The Secret to Answering Negative Interview Questions: Stay Positive

Posted May 17, 2012

If you’ve prepared for a job interview, you more than likely spent all of your time preparing to answer “positive questions” – to demonstrate how good you are and what you can offer the company. You are not prepared to talk about your failures or times when you were challenged by difficult situations.

So what do you do when you encounter a “curve ball?” You deal with it in a positive manner.

Here is an example of a question that could be asked by an interviewer who is seeking negative information and how to deal with it.

Question –Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone at work and how you resolved it.

Poor Answer: I usually get along very well with everyone.

The most important reason that this is a poor answer is that it doesn’t answer the question: “Tell me about a time when….” The interviewer is seeking an example of a time when you had a dealt with a difficult situation or person and how you handled yourself in communication or relating to others.

Good Answer: There was an incident that happened with a person who was not pulling his weight on the team and it was affecting morale. All the team members were getting disgruntled but nobody was doing anything about it. His name was “Todd” and he was an older worker who had been with the company for many years.

I took it upon myself to have a talk with Todd when the opportunity presented itself. It didn’t start out smoothly – he was defensive at first and resented my speaking to him about his work behavior. He started telling me I should mind my own business.

I stayed very calm.  I was careful to let him know that I wasn’t judging him but rather was concerned about the team and the ability for everyone to get along. He began to calm down and started telling me about the challenges he was facing. Once he became aware that his behavior was affecting other’s work he made a special effort to be more open and receptive. The team spirit improved greatly after that – as well as the productivity.

This answer deals with the question about a negative situation in a positive manner, and the answer also demonstrates that you’re an assertive person who will take on tasks that other don’t want to do.

You can see that there is a good deal of positive information that can be emphasized in an answer - even if it is an example of a time when things were negative.

You have shown the interviewer how you resolve an issue with another person.

Turning negatives into positives is an important skill to learn. When you are asked a “bad” or negative question, take a minute to turn the answer around refocusing the answer to include some positive qualities.

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