A Setback You’Ve Faced Interview Question

As you prepare for upcoming job interviews, it’s to your advantage to think about all likely questions that might come your way. Doing this helps you generate ideas and responses at a time when you aren’t under extreme pressure. This calm environment, when you truly have the time to think, is when you’re going to come up with your best ideas.

If you’ve been scouring the internet to find common interview questions so you can rehearse your answers, you’ve likely stumbled upon this behavioral interview question:

Not to fear – we’ve got you covered on exactly how you should answer it so you impress the hiring manager and ace your job interview. With the framework we’re about to show you, you’ll be ready with an impactful response that the hiring manager loves.

Before we dive into the framework, let’s get grounded in why this question is asked in the first place.

Think About the Strategy You Used to Overcome the Situation

When talking about how you overcame an issue or setback, it is also useful to consider whether there was a specific strategy you used.

Having strategies in place will impress your interviewer and show that you have really thought about the best ways to deal with setbacks.

This could be something as simple as deciding to take a positive attitude to dealing with unexpected problems.

Alternatively, it could be a more complex strategy that involves having colleagues you can ask for assistance.

Some possible strategies include:

  • Change your mindset so that you can see the positives which can come out of a potentially negative situation.
  • Connect with others for advice. An outside perspective sometimes helps to find a solution.
  • Acknowledge any of your actions that may have led to the setback occurring. If you were turned down for a promotion you really wanted, is there something that you could have done differently? Accepting responsibility where needed rather than placing blame is a great workplace skill.
  • Think about your next steps. If you really wanted that promotion, how are you going to make sure that you are the right person for the job next time? If delays happened during a project, what could be done differently to make sure that you finish on time?
  • How to Answer the Interview Question: “What Was Your Biggest Setback?”

    There are a few things to consider when answering this question.

    As well as being relevant, you will want your response to highlight the steps that you had to take to rectify the problem and also the lessons you learned from the situation.

    As always, it is important to stay on point and avoid unnecessary information.

    If possible, you should always use an example from the workplace. Whenever you can, it should also be relevant for the position you are applying for.

    This helps to give an employer insight into your working style and can also help them imagine you working in the role.

    Some possible examples include:

  • Missing out on a promotion
  • Not hitting a sales target
  • A difficult coworker
  • Choosing a Story or Example of a Difficult Situation

    The story you choose to tell is equally as important as how you tell it.

    To brainstorm ideas for what task you want to talk about, jot down all of the jobs you’ve had in your career. Then, think about what was most challenging for you in each role. Also, consider situations in each role where things did not go as planned, or a teammate fell short.

    These are all good examples you can use.

    After you’ve identified a few ideas of examples you could respond with, narrow down your choices by choosing the example that ultimately had a positive outcome and where you took the lead. Your goal is to show that you can take initiative when the going gets tough and that you can succeed despite difficulties.

    Here are a few examples of stories we’ve seen work well for job seekers:

  • A huge project was assigned at the last minute
  • A colleague left the company and you had to take on all of their work
  • You had to lead a project that you knew little about or had never done before
  • There were miscommunications across teams and you had to figure out how to get everyone back on track
  • Layoffs had to be made and you were responsible for creating the restructuring plan
  • Teamwork was the only way to get something done
  • You had to use conflict resolution skills to turn an angry customer into a happy one
  • Your emotional intelligence allowed you to understand what was really going on
  • You should always use an example of a time that really happened. Making up a story almost always backfires (trust us, we’ve seen it all!). A recruiter can tell when a candidate is making something up, and it’s also easy to forget the made-up story over time. Stick with what really happened 🙂

    In terms of if the task was when you were in a full-time or part-time role, you can go either way. The type of employment isnt the focus here. Its also perfectly acceptable to choose an example from your current role. Your example doesnt have to be from a job from the past.What story comes to mind for you?Write your ideas down here.

    INTERVIEW QUESTION: Tell Me About A Time You Handled A Difficult Situation? (The BEST Answer!)

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