How to answer common interview questions: ‘How did you handle a difficult situation?’

Welcome to our blog series on how to answer the most common interview questions. Be prepared and make the most of every answer with our handy guide!

How did you handle a difficult situation?

The challenging situation question is a golden opportunity to show off your conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. It’s vital to be prepared to describe a challenging situation you’ve experienced at work and how you overcame it.

Why are they asking?

Your interviewers want to get a sense of how you will handle conflict and adversity in the workplace.

This question is especially key in law firm Risk & Compliance interviews, as part of your role will involve dealing with potentially stressed or difficult senior stakeholders and telling them things they don’t want to hear. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that you can communicate well, stay calm under pressure, and deal with high stakes situations with diplomacy.

Lawyers can be under a great deal of pressure, and you could be the person advising them not to take on a big client or matter they want to work with. A potential employer will be looking for people who can deal with this difficult relationship, and also be resilient enough to handle any snapping or shouting if it does unfortunately happen.

The panel will also be assessing your problem-solving skills and ability to ask for help or learn something new if you need to. This question is a chance to show that you are self-aware and humble about your mistakes or shortcomings and able to collaborate with others to get the job done.

How should you answer?

Start by making a list of some difficult situations you’ve experienced in the past. If you can’t think of one from your professional career, you can use an experience from your personal life. Next, write down how you resolved the situation and the action you took, and the qualities, skills, and accomplishments this annecdonte demonstrates.

If possible, choose the occasion that illustrates the most relevant attributes or ones mentioned the job or person specification of the role you’re applying for.

Remember to keep your language positive and don’t badmouth past colleagues, managers, or law firms.

A great way to approach this is using the STAR method:

  • SITUATION: Describe the situation and how or why it happened for context.
  • TASK: Explain your responsibility in the situation.
  • ACTION: Describe the action you took and how you resolved the problem.
  • RESULTS: Explain the impact you made or the lessons you learned to be carried into the future.

Once you have settled on a situation, practise explaining it succinctly, and make some notes to remind yourself of the most important points. Run it past your recruiter to make sure you're maximising this opportunity to sell yourself.

You're ready for your interview, good luck!

How to answer common interview questions blog series:

Tell me about yourself
Describe your current role
What are your weaknesses?

For more help, advice, and interview coaching, give our team a call on 0207 117 2542, email us at jobs@ajfoxcompliance.com, or you can find your consultant's contact details here.

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Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance