The popular interview question, “Tell me about a time you handled a difficult situation,” can catch you off guard if you’re not ready for it. It’s not an easy question to answer and requires some forethought so that you don’t ramble or freeze!

Interviewers ask this question because they want to know how you’ll react in difficult, unforeseen circumstances on the job. In this video, you’ll learn how to best answer this common interview, come out on top without rambling, and prove to your interviewer that you are the best fit for the position.

3 Tips to Answer This Interview Question

I’ve collected these top 3 tips just for you to make sure you knock this question out of the park and land your dream job. Let’s jump into it!!

Tip 1 – Keep it positive

The last thing you want to do is bring up a situation where you have to speak negatively of someone else, especially your former or current place of employment. This will only reflect poorly on your character and won’t show your interviewer that you have what it takes to solve problems. 

Rather, focus on a situation that shows your leadership and teamwork ability; a situation you can mention something your learned from it. How did you, your team, or your company come out on top?

Tip 2 – Make it relevant and significant

Talk about a difficult situation you handled that directly relates to the position you’re interviewing for.

Before the interview, review the job posting very carefully to learn what key qualities the interviewer wants in their ideal candidate. Then pick a difficult situation from your past that ties nicely into the responsibilities and requirements of the new position.

You’ll make the most impact by choosing something that shows you were under pressure, facing a time constraint, or something that involved other people’s emotions.

Remember, the goal is to demonstrate your adaptability and problem-solving skills, so make sure your response focuses on those. 

Tip 3 – Explain the result

Employers are eager to know what result you achieved from handling the difficult situation. The best way to really demonstrate this is structuring your answer with the STAR method. 

The STAR method is a great way to structure your response to this and other interview questions. Here is a simple breakdown:

S – You’ll start your answer by giving the interviewer context and clearly explaining the situation you were in. 

T – Then, mention the task at hand and what your specific role was and what your colleagues roles were.

A – Once you’ve provides some context, you’ll then describe the action steps you took to overcome the difficult situation.

R – Finally, explain the results you achieved from handling this difficult situation. This works best if you can quantify your results.

To learn more about how to use the STAR method to answer this and other interview questions, visit this blog post all about it.

Sample Answer

There you have it! To give you more guidance as you practice your own response, here is a sample answer to the question, “Tell me about a time you handled a difficult situation:”

I encountered a situation in my previous position as a business analyst. I had the privilege of working with a client that was gregarious, full of energy, and very eager to make things happen. The only problem is that the client didn’t have a clear goal or vision of what they really wanted. This led to frustration and a whole lot of misunderstanding.


Using a technique called “I’ll Know It When I See It” (IKIWIS), I was able to elicit, analyse, and document ideas the client hadn’t considered before. After some powerful brainstorming sessions, we developed a solution that the client was over the moon with. In the end, we received 3 other referrals from this one client.

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