Have you ever been in an interview heard a question like this: "Tell us about challenging situation that you faced and what were the results?"What's your first thought? Is your mind racing to think of something clever enough to fulfill their expectations? 

I've heard this question so many time that I decided to write down a few scenarios that will allow me to focus on the interview process and not on what I am going to say. Since this question is practically 100% guaranteed to be asked during an interview, I thought I'd present a few scenarios that I prepared.

"So, Mr. Dominick, can you tell us about a challenging situation that you were in? And what was the outcome?"

  Interview question "challenging situation"

This first challenging situation is related to a paid position as a Customer Support Analyst (taking calls from clients to troubleshoot software issue).)

1.) Remained calm with extremely frustrated client and solved issue regarding logging into the platform.

A client called and was extremely frustrated from the beginning of the call. The end result was that I helped resolve the issue. She was so grateful that I had helped resolve the issue (regarding logging into the platform after a major change in the way users can login was implemented in June). She said that she had spoken to 5 different analysts within the past month but that no one else was able to resolve the issue.

What I learned.

I learned that patience and perseverance is an invaluable trait amongst successful problem-solvers. 

This second challenging situation is related to a paid position as a Blended Learning Specialist at an institute in Saudi Arabia.

2.) Prepared 230 iPads in one evening for school. Printed labels had to figure out how to work printer never seen before. 

This is a long story but I will try to keep it brief. The academy ordered 1 iPad for each cadet. I was in charge of (besides being a full time teacher) ensuring all hardware operated correctly and ensuring each cadet was assigned an iPad. This includes keeping an inventory of cadets' iPads. As part of the process my supervisor purchased a label printer machine with the goal of adhering labels to the iPads with the cadets' names on each one. I was summoned the day before classes were to begin to resolve an issue with the label printer. I had never seen this particular model (and in Saudi Arabia the documentation available for these type of printers is not as copious as more popular models in USA). After trial and error (and intense, fiery emotions in Arabic between my supervisor and his agents — I am sure they said something like, "What are you gonna do if this American can't fix it, huh?! You're the one that hired him!" I can only imagine. Thank the Good Lord I was able to resolve the issue and get the labels to print. I was literally sweating at so many levels. Now the fun part! Manually adhering 225 labels to 225 iPads. That was a very long night.

During my tenure at the same institute, I had the opportunity to install an Apple TV in each of classrooms 20. In addition, I was tasked with keeping an inventory of all the Apple products (iPads, Apple Tvs for the classrooms and Cadets as well as a single iPhone, Macbook Pro, and iPad for each of a staff of 30). 

What I learned.

I learned that patience and listening are the most important aspects of achieving a goal. Technical ability is required but if we can not listen and work together then the road to success will be filled with obstacles.  

This final scenario is not related to a paid position, however, it is a challenging situation that I learned from.

3.)  Jumped Kia I had to move Subaru closer to reach grounding metal

My wife left the lights to her new (bought used on Memorial day from the dealer — her first car ever!) Kia Soul + Hatch. These cars apparently don't remind the person to shut off the lights with a text message and a slight "Hugh?" when walking away from the car. So, of course it was Kia's fault. At any rate, I needed to jump start the Kia because the battery was dead. I realized I hadn't jumped a car in probably 20 years so, after watching a few youtube videos, I tried my best. I parked my Subaru Outback next to the Kia and followed the instruction of Youtube. After about 35 minutes of trying to connect the second black cable to a grounded part of the Kia without success, I began to think I'd need a tow truck. The only option I could think of was to try to move the the Subaru a little closer to the Kia so that the jumper cable could reach a different part to connect to. That's what I did. I disconnected the cables from both vehicles and moved the Subaru as close as possible to the Kia (I had to park next to the Kia since there was not an option to park facing it). Now that the Subaru was closer to the Kia the cable could reach further and after grounding the black cable securely it cranked up on the first try! 

What I learned.

I learned that I should try anything this is possible before calling the tow truck. This way I can say that I tried everything within my power before giving up. 

For more information on how to answer behavioral questions such as "tell me about a time when you faced a challenging situation" see The Muse article here