Can You Think of a Time Interview Questions

Questions based around this approach are often used in interviews. They are effective for the interviewer because they provide information about the candidate in a number of ways. They often also include the word DIFFICULT for example 'difficult customer' or colleague and ask how did you deal with it.

They are useful to the interviewer because they can demonstrate experience - have you really done it? Skills in handling the situation and your behaviours in achieving the outcome. They are also good for the interviewee because you can prepare your STORIES and relive them during the interview.

Stories are really useful parts of your interview approach because they should bring to mind something that really happened. You should try to picture the situation in your mind and you will then reflect that in your body language and speech, all adding to the interview dynamics.

So how should I construct the story? Let us take the example of a shop assistant with a difficult customer.

You want to confirm experience, show you calmed the customer down (how?), answered the problem (did what?) used your skills and are experienced at doing so. Your answer could be -

We have good products but sometimes a customer does return one. I've been trained to firstly calm the customer by acknowledging there is a problem and then asking for them to explain it to me. As they talk in a controlled way they lose their anger and I repeat what they say as I ask for clarification. I never tell them it isn't our fault but the manufacturer's as I'm the one standing there. Friends tell me I have an empathetic manner and this helps.

Depending on the problem it might be a case of a replacement or the really difficult situation that they have misused it. Here I would ask them to explain how they followed the instructions and explain how they should have used it. I have to use my initiative to decide if we can return it to the manufacturer for a refund and thus offer the customer a replacement or whether I should seek further advice from the supervisor. I find most people are surprisingly pleasant once you acknowledge the problem.

You can make the story more alive by using real information. Change product to Red Kettle, customer to Lady with a poodle etc.