Interview Q&A: Describe Some Of The Toughest Situations You’ve Faced In This Job

Angela Copeland
by Angela Copeland   Career Advice Expert 

Hiring managers, take note! Get the lowdown on how to answer an interviewee question like  “What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced?”

When you’re a hiring manager, the questions you ask the job seeker are usually the focus of the job interview. This of course makes sense because you are the primary decision maker in this scenario. But, it’s very important not to neglect the questions the candidate might have. Starting an open dialogue will allow both you and the candidate to learn more about how well they may fit the open position they’re interviewing for. It will also influence the candidate’s decision to accept or reject the job if it’s offered.

One question the candidate might ask is something along these lines: “What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced?” At first, it may seem like the candidate is trying to get a feel for how tough the work environment might be, but they are likely just trying to get a feel for what sort of challenges they may face if hired.

Points to Emphasize

As with any question the candidate might ask, your answer will affect their enthusiasm for the position. It is important that your response be encouraging and straightforward when responding to “What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced?”

Be positive. A good attitude will make it clear that even the difficult situations faced on the job are not that bad. Your words will describe the common issues, but your tone will describe how those issues affect employees.

Be honest. You should not sugarcoat the worst parts of the job. You can point out some of the easier aspects of the job to offset any bad news, but it is not good to stretch the truth. The candidate will likely suspect if you are being dishonest. And, if they don’t suspect it, a sugarcoated answer could set the candidate up for failure (if the job is in fact not a good fit).

Give examples. The better the job seeker is able to imagine situations they may face, the more prepared they will be. It will also be much easier for them to gauge whether or not the job is the right fit.

Be encouraging. Even though you’re describing tough situations, be sure to emphasize that even the most difficult circumstances can be overcome with hard work. Point out how other employees have succeeded, despite potential setbacks.

Mistakes You Should Avoid

It is easy to scare the candidate off when discussing tough situations at the office. Despite this, you need to make sure they understand what responsibilities they may have, and the potential challenges that come with those responsibilities.

Avoid these common mistakes in order to provide a strong answer to the question “What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced?”

Do not read too much into the question. It may sound like the candidate is trying to avoid hard work. Even if this is true, it should not affect your answer. Your search for the perfect candidate will only work if there is a fit on both sides.

Don’t focus too much on the negative part of this question. You shouldn’t sugarcoat your answer, but do not talk solely about the negative parts of the job. Also, mention that there are great parts of the job that make it all worthwhile.

Do not avoid answering the question. Saying you cannot think of tough situations is not helpful to the candidate. They will leave the interview feeling frustrated and negative about the job.

Avoid rushing. Take the time to answer the candidate’s question completely. Then, ask them if you answered their question, or if they have any follow-up questions.

Sample Answers

The following are some good examples of how to answer  the question “What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced?”

The toughest part of the job is definitely dealing with certain clients. When they give our company representatives a hard time, doing our job becomes tough. On the other hand, when you get a great client, and develop a strong relationship with them, it is probably the most rewarding parts of the work.

Below is a good answer if there are unusual hours involved in the job.

One of the toughest parts of the job is that we do many of our software upgrades on the weekend. That means that once every few months, we work on a Saturday. But, the good news is – the entire team is there. The weekend work is scheduled six months or so in advance. And, we get to take a weekday off for every day that we work on the weekend. Plus, we order out for pizza!

Below is a sample of how to describe a lack of budget.

One of the most difficult parts of the job can be our limited advertising budget. We are expected to produce top-notch results with a small fund. However, the team is incredibly talented – and we are able to do much of the work in-house. With a little creativity, we have always found a way to meet our goals.

Final Thoughts

As you know, answering candidate questions during a job interview is not one of the easiest things to do. But, in order for the candidate to be a long term success at the company, it’s important to answer their questions fully, honestly, and openly. Before your next interview, take the time to think of your answer for a question like “What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced?”

And should you yourself (yeah, you the hiring manager!) decide to move on to a new job, know that LiveCareer has you covered. Put our resume builder and cover letter builder to use, and confidently apply to new jobs in no time at all.

Additional Jobseeker Resources

Popular Interview Questions

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of her own coaching firm, Copeland Coaching. Previously, Angela was Vice President of Digital and eCommerce at First Tennessee Bank, and Director of Digital Strategy and Marketing at ServiceMaster. She’s the author of the book Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job and the host of the Copeland Coaching Podcast. Angela is also a syndicated career columnist, and recently shared her career story in a TEDx Talk titled "How I broke the rules & found my perfect job." She holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a B. S. in Computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


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