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Tell me about a tough work situation / project and how you solved it?

Job interview questions like this are behavioral questions. They operate on the theory that how you responded in the past determines how you’ll respond in the future. The interviewer wants to know how you’ll respond if you get this job, so they ask you about other jobs.

Make sure to focus on positives. Give concrete examples, not general stories, about real work situations. Then describe how you solved the problem. Be specific, give a list of steps you took.

To answer this type of question make sure to spend some time, prior to the interview, recalling past work experiences. Prepare stories in advance.

You’ll have your own stories, but here are some good responses:

Key Person Departs:
“Just before a deadline one of my co-workers had to take a leave of absence after her husband died. Half the project was in her head. It was a tough situation, but she was willing to sit down with me to go over the details. Luckily my boss was willing to hire a temp to take care of the more mundane tasks while I took care of the heavy lifting. We made it, but barely.”

“Right in the middle of one of our marketing events a guy held up a gun and started shooting. Everyone panicked, there was screaming. I hit the deck and dialed 911. The police were there really quickly. Nobody was hurt.”

Computer Crash:
“Just when we needed it most, our busiest time, our server crashed. I always say the time to deal with a crisis is before it happened. We had recently moved from self hosting to a hosted facility. They had a backup of all the data and an instant hot swap. All I had to do was read an email that there had been a problem, and tell the boss the hosting had saved us some serious down time.”

Flaky Developers:
“The company had spent over two million dollars developing a custom web store. After two years of constant problems, we needed something that worked. I found an online affiliate situation that met all our needs. All we had to do was pay a small portion of every sale, which ended up saving us a lot of money both in up time and no more development costs.”

Here’s one from the book of what not to say. “I locked myself inside my car one morning. My boss had to call the police. I opened the window, gave them the keys, within seconds I was out of the car.” Don’t call us, we’ll call you after that answer.

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