In your job interviews, you will most likely be asked about a time when you had a hard time working with someone.
In the following, I will share exactly how to answer this question in your next interview, with sample answers …
I will also share a critical mistake that should be avoided when giving an answer as it can cost you job offers.
Why do employers ask this interview question
Here’s why employers ask you about a time when you’re having a hard time working with someone:
In almost every job you will come across difficult people, whether it is clients, or even team members.
The employer wants to know how you will deal with future situations, and they feel that his best ability is to understand how you have dealt with difficult people in the past.
So, hiring managers are listening to a few key factors in your response:
- They want to make sure you can handle difficult conflicts and personalities.
- They want to understand how you communicate (and how you listen).
- And they want to make sure that your overall approach to working with people is appropriate for the current culture of the team and the workplace.
How to answer interview questions about a time when you had a hard time working with someone
The best answers to this question will show how you stay calm and professional and focus on achieving a positive outcome for the company, even if it is difficult to get along with a team member or client.
When giving a good example of your answer, try to look for a story that is relevant to the role you are discussing, has a positive solution, and has also taught you an important lesson.
One caveat: this question is not an invitation here.
Recruitment managers do not want to hear job seekers complain about the difficult person; They just want to hear how you handled the challenge.
So when answering the interview question, briefly explain the situation, the person involved and why it was so difficult to work with.
But focus more on describing how you overcame the challenge of working with that person.
How did you bring the situation to a positive outcome, and what did you learn from it?
The best answers will end in a positive tone. Recruitment managers will be concerned if you share a negative story and dwell on the negative aspects of the experience.
When answering this interview question, it is critical to show a positive attitude along with a positive result.
That’s why it’s a nice touch to finish your answer by sharing a lesson you learned.
The best type of example / story to choose from
Most people can think of more than one difficult person they have had to deal with, so what kind of story is best to choose for your response?
Your best option is to share an answer that fits the role you are discussing. Think of an example from the past that relates to how you deal with people and communicate in your next job.
In a job interview, the employer does not just decide if you look smart and talented overall.
They are much more interested if you seem to be able to get into this exact role and take care of the technical aspects, based on your past experiences, difficult skills, etc.
If you are being interviewed for a job in customer service, try to come up with a great example of a difficult client and how you did a great job of winning it.
If you are being interviewed for a sales job and have previous sales experience, give an answer that shows you how a potential customer became the most difficult customer.
If your role is more focused on collaboration and internal communication, give a specific example of how you dealt with a difficult situation with a team member in your most recent job.
And if you are looking for a start-up job, then of course you will need to point out someone who is hard to work with in your academic work. This can be a faculty member, a classmate or a team member, etc.
Overall, You are more likely to make a good impression on the interviewer if your answer shows that you are ready for the exact type of work you will do in that job.
6 Attributes Recruiters Look For In Your Answer
When answering an interview question about a time when you had to work with a difficult person, help yourself win the job by demonstrating the following features:
- Strong interpersonal skills and listening skills
- An approach that preserves the good of society
- Optimism and a positive outlook
- Ability to learn from difficult experiences and identify key points from a difficult situation
If you can give an answer that shows the above features, you are going to make a good impression in your job interview.
Next, let’s look at word of mouth examples for a good answer …
Example answers to “Tell me about the time you had a hard time working with someone”
We covered a lot of steps and key parts that the best answers should include.
So let’s gather all the tips up together.
Here are sample word-for-word answers to describe a time when you had a hard time working with someone.
Example Answer 1:
In my last job, the company hired a new project manager who started overseeing some of my work. She had a strong and prominent personality and I was not used to working for someone like that.
She was also critical of my work and pointed out mistakes quite often.
Instead of responding immediately, it took me a few days to think about how best to approach this situation.
I decided it was just her leadership style, and I need to adapt. I realized she was pointing to areas for improvement in my work because part of her role as a leader was to help me get better.
I realized she meant well, even though I was not used to her sudden style.
So I set my goal to learn to get along with her, build closeness and incorporate her suggestions and feedback into my work.
I ended up building a great relationship with her and learned so many important lessons from her, in terms of how to do my job better and be successful in this industry.
The experience has taught me a lot about working with all the different personality types and how to get criticism and feedback in the right way.
Example Answer 2:
In my last job in customer service, I was approached by a customer who was angry about a phone call he had with another customer service representative.
It was the first meeting between the client and me, but they shouted from the beginning.
I asked questions and listened calmly to avoid escalating the situation, which worked well.
By using active listening, I was able to fix the problem. They were promised a full refund for a defective product, but then they were told we would only issue them a replacement unit instead.
I was able to apologize for the confusion, make sure they feel heard and understand them, and give a solution.
In this case they were entitled to a refund, and I took care of it instead.
The customer appreciated this and came back two weeks later to buy another product from us, which was wonderful to see. My manager noticed this and told me that they appreciate my efforts to win back this customer trust.
Example Answer 3:
As my current sales rep, I recently had to lead a meeting and sales presentation with a prospect who was quite difficult to communicate with.
He was combative, felt he already knew our product was inappropriate, and did not seem open to absorbing new information.
Still, because I took the time to prepare a presentation with examples of how some of his competitors used our software, and their data and results in the real world, he agreed to try us out for a test project and give our company a chance.
So I think in this case, my key to winning this client was to over-prepare and demonstrate exactly what it has for that client, and what they were missing by not working with us.
Example Answer 4:
In my last job I worked with a colleague who was hard to work with.
This person was not open to feedback or discussion at work at all, and did not appear to be interested in being a team player.
Nor was I the only person with whom they took this approach. Our project manager had a hard time getting this person to join the team.
But I came to a solution:
I talked to this person and explained that the reason I asked certain questions about his work is to make sure we are on the same page and ensure the project is successful.
I explained that I was not testing or judging their work, but simply trying to improve the overall project.
The meeting and conversation with this person helped them understand where I came from and that we have the same ultimate goal: a successful project that made us both look great in society.
By better clarification and communication, I resolved a difficult situation and got them to join the team effort.
Their communication and work ethic improved, and I was able to produce a better work even after this lecture.
The project ended up going great, and although this person announced two weeks notice and left the team later that year, we were able to work better together while on the team.
Use the STAR method to organize your answer
With this interview question or any behavioral question (questions that start with phrases like “Describe a time in which …”) I recommend organizing your answer with STAR methodWhich is an abbreviation of:
This ensures that you tell a clear and concise story to the interviewer and helps you know where to start and end your response.
Otherwise, one of the great ways you can make a mistake in your interview is to walk on stripes, not tell a clear story and understand that you talked for three minutes and still could not describe what you wanted.
So when you think back on a difficult person you worked with, start with Situation. What kind of work was this? When did this happen? Who was the man?
Next, describe the task In hand. In what role did you work with this difficult person, and what goal did you have to achieve?
Then, talk about action Or an attitude you have taken in dealing with this difficult person.
And finally, talk about how you got a positive result outcome And describe any lessons learned from this colleague or difficult client.
Remember to keep the story positive. Unless the recruiting manager explicitly asks for an example of a period in which you failed, you should not share a negative story.
Conclusion and important points
In conclusion, many companies will ask an interview question about a time when you have to deal with a difficult person.
Make sure your answer shows professionalism, communication, patience and problem-solving skills.
When you think back on the difficult people you encountered, choose an example that is relevant to the job you want and has had a positive outcome.
In general, when answering behavioral questions in your interview, try to tell a clear and concise story without stepping aside.
Use the STAR method I explained earlier to organize your response, and Aim for an answer lasting 30-60 seconds.
By showing that you have managed to achieve a positive outcome despite a conflict in the past, you are showing the recruitment manager that you can also turn a future negative situation, conflict or difficult person into success.