Tell Me About A Time When You Had To Give Someone Difficult Feedback. How Did You Handle It?

When a hiring manager is trying to assess your interpersonal skills, he or she may ask you about a time that you had to provide negative or otherwise challenging feedback.

By asking this question, your interviewer hopes to learn whether you can communicate effectively, address issues in the workplace and motivate others during difficult times. Giving negative feedback requires honesty, thoughtfulness and tact. Answering this question well can help show an interviewer that you would be a good fit for a managerial position or a position that involves working closely with others.

Points to Emphasize

When you answer this question, focus on the personality traits or strategies that enable you to communicate difficult information effectively by taking the following steps:

  • Discuss any measures that you took to prepare for your talk with the person.

  • Describe the techniques that you used to deliver the feedback constructively and positively.

  • Tell the interviewer what you did to make sure that the person understood the feedback.

  • Explain any follow-up measures that you used to ensure the problem was fully addressed.

    Although you’ll need to describe the nature of the feedback, don’t dwell on it too much, since your interpersonal style is the real focus of this question.

    Mistakes You Should Avoid

    This question may seem simple, but it is possible to answer it poorly. Be careful to avoid the following common missteps:

  • Avoid being overly vague or describing a generic approach to the problem.

  • Don’t give the impression that you would tone down negative feedback or fail to bring up workplace issues.

  • Make sure that you don’t act like you are uncomfortable providing people with critical feedback.

  • Do not choose a situation that could have been easily handled by most people.

    Giving the interviewer a detailed and carefully thought out description of a challenging situation will best demonstrate why you would make a good hire.

    Sample Answer

    To answer this question, you might give a response that sounds something like this:

    One of our employees started frequently coming in late to work. I explained to her why I was concerned about this behavior — it violated our policies and negatively affected her co-workers. She acknowledged the problem, and I asked if there was a reason for the change from her usual punctuality. After she explained that a family caregiving situation was the issue, we agreed that she would give early notice on days with potential scheduling issues, and we would work on adjusting her scheduling a few days each week.

    With a strong answer to this question, you can help your interviewer learn why your interpersonal style would make you an excellent employee.

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