Recall a Time From Your Work Experience When Your Manager or Supervisor Was Unavailable and a Problem Arose


While general questions may get you in the door with the company of your dreams- come interview time- hiring managers typically ramp things up. That’s when they look to behavioral interview questions. These questions focus less on gathering facts about an interviewee’s professional background and qualifications and more on what makes that person tick. Traditional questions like “What relevant positions have you held in the past?” seek to gather basic practical information that goes into making hiring decisions. But questions like “Recall a time from your work experience when your manager or supervisor was unavailable and a problem arose. What was the nature of the problem? How did you handle that situation? How did that make you feel?” aim to uncover your skills at handling the unexpected and problem-solving on a dime.

These questions can provide invaluable insight into how you would perform in a staff position and how well you’d transition into leadership down the road. But these questions can also be very tricky because you can’t simply refer the hiring manager to a resume or toss out a canned answer and expect to do well. Luckily- these questions don’t have to catch you off guard. Prepare with the tips below- and you can make the most of your answers and be on your way to accepting an offer.

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How to Answer the ‘Recall a Time From Your Work Experience When Your Manager or Supervisor Was Unavailable and a Problem Arose. What Was the Nature of the Problem? How Did You Handle That Situation? How Did That Make You Feel?’ Behavioral Interview Question

Provide a Structured Answer: When questions like these are asked- it can be easy to veer off into a long-winded answer that doesn’t really address what the interviewer wants to know. The result can be frustration and a strike against your chances of getting the job. Keep your answer curt and organized by using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for a structured method of answering questions by focusing on:

  • • Situation or Task (What’s going wrong? What needs to be improved?)
  • • Action (How can we make it better?)
  • • Result (What was the outcome- and how did it strengthen the team?

The best part of the STAR method when it comes to answering behavioral interview questions is it can help you transform even a minor situation into a perfect answer. For instance- perhaps your manager was held over in a meeting and you had to stand in on a phone call. Detail the situation- for example- “My manager was unavailable for an important call starting in minutes.” Focus on an action- for instance “I stepped up to sit in and take notes.” Then emphasize the result for the team – in this case- “I was able to note an important change to a business plan and provide input that prevented a major misstep.”

Emphasize Teamwork: In an interview- when the above question is asked- hiring managers are typically looking to see if you can lead- but also if you can bring your team together to get something done in the absence of your normal leadership. Shift from answering with a self-centered slant and think about how you took steps that would benefit the entire team. Highlight how- by taking charge and making sure a situation was resolved quickly- you enabled your teammates to remain focused and productive. Showing that you’re a team player will provide a glimpse of the type of employee you can be now and your suitability for leadership opportunities in the future.

Incorporate Personal Skills: The meat of answering most typical behavioral interview questions may center on detailing a specific scenario- but that doesn’t mean you should ignore this opportunity to explicitly highlight some of your most valuable skills. For instance- returning again to the missed phone call meeting example from above- you could easily work in phrases like “took initiative” or “working as a self-starter” while answering the question and specifically call out some of your best skills.

Sample ‘Recall a Time From Your Work Experience When Your Manager or Supervisor Was Unavailable and a Problem Arose. What Was the Nature of the Problem? How Did You Handle That Situation? How Did That Make You Feel?’ STAR Interview Answer

My supervisor had worked for more than a week preparing to present to a new client when- the day of our 8 a.m. meeting- his car died. With one hour until the meeting and nobody left to present- I stepped up and showed personal initiative to coordinate a way for the presentation to go forward. I located my manager’s files on a shared drive- reviewed them and quickly drafted notes that could walk our would-be client through our offerings. I felt nervous presenting- but ultimately I was proud when afterward- the client complimented our agency on the adept and easy-to-understand presentation.

As more companies look to behavioral interview questions to find the most suitable job candidates- it will become critical to know how to navigate these sometimes tricky queries. Use these tips to sail through the interview and land the job you want.