrived at the store to pick up a product they had purchased online. As I collected the item, I realized that another staff member had mistakenly put the item on the shop floor, and it was purchased that same day. The customer was understandably annoyed, so I was tasked with resolving the issue quickly.

I decided to call a store nearby to see if they had the same product. Luckily they did. I explained the situation to the customer and apologized profusely. After consulting a manager, they allowed me to drive to the store and bring it back for the customer. I told them to re-visit in one hour, and the product would be here waiting for them.

They were delighted, and my managers were pleased with how I handled the situation. Not long after that, I was promoted to customer service supervisor.”

Example 4

“As a project manager, I often have strong-willed colleagues who disagree with each other on project paths. This is usually OK; I like them to debate and develop a solution. But in one situation, neither would budge, which became a problem for the project itself and our work environment.

I invited them to lunch in a nice restaurant and out of the work setting. There was less pressure, and during the conversation, they realized they had similar ideas for the main project and disagreed on the small details. I decided to note all the things they agreed on and presented them after our lunch. The outcome was excellent.

We drafted a proposal that was under budget and had a very happy client. In the end, the two ended up working on more projects together, producing some fantastic work.”

Read more: Signs an Interview Went Well or Badly

The Top 15 Behavioral-Based Questions

  • Tell me about a time when your workday ended before you completed all of your tasks.
  • Tell me about a situation when you had to prioritize one assignment or project above another.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle many tasks simultaneously. What methods did you use to organize your time?
  • Share about a moment when you needed to learn something rapidly.
  • Recall a time when you had to make a tough decision.
  • Talk about your approach to working under pressure.
  • Talk about an instance when you went above and beyond in your work.
  • Think about a situation when you made a mistake at work. What steps did you take to rectify the situation?
  • Can you give me an example of a time when your employment made you unhappy?
  • Give me an example of when you successfully convinced a colleague or client. How did you do it, and why did you do it?
  • Give an example of how you motivated a coworker, a group of peers, or a team.
  • Give an example of when you felt confident in your leadership abilities.
  • What did you do when you didn’t agree with your boss’s leadership style or the culture of the team?
  • Think about a time when you wish you had handled a workplace issue differently.
  • How did you resolve the problem when you disagreed with a boss or supervisor?

Guides For Any Interview Question!

As mentioned above, the STAR Interview Method is known the world around and for good reason! So, take a look at The STAR Method Explained: Proven Technique to Succeed at Interview, as well as The STAR Interview: How to Tell a Great Story which can be used with the STAR METHOD INTERVIEW: Interview Journal: Preparation Notebook to help you nail your interview!

Additionally, we recommend reading up on the Knock ’em Dead Job Interview: How to Turn Job Interviews Into Job Offers, or the compelling The Key to Landing A Job – Interview Secrets Employers and Headhunters Don’t Want You to Know, with The Key to Landing A Job – The Interview and you’ll have the full inside track!

But if you are still not feeling confident, then try the 60 Seconds and You’re Hired!, or the How to Answer Interview Questions, and my top choice, the High-Impact Interview Questions, as well as the Fire Interview: The Storyteller Method all available online in 2023.

Final Thoughts

It is essential you prepare an answer beforehand and don’t just come up with something from the top of your head. Remember to use the STAR method for a clear, structured answer.

Practice these in the mirror or with a partner or friend before your interview. Remember, keep your response positive, and don’t speak badly of anyone. That will only make you look like a weak candidate.

Good luck, and I hope you ace your next interview!

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