When you prepare for a job interview, you usually want to keep the topics positive, highlighting your achievements and skills. However, there is a topic that can trip up interview optimists: talking about difficult situations. This topic has a sibling, talking about your biggest weakness, and the strategy for both can be similar.
How difficult does the situation have to be?
Let’s talk about what makes a difficult situation. For example, taking someone to the emergency room at a moment’s notice is a difficult situation, but unless the interview is for driving ambulances, it’s probably not what the interviewer is asking of you. Likewise, maybe you remember a situation where you felt overwhelmed and completely shut down or bailed out. That’s not an ideal story to share, either.
A great fit for this question is any situation in which things didn’t go the way you expected and you persevered or found a solution. Maybe you maintained a pleasant demeanor while someone threw a tantrum and called you names. Or maybe you had to take on extra responsibilities when a colleague called out sick during the busiest day of the year. Convey the full context of the unpleasantness, then make sure you circle back to how you used your flexibility, kindness, quick thinking, and/or level head to get through the situation.
Soft skills, solid results
Questions about bad days and weaknesses are good opportunities to highlight your soft skills. According to a 2016 study from Wonderlic, 93% of managers consider soft skills "essential" or "very important" when making hiring decisions. They are the sort of skills that help you work with others and build rapport, whether with colleagues or customers. The interview process is usually a proving ground for soft skills. By contrast, “hard” skills are the sort of quantifiable skills that are more easily and verifiably taught. Your hard skills probably got you in the door, but your soft skills will seal the deal. Given the choice between two equally talented candidates, who wouldn’t want to hire the friendlier option?
What if nothing has ever gone wrong?
Some people navigate crises so well that they don’t think they’ve ever been through one. Maybe they should teach a class! That kind of resilience is a strength and a weakness at the same time - it’s good to stay cool under pressure, but also to have the perspective to recognize the pressure in the first place. Someone who never recognizes difficulty could come off as dismissive or aloof, qualities that can lead to poor communication and teamwork.
Looking for more information?
Set up a virtual meeting with one of our certified Career Coaches through the Book a Learning Coach form or by calling 803-929-3400. After you submit, we will contact you to set an appointment. Our team provides help with interviewing skills, your résumé, interest/skills assessments, and more. Follow Richland Library on LinkedIn for career development tips and tidbits.