Has fear of getting stumped by an interview question got you breaking into a cold sweat before you even put your new suit on? Our Q&A with HR professional Cathy Monchamp, coordinator of recruitment services at London Health Sciences Centre, will help you identify and understand the kind of questions interviewers ask, so you can ace the interview and get on with your new job.
They ask: Tell me about a time when your ability to think on your feet saved you from a difficult situation.
Today’s workplaces are in a continual state of change and being flexible and able to react positively to circumstances, especially those that are unexpected, is critical to success. In answering this question you will provide a wealth of information about you, your experience and background, how you view situations and how you handle things.
Many skills can be highlighted while answering this question including: your ability to think on your feet, your critical thinking skills, your ability to resolve a situation, your decision-making skills, your teamwork. Your answer could show that you can make decisions on the spot with only the information you have on hand.
Be sure to include details. Did you include others in your decision-making process? How did you interact with your team? Did you have to delegate any responsibilities? Were you able to resolve conflict relating to the change? Did you have to communicate changes with others? Was there any follow-up required? Did you learn anything from the situation that you’d do differently in the future?
These types of questions provide the interviewer with specific examples from your past work situations so you can demonstrate that you actually have the experience they are looking for. The premise of the behavioural interview is that past performance (behaviour, experience and initiative) is a strong predictor of future performance. This is very true and provides the interviewer not only with insight into your previous experience, it provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your strong communication skills, decision-making and organizational skills in how you respond.
When answering this question or any other behavioural question, remember to think of a specific and real example where this has happened to you. The interviewer is looking for you to tell the story. If the question starts with, "Tell me about a time when…" or "Tell me about a specific example when …." this is your clue that the interviewer is using behavioural interviewing and is looking for your "STAR" answer. (STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.)
Review the job description or posting ahead of time, looking closely at the qualifications, competencies or qualities required in the role. These are likely the areas you’ll be asked to demonstrate your experience during the interview. Remember to use a real example from your work history as there is a good chance the interviewer will check this out with your references. If you don’t have specific experience as asked in the question, don’t be afraid to say so and offer to explain how you would handle the situation and why.