Life’s not a walk in a park. And it doesn’t matter if you are born rich or poor. Everyone faces some problems, be it at work, in personal life, or even with basic human needs. HR managers and interviewers want to know how you reacted to such a situation in the past.

Did you blame someone else for your misfortunes, or did you take responsibility? Did you decide to face the challenge, or did you rather run away? These are just some questions they have on their mind. They also wonder what you consider a “major crisis”, if life has tested you so far, and how you’d react to a crisis you may, or even likely will, experience in your new job.

The logic of these questions is always the same. Asking about your behavior in a situation from the past, they try to predict how you’d react to a similar type of a situation in the future. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to include on my list also some unconventional answers, plus a couple of answers for those who has not experienced any “major crisis” yet.


7 sample answers to “Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis” interview question

  1. I had to handle a major productivity crisis in my team, in my last job. The management of the company has changed, so did the processes in place, and many people in sales department struggled. Some struggled because they lacked motivation with new management in place, and some simply didn’t do well with the new processes. As a regional sales manager I was responsible for the result of the entire team. And the sales volume dropped by more than 40%. It was a major crisis to handle, However, I did not panic. I had a one on one meeting with everyone in the team, trying to understand why they struggled. Then I addressed each issue individually. Some people needed additional training, others a firm confirmation that new management would not let them go, and so on. Eventually we managed to overcome the crisis, and brought the productivity back to desired levels.
  2. I faced a major personal crisis during the pandemic. First of all, I lost my mother, which was a big emotional shock since we were really close. Then I lost my job, and eventually also my partner left me. It was probably the hardest time of my life. It felt like everything was against me. But I didn’t capitalize. Sure enough, I needed a help of a psychologist, and a couple of good friends nearby. But, little by little, I started to rebuild my life again. Got in terms with the new reality, found a new partner, accepted my situation, got some part time jobs to earn some money quickly, and now I am finally looking for a new full time job with you. Job isn’t done yet, but I feel I’ve handled the crisis quite well so far.
  3. Speaking honestly, I have not faced any major crisis in my life yet. Lucky to be born in a good and loving family, and blessed with some intelligence, I have sailed through my education until graduation. And this is my first job application. Of course, one can face all sorts of crises–health related, for example, but I’ve been lucky even at this front. Having said that, I am sure some crisis will come. It will be something new for me, but at the same time I feel mature enough to handle it. You can be sure that I will take responsibility, and won’t run away from the job, in case of facing some major crisis.
  4. I faced a terrible crisis of motivation two years ago. Working in the same field for fifteen years, and often spending twelve hours a day in front of a computer, I experienced a burnout. But I had a well-paid job, and I hadn’t done anything else for a living before. I found it hard to make a step I knew deep inside I had to make to be happy again. But I eventually overcame my fears and did it. I gained new education, changed my career, and here I am applying for a job with you, in a field that really fascinates me. It is great to look forward to the future again, after hating to wake up in the morning…
  5. I handled a major crisis in my last managerial job. We fell behind with schedule, two people from my team went for a prolonged sick-leave, and I faced pressure from all directions to deliver the final product on time. I must admit that I found it hard and stressful, but I did not back up. On the contrary, I worked extra hours each day, trying to go by an example for the rest of the team. I also introduced short daily team meetings, to make sure that everyone is on task every day, and that we actually progress according to the plan. It was hard, and we didn’t manage to launch the product on schedule. But I still believe I handled the crisis well, because I did everything in my powers, and did not crack under the immense pressure I faced from both my superiors and subordinates.
  6. I am trying to handle one right now. As you can see on my resume, I’ve been unemployed for over two years. And though I tried to start a small business, pandemic did not play in my favor. It is extremely stressful to struggle with money when you have two small children, and when you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll be able to pay your bills next month. But it is what it is, and jobs are sparse in the pandemic. In spite of several setbacks, I haven’t given up yet. I continue trying to change the situation of my family for better, and this job interview is another chance to make it reality.
  7. This isn’t an easy question, because whether something is a crisis or not always depends on your perspective. Hundreds of millions of people all around the world struggle with basic needs–that’s a major crisis. Or the climate change we face right now, something that will impact each living soul on the planet. Sure enough, I had my own crises–crisis of a relationship, of motivation, or even crisis of identity. But I try not to live in the small bubble of my existence, and deep down I realize that such problems are incredibly small, when compared to the ordeal people face in the poorest countries of the world. Seeing things in perspective helps me to deal with any problems I may face, be it at work, or in my personal life. Because I always feel that whatever comes my way, I am still an incredibly lucky person, and should not take things too seriously. At least that’s my personal philosophy.


If you do not know what to talk about, go with the pandemic

I probably don’t know a single person who hasn’t been impacted by the recent pandemic in some way–or at least by the reaction of world leaders to it. Some of us lost their jobs, others a friend or a family member, and some people lost their mind… In the best possible case, many of us couldn’t enjoy doing things we considered completely normal before, such as going for a walk wherever we want, or traveling for a holiday abroad.

Hence if you cannot come up with anything better, tell them your pandemic story. Explain them how this world-wide crisis impacted you, and how you handled the situation, or how you are still trying to handle it. Be honest, but avoid showing emotions. They shouldn’t get an impression that you feel like giving up, regardless of how hard it has been for you.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only tricky question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, solving problems, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 50 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Unconventional answers can help you stand out

In vast majority of interviews you will compete with other candidates for the job. It will be hard to succeed, if you always say the same thing (or a similar one) other applicants say. Therefor I suggest you to opt for at least one or two unconventional answers during your interview, making sure the hiring managers will remember you at the end of the day. This question is an excellent opportunity to do so.

You can either philosophize about the real problems people face in third world countries, such as lack of drinking water, hunger, and wars, and compare them to the so called “problems” we typically face here. Or you can talk about a burnout you faced, a crisis in a relationship with your partner, or even look at the topic from a completely different perspective. You should find inspiration for all these options on my list of sample answers.

Ready to answer this question? Great! Do not forget to check sample answers to other tricky interview questions as well:

Matthew Chulaw
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