Life isn’t a never ending journey of success. On the contrary, it resembles a role-coaster ride with many ups and downs. We make mistakes, face setbacks, have to deal with failure. Both in personal life and in the workplace. What’s more, we often have to deal with conflicts, and sometimes people do not understand our good intentions, regardless of how hard we try. This simply belongs to life, but the question is how well we can cope with it. And that’s exactly what resilience is about: dealing with setbacks, getting over them quickly, focusing on the present and future, instead of dwelling on the past.

Interviewing for any decent corporate job, you can be almost sure you will face at least one question about resilience. Trying to get some jobs where setbacks are plentiful (think sales for example), hiring managers may ask you even more questions related to your ability of coping with setbacks. In this article we will look at 7 such questions. Most of them are behavioral (they ask about a situation from your former job), or situational (they ask what you would do in a fictive situation, but one you can realistically face at work), but you’ll find also two other questions on the list. I hope it will help you prepare for your interview. Enjoy!


How do you deal with rejection?

A popular in interviews for sales and call center jobs. In such places, you often have to hear NO (and some bad words along the way) dozens of times, before you eventually close a single deal. People who cannot deal with rejection, or take it too personally, will quit after the first week in the job. Hence it is pivotal for hiring managers to understand whether you can cope with rejection.

You have several ways of convincing them. One is saying that you understand a clear distinction between someone rejecting you, and rejecting your offer. You do not take it to heart, and simply move on to the next client. Another option is saying that you consider sales a game of numbers. You know that statistically, for one deal you close you have to call ten clients (nine of them will decline your offer). Hence you are actually grateful for every NO, since it moves you one client closer to the coveted yes. Third option is saying that you try to learn from every rejection–what you can do better next time, to come up with a different outcome. Turning setbacks to learning experiences (at least in your mind) helps you to cope with them.

Tell us about the biggest failure of your professional career.

This doesn’t have to be something really big, especially if you’re still young and lack long years of working experience under your belt. What matters for the interviewers is your attitude, and not the particular failure you narrate. They are looking for the following in an ideal job candidate:

  • Ability to look back and admit failing in this or that endeavor.
  • Willingness to take responsibility, instead of blaming someone else (or bad luck) for failing to reach desired results.
  • Ability to analyze your mistakes, and learn from them. It should help you avoid failing again in a similar situation.
  • Ability to eventually get over it, and focus on the present. Thinking all the time about the failures of your past won’t take you anywhere in life. The only destination for such thinkers is suffering.

Regardless of the failure you narrate, the key is to do it in a way that convinces them of your ability to handle failures in a positive way, and learn from them.


What does resilience mean to you?

A different type of a question. Easier for some people, and more difficult for others. You can start with basic definition of resilience (ability to deal with setbacks and adversity). You can elaborate on it though, saying what exactly it means to you, and what place it has in your life. Perhaps it is your strength, or, on the contrary, one of the abilities you have to work on–and you do so, since you know it maters in your career and life.

The key is to convince the hiring managers that you know what resilience means, what place it has in your life, and that you try your best to learn to cope with setbacks, since they belong to the life of everyone, and we cannot avoid them.


How do you cope with disappointment? What remedies do you have?

We all have some remedies, but not necessarily all of them are remedies you should mention in a job interview. Maybe a bottle of Whiskey, or a joint, helps you to cope with disappointment in your life. Sure enough, it may work for you (at least in a short run), but it isn’t something you should mention while trying to get a job in some company. You have some good options though.

One is support of your loved ones, or even of your colleagues at work. People who support you and understand you help you to move on, and get over disappointments. Physical activity is also a great answer. When I personally experience big setback, I hit the mountains for a few days and sure enough come back with a different mindset, ready to move on and pursue another goal.

Another alternative consists in saying that you always keep the bigger picture on your mind. Road to success is always bumpy. You know that setbacks will come, you know that some people will disappoint you. It is an integral part of every success story. Sure, the setbacks are still bitter, and you may feel down for a few hours or even for a few days, but seeing the bigger picture eventually helps you get over them.


How would you respond if you received negative feedback from your manager?

A situational question, asking what you would do in situation X. Hiring managers use these questions with younger job applicants, who logically do not have that many experiences from the past to talk about. Some of these questions are really tough, but this one is quite easy.

In a great answer you should say that you actually embrace difficult feedback, since you are new to the field, you will make mistakes, and any constructive criticism helps you to do the job better next time. Of course, a great manager will deliver their negative feedback in a sensitive way, trying to not harm you with their words. Some managers do not have this ability though, or simply lose it temporarily in a heat of a moment.

It is important to ensure the interviewers that such incidents won’t derail you, or embitter you against the manager. On the contrary, you understand it is their job to assess your work and give you some feedback. Hence you will listen carefully to their words, and try to do things better next time. You will get over it.


Tell us about a time when you had to handle a major crisis in your personal life.

The hardest setbacks to deal with are always setbacks we face in our personal life. When our relationship falls apart, when we deal with bad illness, when we lose someone dear to us. It is in such moments that we learn how resilient we really are. In my opinion, it is no business of hiring managers to inquire about your personal life. But they may do so, and you should be ready. We have a separate article dedicated to this question, with 7 sample answers. Check it out for more information, I am sure you will find at least one of the answers fitting for your interview.


How do you cope with pressure at work?

Pressure belongs to the corporate workplace of the 21st century. Sad but true. Either you can cope with it, or you will suffer mental and physical issues. You have a few ways of answering this question. Perhaps the best one is saying that you focus on giving things your best effort, instead of achieving this or that result. Once you try your best, you do not feel any regrets, or pressure to deliver something you simply cannot deliver.

Another way is saying that pressure actually motivates you, that it drives you forward to always try more. You are competitive by nature, and ambitious goals always get the best out of you… One way or another, they should get an impression that stress in the workplace does not impact you in some major way. Sure, you can feel it like everyone else, but you can cope with it without experiencing some health issues, or a burnout…


Final thoughts

At the end of the day, one needs to witness your reaction to a tough experience to see how resilient you really are. Regardless of how many questions about resilience they ask you in the interviews, they cannot be 100% sure about your ability to deal with setbacks and adversity. Your goal is to make the best possible impression on them, and get the job. I hope the information shared here will help you to do so, and wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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