Tough Interview Questions | Describe a Time You Were in Over Your Head |

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This is a variation on another question where you are asked to be vulnerable. Here, I offer two basic approaches.

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There's a question that someone sent to me that they were using on interviews. And I'm just trying to see if I can locate the full detailed question.
“Sometimes it's easy to get in over your head, describe a situation where you had to request help or assistance on a project or assignment.”
Now, I don't think you're going to run into this if you're a senior individual. If you are, the answer is very easy. It's not radically different than what you might ask a staff person, but fundamentally follow the model STAR--situation or task-action-result.
Here, you're going to talk about getting hit right between the eyes. “So I got this assignment (the example that are always given online always involve the IT person and the one kernel of accuracy and how to answer the question is to say), it's impossible to know everything about a subject. I try; I even use Google, but there's times where I just can't get right.”
So you describe a situation where this occurred. “I was working on something that was assigned to me, where I was trying to figure out how to sort through a particular project.” Now, the ideal thing, if you're a leader is to talk about working with your team to collaborate. If you're a staff individual, you tried a number of times to come up with a solution to the issue and realized that you could try powering through but you weren't going to be getting the result that was really needed.
Notice, this is a variation on the answer to the question, “Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes, you make mistakes. Tell me about a mistake you made and what you learned from it.” This is a variation on that.
So, you're going to identify a situation where you tried to power through, you just weren't getting results. You tried a number of different ways. You asked people for advice and counsel and you just weren't getting to the outcome that you needed.
If you're a staff individual, you talk about going to your boss and saying, “I'm hitting my head against the wall here. Can you give me some advice or guidance here, because I don't want to hold everyone else up because I'm struggling here.”
You see, what you're trying to do is not hide. You're trying to understand that to demonstrate that you understand that what you do has an impact on others. By going to your boss, in the case of a staff individual, working with your team to try and solve the issue. You're looking at this from a collaborative standpoint, and saying, “I tried. I'm just coming up empty here. What do you suggest I do?” Or “how would you suggest I approach it? Because I'm just not making headway.” And that's what you're demonstrating is the wisdom of group knowledge.
It's like there are many instances where the group is more knowledgeable than the individual and in American culture, I know it's hard to ask for help. But you need to sometimes because you just don't have the answer.
The impact of working and trying to work through it and not getting it in a timely way can be catastrophic to the others on the team. You don't want to put yourself in that position. So, you always talk about reaching out for support.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1400 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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