How would you answer this question in a job interview:

"Tell us about a situation when something went wrong?"

It's almost certain that one of the questions you'll be asked in a job interview will be this or something similar to this (e.g. 'Tell us about a situation when you had problems with a client?'). It can be a difficult question to answer.

When you are asked this type of question, you need to make sure that your answer is relevant to the position/job you're applying for. In addition, the interviewer will want your answer to be an example from your professional working career. And lastly and most importantly, the situation/story that you give must have a happy ending, i.e. 'you managed to overcome the problem and you have learnt an important skill/attitude that you have used successfully since it happened'.

In this online exercise on answering job interview questions, you'll learn how to answer the question 'How do you deal with problems?' when you are asked it in a job interview and some excellent English vocabulary and phrases to use when doing it.

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on vocabulary to use in CVs/resumes and job interviews.


Exercise:

Read the following answer by a candidate to a question from an interviewer about having a problem with somebody at work.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Interviewer:'So William, can you tell us a situation in the past when you had a problem with someone at work? And how did you resolve the situation?'

Candidate:'I remember one situation where we were undertaking a project to change the flow of customer service enquiries. I was the project manager and we were several months into the project. Everything had gone well with the project, we had obtained agreement from all the relevant parties in the company to make the changes. And then suddenly, in a project update meeting, the manager of the customer service department refused to implement any of the changes that he had previously agreed to.

I consider myself a very thorough person. I always think ahead about possible issues, but this came out of the blue and I wasn't expecting it at this late stage. As you can appreciate, it was a big problem. Without his agreement, the project was effectively dead. Throughout the meeting he wouldn't change his mind, and I was very direct with him. To be honest, I did not handle the situation very well. So, the meeting ended in a confrontation between us.

After the meeting finished, I considered different ways that we could save the project. I did think about speaking directly with his manager, but going above him would have caused a bad working relationship between us. So I decided that I would only do that as a last resort. At that point, I regretted how I had acted in the meeting and I started to think more clearly and objectively about the situation. I put myself in his position and thought about why he suddenly objected to the changes. It was extremely useful, because I started to appreciate his objections more than before. I realised that one of the main issues was that he thought his authority was being undermined.

I arranged to meet him the following day. When we met, my approach was very different. I tried to get him more involved in the process. I was more patient, I listened more to what he had to say without interrupting if I didn't agree. I asked him for suggestions on how we could improve the project. I made him aware that if neither us agreed it would be a no-win situation for the company. To be honest I was surprised how well it worked. By the end of the meeting, he agreed to continue the project if a few minor changes were made.

From this I learnt one of my most important lessons in business. It's not sometimes what you say, but how you say it. And also, how important listening is when you work with people or you manage people. Ever since then, I always put this into practice when I deal with people.'


How to answer 'Why do you want to work for us?' Learn how to do a good job interview

Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...) and a Spanish translation. In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1.

When something happens unexpectedly, it

         

Came out of the blue:
(expression) The infinitive is 'to come out of the blue'. In this context it is used for bad news happening unexpectedly. But it can also be used for good news, e.g. 'The offer of the job came out of the blue'. In Spanish: "caer como una bomba".

Close

Came out of the blue:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

2.

When you use a process or idea in a real working environment, you

         

Put this into practice:
(phrase) 'to put something into practice' is commonly used in business. It means to use or implement a strategy, process or idea in a real working environment. In Spanish: "poner en práctica".

Close

Put this into practice:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

3.

A way that a person deals with or responds to a situation, is their

         

Approach:
(noun) Often the approach a person uses changes depending on the circumstances. Sometimes your approach can be aggressive, e.g. 'with competitors', while with clients your approach needs to be more understanding and caring. In Spanish: "enfoque".

Close

Approach:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

4.

A phrase that introduces the situation in the answer, is

         

I remember one situation where:
(phrase) It is a good phrase to introduce the subject. It suggests that you haven't planned for the question, although you have. In Spanish: "recuerdo una situación en que".

Close

I remember one situation where:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

5.

A different way to say that you are calm and can wait for things to happen, is

         

Patient:
(adjective) 'to be patient' is a commonly used adjective to describe someone who is calm and relaxed when having to wait for something, e.g. 'be patient, it will arrive soon'. In Spanish: "paciente".

Close

Patient:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

6.

When you consider a situation from another person's perspective, is

         

Put myself in his position:
(phrase) 'put myself in somebody's position' is a common expression to express trying to understand why somebody did something. It suggests that you have been objective. It has the same meaning as 'to put yourself in his shoes'. In Spanish: "ponerse en su lugar".

Close

Put myself in his position:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

7.

A different way to say that you didn't deal with a situation well, is

         

I did not handle the situation very well:
(phrase) The verb 'to handle' in this context means 'to manage', 'to deal with' or 'to cope with'. It can be used to describe situations, projects, meetings etc... To have the opposite meaining, remove the negative, e.g. 'I handled it well'. In Spanish: "no manejé muy bien la situación".

Close

I did not handle the situation very well:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

8.

Another way to say 'I see myself', is

         

I consider myself:
(verb) This is used as a polite way to express what your opinion is about your own abilities. It is generally used to express positive abilities (a leader, a good judge of character etc...). When used with adjectives, it is followed with 'to be', e.g. 'I consider myself to be very dedicated'. In Spanish: "me considero".

Close

I consider myself:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

9.

A situation where the only result is a negative one, is

         

No-win situation:
(noun) A very common business expression that means the overcome will be negative. Often used in negotiations. The opposite is a 'win-win situation'. In Spanish: "situación sin salida".

Close

No-win situation:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

10.

When somebody's position or authority is weakened, they are being

         

Undermined:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to undermine'. It is used in this context to mean that somebody is losing power or authority due to the actions of someone, e.g. 'my boss is undermining me by asking me to get his approval before making any decision in my department'. In Spanish: "socavar".

Close

Undermined:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

11.

An expression that means an action that will be taken if nothing else can resolve an issue, is

         

As a last resort:
(phrase) This means that if every other method to resolve something has been tried and has failed then you will do this action as a last resort. Normally, it refers to an action that is dramatic and may have negative consequences, e.g. 'if it doesn't work, we'll have to close the office as a last resort'. In Spanish: "como último recurso".

Close

As a last resort:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

12.

Another way to say 'you can understand that', is

         

As you can appreciate:
(phrase) It is a very effective way to emphasize a point/opinion, e.g. 'As you can appreciate, it's very important to have someone with these skills'. And it's almost like a compliment, suggesting that the person you are using this with is very knowledgeable on the subject. In Spanish: "como puede comprender".

Close

As you can appreciate:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close





Practice

Now that you understand the dealing with problems vocabulary, practise it by creating your own answer for the interview question.

Blair English online classes