Describe a Time You Had to Interact with a Difficult Client |

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I love behavioral interview questions! There is so much drama around them and get there are so easy to answer, beyond telling stories, I offer a few ways that you can answer this 1.

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I thought I would do a video with one of those wonderful behavioral interview questions. It's not a hard question. But again, it invites a story.
Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult user / client / whomever it is.
And the scenario goes on . . . What was the situation and how did you handle it? So, describe a time you have to interact with a difficult client? What was the situation and how did you handle it?
Now, again, the format of the answer is situation-objective-action-result. So, situation . . . Let me back up for one second.
How you construct your answer really depends on your level of seniority. So, if you're a senior individual, they don't want to hear about a time when you were junior. When you're junior, there is less of an expectation.
So, thinking, again, in terms of situation-objective -action-result, let me give you an example of a typical answer. A typical one might be, "I've heard many stories about how difficult this user was and one thing I've learned over the course of the years is that what makes someone difficult is that they don't want to do what we want them to do. That's the reality to it. They don't want to do what we want them to do in a way that we want them to do it. So suddenly, they become difficult. What I find is, most of the time, if I over explain the circumstances, I can win them over.
“So, for example, this one user who I heard all sorts of stories about, this one client. . . I've heard all sorts of stories about and he was horrible, that's the way he was described and I met with him and sat down with him and said, "what can I do to help you?" He laid out a situation for me and, you know, I paused for a second said, ‘We can do most of that. Let me explain why we can do most of that and why we can't do some of that and maybe we can come up with alternatives on that some of that area that can be satisfactory for you.’
"Thus, what I was able to do is to engage the user in solving this situation which involved a degree of escalation because I needed to get an approval from so-and-so above who would authorize this additional work to be done at a price that was reasonable for the user."
Notice how what I've done in this situation-objective-action-result but also started off with the, "Oh! I heard all these stories about this individual but, most of the time, all it is is they don't want to do what we want them to do in the way we want them to do it. So, I work with them to solve the problem. It required an escalation. We got it done."
Now if you were a senior individual, that answer isn't quite going to work. So, what you're doing is not " I took them to lunch," or "I sat down with them in their office," But the info is the same.
"Over the years, I found that what causes someone to be difficult is my firm hasn't done a good enough job of making them happy. So, I sat down with them to hear their side of all the stories that I have been hearing. "In one instance, I went so far as to say 'I have heard that you are the most difficult person on the planet to work with and I want to make you happy. How can I make you happy?'
And, from there, what I was able to do was understand their side of the story and understand the issues that existed on our side and explain to them some of the factors that were involved and let them know I'd want to work on resolving the difficulties.
"I would check in with them regularly to see if they were happy with what was being given to them and, if not, work to resolve it quickly. The weekly check-in calls like I did when a long way toward giving them the attention that they really wanted to have that resulted in a satisfied customer."
Notice how all of this involves that situation-objective-action-result? The result is a satisfied customer. who wrote glowing reports about our ability to help them yada yada yada.
So, again, the idea becomes, "I heard all sorts of stories about this person and, when push comes to shove, what I found is the issue was with us not with them. So, I went and met with them and tried to understand their side of the circumstance and work with them to resolve what their issues were.
There is a classic story in sales training about the junior sales person who is about to go out on a sales call and he is told the one customer he's about to go see on his first sales call is the meanest, most ornery and cantankerous person on the planet, but if you keep with it and just ignore all their objections, you'll get them to buy.
“So, he'll push back a lot but you just plow through and you'll get the order.”
So, he comes back and he meets with the customer. The customer starts pushing back. He starts smiling to himself and he just keeps on plowing through and ultimately gets the order. He comes back to his office and he proudly presents the order that he's taken from the customer.
"You went to the wrong place. That IS the meanest customer that we've ever dealt with and that you got the order. How do you do that? " It was all in his head and, in this case, the organization had it in their head that this person was difficult when all they required was a certain amount of additional attention. They wanted to be heard and they want to be satisfied.

So, again, present your answer in that way you'll do fine with them


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 1500 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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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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