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Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult person. How did you handle it?

1 of 30 Tough Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated on July 29th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

From your work history, picture a co-worker who didn't carry their weight or had a difficult personality. Maybe they were unmotivated or preoccupied with their personal life. Think about what bothered you about this person and how you were affected by their behavior. Most importantly, the interviewer wants to know how you let this person's behavior affect you and your work performance.

Avoid taking this as an opportunity to complain about someone; instead, view it as an opportunity to showcase your ability to deal with difficult people while maintaining your productivity.

Professional Answer Examples
Answer example

"In my previous position, I did have a coworker who didn't pull their weight. Our team started to complete most of the tasks when it came to group projects. It didn't take much time before our manager noticed this particular individual was slacking. I feel like, in most instances, the underachievers will weed themselves out over time, and it's rarely worth making a fuss over."

Answer example

"I once supported a very challenging VP as their executive assistant. Reading between the lines was the name of the game. This challenge became easier as time went on, and I got to know the ins and outs of my job better. However, the beginning was incredibly trying. I coped by asking my co-workers for advice or direction, or using my intuition and doing what I thought was best. The position certainly taught me independent thought and troubleshooting!"

Answer example

"Difficult people make me tick! I enjoy trying to understand where they are coming from and then what techniques I can apply to help them improve their behavior or resolve a situation. Most difficult people want to feel like they have a voice. So, I listen, empathize and reassure them while still maintaining my position as their manager."

Answer example

"One of the graphic designers I currently work with is a moody creative. The success of my position directly depends on his quality and timeliness of work, unfortunately. Because of this, I've learned to tap into how he operates. We use project management software to track where the project is, but I also have bi-weekly check-ins. I know he's better to deal with in the afternoon, and other little quirks about him. It's somewhat humorous at times, and I'm happy to have discovered some workarounds."

Answer example

"In the past, I had a coworker who was very unmotivated. This situation was pretty difficult since I never wanted to let anyone down and would not allow something to remain undone. I was already doing more than my fair share of the work and was in no position of authority to change her attitude. I did pull her aside and let her know how actions impacted me. She picked up the pace for a bit but eventually my manager terminated her. Luckily her replacement was amazing!"

Answer example

"In my first position out of college, I worked with a person who enjoyed gossip in the workplace. I found that I could redirect her to work by giving a quick reply and then asking her a pointed work question, which would get her back on task. There were a few key takeaways from this experience. I learned how to concentrate on chatter or disruption better than before, and I perfected my skills at refocusing someone else to the task at hand."

Answer example

"I work with many challenging students, all of the time. I find that if I am struggling to reach a student that means I need to spend more time with them, rather than shy away as natural human instinct would have it. I will ask them how I can best help them, meet with their parents, and dive deeper into their needs."

MRI Technologist
Answer example

"In my previous position, I did have a coworker who didn't pull their weight. This situation created more work for the rest of the team. It didn't take much time before our manager noticed this particular individual was slacking. I feel like, in most instances, the underachievers will weed themselves out over time, and it's rarely worth making a fuss over."

University Administrator
Answer example

"In my time with dealing with the public there has been several times when there have been difficult people I have had to deal with. One that springs to mind is when a students registration form had disappeared which resulted in them missing an extra curricula activity. I listened to what had happened in their view. I then confirmed what the process is our end so that I could understand where things may have gone wrong. From this I was able to propose a way forward. In this instance, the deadline was missed and there was no room left on the activity so they had missed it this time round but now knew going forward what to do if the opportunity arose again. While a difficult situation, it was important for me to remain calm and solution focussed."

Interior Designer
Answer example

"I was working on the design of a client's kitchen. Unfortunately, the client was quite blunt about not wanting any input. She simply wanted me to take down her ideas and execute them. With a smile on my face, I did as she wanted knowing that the next day was a new day with a new client! I know my job also requires excellent customer service to maintain the company's positive reputation, and I was willing to do just that in this situation!"

Written by:

Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
Ryan Brown
Ryan Brown, is the creator of MockQuestions. He has over ten years experience creating interview questions. His website has helped over 10 million job seekers in their interview preparation.
First written on: 08/10/2016
Last modified on: 07/29/2018

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