Explain a Recent Situation That Demanded You Deal With an Aggravated Coworker or Customer


Interview questions may run the gamut all the way from queries about your particular skillset and your current qualifications to character-revealing questions that ask about your insight into your own personality and professional capabilities. The latter- also known as behavioral interview questions- are a common way for interviewers to get to the root of your motivations and actions so they will be able to better analyze whether you are a good fit for the position or not.

There are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. The only way to appropriately address them is with thoughtfully considered- detailed answers that display your honesty- integrity and vulnerability while at the same time showing off your decision-making skills. Of course- your answers are far more likely to be helpful and illustrative if you have taken some time to prepare them in advance.

When posed a question such as- ‘Explain a recent situation that demanded you deal with an aggravated coworker or customer-‘ you might find yourself stumped if you have not adequately prepared. Your interviewer is really trying to ask you how you deal with conflict and what ways you have of interacting with those who are already upset. Below you will find a number of strategies for dealing with this potentially difficult question in the best possible way- including the STAR method.

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How to Answer the ‘Explain a Recent Situation That Demanded You Deal With an Aggravated Coworker or Customer’ Behavioral Interview Question

Utilize the STAR Method. STAR is a simple acronym that can help break down complex- challenging questions into three or four basic parts for a thorough answer. STAR stands for:

  • • Situation or task
  • • Action
  • • Results

In the case of this question- you will want to begin by setting the scene of the situation in which there was conflict. Tell the interviewer where- when and how the situation was and then introduce the aggravated individual as the source of difficulty. Next- go into detail about what action or actions you took to deal with the scenario. Did you feed the aggravation and end up worsening the situation? Or were you able to act as a calm and relaxed peacekeeper who kept the situation from getting worse? Finally- move into discussing the resolution of the conflict. What resulted from the actions you took towards the customer or co-worker who was upset? This is how to use the STAR method to your advantage when answering behavioral interview questions.

Relate the Question to Your General Behavior. It is obvious that the interviewer is not asking this question to get information about the nature of the aggravated individual but about you. Therefore- it is important that you try to relate the question back to how you typically handle conflict. Within the bounds of your answer- mention whether or not this situation is reflective of how you generally deal with difficult people or not. This will help your interviewer in his or her assessment of your personality type.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Imperfect. Keep in mind that the situation example that you will be giving is not set up to make you seem like the ideal conflict manager. If you handled the situation flawlessly- that is great. But if you would have done something differently if given the chance to do it all over again- then mention that to your interviewer. Making mistakes and learning from your mistakes is an indicator of strength and humility- both of which are highly sought after characteristics in a good employee.

Sample ‘Explain a Recent Situation That Demanded You Deal With an Aggravated Coworker or Customer’ STAR Interview Answer

In general- I try to handle conflicts at work with as little drama as possible- minimizing situations and trying not to draw attention to myself or what is going on. Last month- a customer approached me who was clearly upset. They had a return item and were obviously angered and disturbed by having to come back to the store- stand in line and wait for a return. Within the first minute of talking with the customer- their aggravation began to escalate rapidly- and I made the decision not to direct them over to customer service where they could process their return but to call on the aid of a manager instead. The severity of the customer’s anger and rising hostility seemed to warrant the help of upper management. It turned out that the individual had been a loyal patron of the business for some years- and they were quickly soothed and placated by the management personnel to whom I brought them. I am glad that I made the decision to call for help- as the situation could have worsened severely had I not.

Behavioral interview questions are designed to be challenging- but they can also be very revealing and beneficial to you getting hired if you ace your answers. Remember to practice and customize your responses as much as possible before the interview.