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Answering Behavioral Questions

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Rachelle Enns
Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune 500 executives find success in their career.
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Think about a difficult boss, professor or coworker. How did you successfully interact with this person?
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Example #1
"(Situation) I once worked at a locally-owned shop where the owner was very demanding. When he would walk into the store, employees would announce over their headset system that the owner was in the building, so that everyone could prepare for his entrance into their department. (Task) I am a perpetually positive person, so I took the stance that he had great intentions; however, his people skills were a little rough. I could see that he meant well, and I recognized that he wanted to do a lot of good things. I was determined to help my co-workers to see it this way as well. (Action) When we interacted, I always took his feedback with the understanding that he didn't mean things as harshly as he might say to them. Slowly, he began to soften up. As my colleagues saw that my approach was working, they began to communicate with the owner in the same manner. (Result) After just a few months, the mood of the store was more positive, and our team was much more at ease."
Example #2
"(Situation) I once worked for an executive who was very difficult in meetings. He did not interact politely with others. (Task) As his Executive Assistant, I took it upon myself to help this person interact better with our team and stakeholders. (Action) When he would bark orders, I would reiterate what he was trying to say to the group more professionally. It was a subtle approach, and I did so with total respect and patience. (Result) It took some time to see change, but soon he learned to communicate in a way that made people want to collaborate with him."
Example #3
"(Situation) At Business ABC, one of my managers was very cold and 'matter of fact' in his approach. (Task) I have worked most of my career in the logistics industry, which I understand attracts a large variety of personalities. However, I am a warm person by nature and found it challenging to connect with this particular person. As the team lead, I needed to adapt since we collaborated on tasks nearly every day. (Action) I changed my approach by sticking solely to the facts when in meetings, and always presented data versus opinions. (Result) In the end, it wasn't the most profound relationship that I've had in my career, but we made it work for us and got along enough to do our jobs and deliver reliable performance."
Example #4
"(Situation) The most difficult person I ever worked with was my boss a few years back. She was the Marketing Associate until she received a promotion to Marketing Manager. Unfortunately, after her promotion, she was no longer willing to listen to my project ideas. I believe this was partly out of pride and partly because she was trying to find her footing in this larger role. (Task) Because our roles were so closely aligned, I knew that we needed to learn to work together. (Action) I sat with her for a one-on-one meeting, and we had a nice talk about the positive changes she made to the department. Once I showed her that I appreciated her contribution, I then presented my thoughts on growing the ideas that she had started. (Result) We quickly became a great duo. We worked very well together by combining our strengths to make each project exceptional. Today, she stands as one of my professional references."
Example #5
"(Situation) One of the most difficult people I've encountered was a customer at ABC Luxury Store. (Task) I was a personal stylist at the boutique, and this customer was notoriously difficult, cranky, and picky. However, she was a big spender, so I needed to cater to her needs. (Action) She shopped with me once per month and, each time she arrived at the showroom, I made it the ultimate challenge to win her over. I gave myself incremental goals along the way, small checkpoints such as getting a nod of approval, or a smirk or grin. I made it a fun little game for myself. (Result) Ultimately, I did win her over, and she warmed up to me, even smiling now and then."
Example #6
"(Situation) In the past, I struggled with my VP of Sales. She was brought on with no industry experience and seemed to have little interest in learning the industry. (Task) As the Sales Manager, it was up to me to win her over. (Action) I invited her on a business trip for an out of town client. I wanted her to meet my clients. Also, I aimed to spend one-on-one time to get to know her personality and approach. I asked questions about her background, what attracted her to our company, and her short term goals for the organization. (Result) During the trip, we bonded as humans, mothers, and sales executives. She learned a lot about the company and industry, and I learned of the skills she brought from her previous roles."
Example #7
"(Situation) I had a coworker in the Spanish department of my former school, who was very traditional in her teaching approach. She came from the school of thought that children were to be seen and not heard. (Task) I believe that kids are kids and, to be able to learn most effectively, they need to get up and move. I wanted to show her the importance of relaxing, just a touch. (Action) Over a few months, I spent more time with her in the teachers' lounge, where we would often discuss teaching philosophies and experiences. (Result) She began to trust my teaching approach, and we even collaborated on a couple of activities between classes. I think the students appreciated my efforts in helping their other teacher to introduce more fun in the classroom."
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