Describe a Time When You Were Faced With Problems or Stresses That Tested Your Coping Skills.

Nilda Melissa Diaz By Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice Contributor Last Updated: May 25, 2023

Many behavioral interview questions are out there in order to really test your skills in a job interview. One of these questions is, “Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.” These types of questions are meant for you to describe a concrete example of you demonstrating a desired skill. This differs from other types of interview questions that could normally be answered with a word or two. A question such as “Can you handle stress?” could be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No,” so the interviewer is not really learning anything about you.

Female job candidate smiling in an interview with employer

The reason why this particular question is asked is because the hiring manager wants to know if you can handle stress. Every job gets stressful every now and then, and the employer wants to know if you will be able to remain strong during those times and get all your work done. Some other ways this question might be worded include “Describe a time when you overcame a problem in the workplace” and “How do you cope with stress?” It can be difficult for people to discuss overcoming difficulties, but by keeping calm and using the STAR method, it becomes much easier.

How To Answer The Question: Describe A Difficult Task You Were Faced With And How You Addressed It.

1. Do Not Describe a Story Where You Failed.

When describing a past problem you had to contend with, you do not want to bring up a time when you ultimately failed. You should describe an instance when you were under a lot of stress and maybe underwent a setback at one point, but ultimately came out on top. It is crucial that you end your response with a happy ending about what you accomplished and how you grew as an individual.

2. Pick a Good Story

Something the hiring manager will pay attention to during this question is what you consider to be a “difficult” situation. You do not want to point to a time when your actions led to a catastrophe, and you had to deal with that. However, you also do not want to pick a situation that you are talking up to be a difficult time when in actuality it is not really a big deal. As well, avoid doing a humble-brag where you say something such as, “I wanted to turn in an assignment a week early but only managed to turn it in two days early.” The stakes should be high in whatever story you tell.

3. Do Not Talk Negatively About Past Bosses or Employees.

Not all employees and bosses are going to be easy to work with. Everyone knows that. However, you do not want to trash-talk a previous employer. No matter how bad that person might actually be, it is only going to reflect negatively on you if you speak poorly about someone else during an interview. When picking a problem you had to contend with, try not to talk about how someone else messed up even if it was his or her fault. Instead simply focus on how you overcame the problem and how you grew, rather than concentrating on the genesis of the issue.

4. Follow the STAR Method.

The STAR method is a structure that was developed in order to help interviewees prepare responses to behavioral interview questions. It provides a way for you to format your response so that when you are speaking with a hiring manager, you have something to go on instead of merely going in blind. When it comes to the STAR method, the “S” stands for situation, the “T” stands for task, the “A” stands for action and the “R” stands for result. This is how you should order your response. You should start with whatever the situation is, move on to the actions taken and finish with what you did or how you became a better employee.

Sample Interview Answers: Describe A Difficult Task You Were Faced With And How You Addressed It.

At my last job I was in charge of planning the company’s Christmas party. This entailed finding a venue and getting everything ready for over 100 employees. A week before the party, the venue I had booked two months in advance voided our agreement. They had that power in our contract, but I was freaking out because I had no idea where to look for a new venue to have the party. I talked to my spouse about this, which always helps me cope with stressful problems. She recommended a hotel conference room where one of her friends had her wedding reception. I talked to them and booked the room, and the Christmas party went on without a hitch.

These types of behavioral interview questions are an excellent opportunity for you to show your initiative and resilience. Prepare beforehand, and you will be more likely to ace the actual job interview.