Describe a time when…

→ interviewers will ask you a series of situational questions where you may need to think on your feet.

The goal of these questions is to see if you have encountered conflict in your previous experiences (which is all the time because no workplace is perfect) and how you worked to reach a compromise.

These questions require using the STAR technique, meaning Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

  • Situation: Create the backdrop of what happened. Did this conflict arise due to a new project? Did someone in your team disagree with you and this stopped progress?
  • Task: What did you need to accomplish? What was the task given to the team?
  • Action: What actions did you take to resolve the issue?
  • Result: What resulted from the actions you took?

Most often, issues arise due to miscommunication and conflict of interest. There are key ways on how to resolve a problem:

  • Communicate:
    This is an obvious answer but people tend to look over this. Individually speak with whoever is a part of the problem. Attempt to reach a compromise. Clear up any confusion. Ask questions. Give examples.

This is the only point I added because this is THE foundation of fixing a conflict. All you need to do is expand on it according to the context.

I suggest using the same scenario for each possible question that could be asked — one that is flexible. If it really did happen at your workplace, then use it! But sometimes it is hard to answer this type of question with a rigid scenario.

It’s time to put your storytelling skills to the test.

Example Scenario:

  • Situation: In my graphic design team, two team members disagreed on what to put on our promotional flyer.
  • Task: The promotional flyer was to promote our upcoming charity gala. We needed to use our organization logo and a graphic. The two team members were disagreeing over which graphic to use — one was geared more toward a traditional, academic graphic while the other wanted an unconventional image.
  • Action: We had an initial meeting where this conflict arose. After we had the meeting, I spoke to each team member individually, asking for their opinions and suggestions.
  • Result: We decided to have a meeting with the two conflicting members after speaking to each one individually, and during the meeting, we reached a compromise on which graphic to use.

I will be using this same scenario to demonstrate its flexibility and how you can morph it to fit each question.

»Describe a time when you had a conflict with your manager and how you resolved it. 

  • Situation: My supervisor and I disagreed on the content for a promotional flyer.
  • Task: The promotional flyer was to promote one of our key workshops. We needed to use our company’s logo and a graphic. My supervisor wanted to use a traditional graphic, one we use in previous flyers, while I wanted to use an unconventional image to change things up.
  • Action: I emailed him concerning the issue and asked to meet with him to discuss the flyer.
  • Result: We discussed our opinions and compromised to use a traditional graphic with unconventional captions.

»How would you handle if you had a suggestion for a project and the rest of your team strongly disagreed?

This question may throw you off because now the focus of the issue is  YOU. How professional and mature can you be when everyone is seemingly against you? It is a special case because now you need to break down into steps how you would communicate your opinion.

  • Situation: The graphic design team had a meeting on how to approach promoting one of our workshops in a promotional flyer.
  • Task: The promotional flyer needed to advertise our upcoming charity gala, using our company’s logo and an image. My team wanted to use a traditional image, one we used in previous flyers, whereas I wanted to use an unconventional graphic to change things up.
  • Action: I contacted the team to have another meeting, where I spoke about the reasoning behind my opinion and gave concrete examples.
  • Result: The team enjoyed my examples, but still agreed to use their approach. I decided not to push it further and let it go so we could move on. (I went with this result because sometimes not everything goes your way.)

»Describe a time when something went wrong and how you fixed it.

This question is also focusing on YOU, but you made a mistake. How did you approach this?

  • Situation: I was creating a promotional flyer to promote our upcoming charity gala.
  • Task: For this flyer, I needed to insert our company logo, an image, and a caption. After creating the flyer, I posted them online one of our social media accounts. My supervisor then contacted me, saying my caption did not contain enough content.
  • Action: I arranged a meeting with my supervisor and spoke about the reasoning behind my actions.
  • Result: We agreed that we would post an updated promotional flyer the following week, saying we added more details concerning the event.

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