What is the Most Competitive Work or School Situation You Have Experienced? How Did You Handle It? What Was the Result?

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The job interview process can be unpredictable. While you can expect questions that explore your skills and qualifications- you should also be ready for behavioral interview questions- which ask about specific past experiences and what you did in them. A good example of these types of questions is one like ‘What is the most competitive work or school situation you have experienced? How did you handle it? What was the result?’

These behavioral questions are meant to challenge the candidate to think on the spot and reflect about their past. This can make such questions more difficult to answer than others if you are not fully prepared. However- you can also think of a behavioral question as a chance to explore some specific talents you might not otherwise have been able to mention.

In the case of the above question- interviewers want to know not just that you have been in a competitive situation- but how you handled it. It may be phrased in another way- like ‘What was a situation in work or school where you had to compete with others- and what were your feelings about it? How did things turn out?’ These tips are focused on this specific question- and by studying them you can set yourself up for success. Using the STAR method is a great approach to behavioral questions like this one.

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How to Answer the ‘What is the Most Competitive Work or School Situation You Have Experienced? How Did You Handle It? What Was the Result?’ Behavioral Interview Question

Demonstrate Awareness of the Roles Others Played. A great answer to this question doesn’t just focus on you as an individual. Whenever you are in a competitive situation- the other people involved are bringing their own abilities into it. When you answer this question- you can show that you recognize what others have to offer. Rather than viewing them as your enemies- talk about how their high level of skill helped to push you to perform even better than you thought you could. Taking a stance of respect and gratitude will show the interviewer that you are a good member of a team and that you view competitions as a friendly challenge and opportunity for growth.

Plan Ahead of Time by Reflecting on Meritorious Accomplishments. Behavioral interview questions that take the “most” angle are not just looking for any example. You should be ready with a story about a competition that was truly challenging. With a question of this format- interviewers are looking to see the highest level you have been pushed to. Think about a time when you felt like you really had to push yourself in order to stack up against your competition. It is especially good if you are able to furnish an example that is related to the job you are applying for.

Use the STAR Method. To keep yourself from getting distracted and forgetting to cover an important aspect of a behavioral question- a good strategy is to use the STAR method. Keeping this strategy in the forefront of your mind helps to make sure you answer these questions fully. STAR represents these elements:

  • • Situation or Task
  • • Action
  • • Result

Before you jump into talking about how you reacted in a situation, you should first explain it thoroughly, describing all of the important aspects. Once you have done that, discuss what you did in response to the situation. After that part of your answer, make sure to take some time to reflect on how things turned out as a result of the choices you made.

Focus on Personal Growth. Rather than take a “winners” and “losers” approach, think about how you were able to grow and learn from the situation. If you approach behavioral interview questions like this one by concentrating on your own personal experience, it doesn’t matter who “won” or “lost.”

Sample ‘What is the Most Competitive Work or School Situation You Have Experienced? How Did You Handle It? What Was the Result?’ STAR Interview Answer

At one time at the last company I worked for, all of the project planners including myself were told that the company needed a strong project idea. Rather than delegate the task to one of us, we were all instructed to come up with our own project proposal. The person who submitted the most outstanding proposal would have that idea accepted and receive the credit for it. I worked hard, and at first I felt as though if I didn’t get my project accepted, it would be a waste of time. Eventually I realized that this was good practice regardless of whose proposal was accepted, and if my project was not, I would take that as a sign I just needed to improve further. My proposal was one of the top ones considered, even though it was not chosen. I eventually used the outline for a later successful project, showing that any dedicated effort can lead to good things, even if the results are not immediate.

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