Job interview question and answer: Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

All of us have had to deal with difficult people at some point in our lives. They may have been at work, at school, or even in our own families. How you deal with such people says a lot about you to potential employers and whether or not you will fit into a particular organisation’s culture.

Conflict is never desirable in the workplace, so employers are looking for someone who generally gets along with others. Still, difficult people or situations can be encountered anywhere, so employers look for someone who demonstrates diplomacy and calmness when dealing with difficult people – someone who is not argumentative or oversensitive, and who is good at defusing tense situations and knows when to compromise.

People who are natural diplomats and mediators are valuable assets to any company, so if you can think of a situation where you were faced with a difficult or angry person and were able to calm them down, talk them through the situation and turn them around with your delicate powers of persuasion, then that will surely impress your interviewer.

It’s not necessary to be a doormat and there are times when it’s important to assert yourself and stand up for what you believe in – but it’s always important to remain calm, rational and reasonable, and respect other people’s views. An employee who displays such qualities is worth their weight in gold and will be much sought after.

Josie Chun

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