"What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?"

I'm giving you permission to lie a little bit in a job interview.

That's right.

Your honest answer to the question might be when:

  • Your mother died of cancer

  • Everything you owned was destroyed in a fire

  • You spent several weeks in a mental health treatment center

You don't need to talk about that!

It's okay to avoid discussing situations that will make you cry, relive some trauma, or provide private medical information.

A girl standing in front of a house on fire saying,

What Do They Want To Know?

Interviewers ask this question because they want to learn about how you deal with difficult situations.

Remember — this is about your work life.

You want to keep it professional and tie the story back to some positive skills you bring to the job.

It's okay to talk about something more personal if it relates to work, but you want to discuss something that won't make you emotional or give them a reason not to hire you.

No one wants this:

Girl crying

What Should You Say?

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  • Pick something you can turn into a positive story and relate to work.

  • Talk about what you learned.

  • Explain what you might do differently now.

  • Discuss a problem you solved during that time.

  • Keep it constructive.

  • Flaticon Icon No complaining.

  • No blaming.

  • No drama.

Man and woman saying,

Some Examples

"The most difficult period of my life and how I handled it was when..."

  • Flaticon Icon "In a previous role, I was stretched too thin because we didn't have enough people. I initiated a meeting with my manager to figure out how to reassign some work and hire more staff. I learned some good collaborative skills, how to prioritize, and to advocate for myself."

  • Flaticon Icon "In my last year of college, I struggled trying to juggle my classes, finding a job and a place to live after graduation, all at the same time. I had to work on my organizational skills and really learn how to keep myself focused so that I didn't miss any deadlines."

  • Flaticon Icon "A few years ago, we had a family emergency that took up a lot of my time and energy. Everything is fine now, but at the time I needed to learn to put worry out of my mind and focus on the task in front of me."

Take Action

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Remember, no one is going to check to make sure you are really telling them the most difficult thing that ever happened to you. Pick something you can talk about clearly that relates to work.

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This Byte has been authored by

HF

Heidi Fleming

EHS Professional & Trainer