Growth and progress does not happen within the limits of our comfort zone. But that’s not the no.1 one reason why they may ask you this question in an interview. The thing is that regardless of whether you apply for some repetitive job in a fast food restaurant, or for a managerial role in a Fortune 500 corporation, you will face some tough situations, and either your physical or mental limits will be tested. As they rightly say, the beginnings are always hard, everywhere…

Hiring managers wonder whether you have such an experience from the past: Were your limits tested? And have you stood to the test? Did you crack under pressure, or did you actually manage to widen your comfort zone, and discovered that your limits are much further than you originally thought they were? Let’s have a look at seven sample answers to this tricky interview question. Do not forget to check also the notes below the list of answers, for additional hints on how to make a great impression on the hiring managers.

 

7 sample answers to “Describe a situation where you found yourself outside of your comfort zone” interview question

  1. I recall such a situation from my very last job in sales. The managers have set extremely ambitious monthly targets for us, and I had to spend seven hours a day on the call, talking to clients, in order to at least stand a chance of meeting the goals. Needless to say, it was extremely hard to remain focused for such a long period of time, and it also wasn’t easy for the mind and body. Before, I’ve never spent more than three hours a day calling. However, I understood that unless I wanted to lose the job, I had to try my best to meet the high expectations. And so I did it. I found myself out of my comfort zone, but day after day, week after week, I keep calling, closing deals, earning commissions. I was actually one of the very few employees of the sales department who managed to meet the monthly targets on a rather consistent basis. Having said that, eventually I decided it wasn’t the job I wanted to do in a long run, and decided to quit. Hence now I am here, trying to get a different kind of job with you.
  2. This is my first job application, so I cannot really recall an example from my working life. However, just a few months ago, preparing for my school leaving examinations, I definitely found myself outside of my comfort zone. I have never been the most talented student. Always had to try harder than the rest of the class. Trying to prepare for the finals, I spent four weeks doing almost nothing but studying. I slept for four hours a day. Definitely didn’t feel great physically, but I pushed myself to the limits, passed the finals, and now I can finally start working, in the field that I like.
  3. Working in CPS, I found myself outside of my comfort zone daily. Because even though you know the reality of the job, and expect to witness the worst in the families, things will still catch you off guard. At the end of the day, you have empathy, you are a woman, and you feel for the children. I cannot tell you how many times I felt terrible, wanted to run away, with or without the kids. But I knew I had to keep my emotions in check, and could not say all I desired to say to the parents or guardians. It was hard, I often cried back at home, but I didn’t quit. I saw a meaningful purpose in my job, knew why I did it, and continued, even though I found myself outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis.

 

  1. Perhaps the best example is from my personal life. Last year, New Year’s Eve, I decided to lose weight. I knew I had to do it, since being obese was too bad for my health. What’s more, it impacted my self esteem, and consequently my chances in relationships, interviews, and so on. I decided to embark on a journey, a three months weight loss program, which included both dietary changes and physical exercise. Both of it was far outside my comfort zone. When you do no exercise whatsoever for over five years, even a fast five miles walk feels like a marathon, like the most difficult task in the world. And then you have food, all the addictions—sugar, coffee, fast food, you name it. I think one cannot describe how hard it was, how much did I have to broaden my comfort zone. But I always kept reminding myself why I was doing it. My goals, the new life I hoped to live, and how losing those 30 pounds will improve the quality of it. And hence I stuck to the program. Eventually, after about one month, things started getting easier. My body began to get used to the new routines, and I was slowly getting rid of my addictions. You can see the final result in front of you. I dropped 25 pounds, feel much better about myself, can do more. It is an amazing feeling, and an experience that proves that I can withstand being outside of my comfort zone, even for prolonged period of time.
  2. The best example I can think of is actually from my trip to the mountains of Morocco. I prepared well, had the maps, the GPS, and everything. But on one day the weather was terrible, all my devices got soaked, stopped working, and I got lost in the mountains. My heartbeat rose sharply, and I was really afraid. However, I tried to my best to remain calm. Looked around, studied the paper map I had with me, tried to descend to the valley below. The terrain was rough with loose stones, and it was important not to push myself too hard. Because if I injured myself there, without knowing where I was, without means of communication, I would be lost. Though I definitely felt outside my comfort zone—both physically and mentally, I managed to keep at least some calm, and slowly but steadily I reached the valley and eventually the civilization.
  3. To be honest with you, I cannot recall such a situation in last ten years. I am pretty resilient, adaptable, and have experienced a lot in my managerial career. Therefore it is hard to surprise me, to catch me off-guard, to get me outside of my comfort zone. No doubt some people have tried to do it in my last job, but without succeeding. But I do not want to sound over-confident. I know that the role I try to get with you is extremely challenging. I may face the unknown in your company, I may be pushed to my limits. No doubt it won’t be easy, but at the same time I feel ready to face every challenge, and to try my best in every possible, and every impossible scenario.
  4. I am outside of my comfort zone right now. Having worked in IT for the past 10 years, I haven’t really experienced many stressful meetings. But this interview matters a lot to me, and I find it hard to concentrate, to deliver, to do my best. Yet I try what I can, because I really want to get this job. At the end of the day, in today’s economy you either adapt or you “die”. I have no other option, and look forward to keep getting outside of my comfort zone, and growing in that way, both as an engineer and as a person.

 

Examples from personal life are great

You do not have to stick to work when facing this question in a job interview. At the end of the day, work is just that—work, and some situations from our personal life can be much more stressful, because the outcome matters to us more.

Facing a tricky situation in your relationship, having to learn something new, trying to lose weight, building a new healthy habit, losing someone you loved… Your attitude matters for the interviewers. Whatever situation you narrate, the key is to demonstrate that you can actually step outside of your comfort zone, and handle it both physically and mentally. Once you manage to do that, they will be satisfied with your answer.

The power of humility

We live in a world of over-confident individuals. Humility is a highly sought-after quality on the employment market, and this question is an opportunity to showcase it in an interview. Now it doesn’t mean that you should say that you collapsed, and had to quit, as soon as you found yourself outside of your comfort zone. That isn’t a good idea really…

But it is fine admitting that you struggled, or even suffered in the process. Keep it on your mind while dealing with this one. Show them that while you feel ready to face the challenges of your new job, you are also aware of your fragility as a human being. You try to be the best employee you can be, but at the same time you have your weaknesses, and you may struggle in some situations. That doesn’t change nothing on the fact that you will try to face them with your head high, and that you actually enjoy stepping outside of your comfort zone…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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