Leaning never stops for people who want to keep growing in both their personal and professional life. But this interview question asks about a particular moment in time when you faced some problem or challenge or task, and had to learn something new to solve it. Similarly to many other interview questions, hiring managers care mostly about your attitude. The situation you narrate is of a secondary importance….
They want to hear that you did not give up, and perhaps even went out of your comfort zone, in order to learn what you needed to learn to address the problem, and get the desired result. Sometimes they may add a modifier to the question, for example asking about a time when you had to learn something quickly, or how you actually applied the new things you learned in your work. Make sure to address all parts of their question, should it have more parts.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting question now. You do not necessarily have to speak about a situation from work, and I included in my selection also some answers dealing with situations from personal life of the applicants, as well as some unconventional answers. Pick one that resonates with you, and adjust it slightly to convey the desired message in your interviews. And do not forget to check also my notes at the end of this post, for some tips on how to impress the interviewers with your answer.
7 sample answers to “Tell me about a time when you had to learn something new (quickly)” interview question
- I’ve had to learn to work with a new software in my last job in a hotel. It was a custom-made solution for a particular hotel chain, and the manual had over 100 pages. To tell the truth, I found it challenging. I am not the most tech-savvy person, and the user interface wasn’t similar to the software I was used to work with in my last job. But I did not give up. Outside of peak times for check-in and check-out, I was diligently studying the manual and learning my way around the software, plus we also had a special training over one weekend to learn it more quickly. At the end I learned to work with the software, and it made my work easier. But as you know, I do not work for that hotel any longer…
- I had to learn to accept rejection in my last job. Working as a sales representative in a call center, you cannot imagine how many times I heard NO on the phone every day. And it wasn’t always a simple no. Some people complained, some said bad words, some hanged up without saying a single word. I wasn’t accustomed to such reactions, and at the beginning I found it hard to bear with it emotionally. I even considered quitting, but I decided to persist, and learn to deal with it. And I eventually did, because I came to a firm conclusion that for every YES I have to hear NO many times–that’s how it works in telesales. So I actually embraced every NO, because I knew it moved me one step closer to another deal. And I also convinced myself that people were not rejecting me. They were rejecting my offer. This change of perception made it much easier for me to handle rejection, and I applied it successfully in my daily job.
- As a process engineer I have to learn something new all the time. Following the same concepts, without experimenting, without applying new technologies, technologies I have to discover and learn about, I wouldn’t be able to improve the processes and achieve desired results. To be honest though, I find it fascinating. I enjoy learning new things, and I do not struggle with motivation when it comes to reading books or attending seminars and conferences.
- I am trying to learn to live without my husband, who passed away a year ago. And it isn’t easy, because we had a good marriage, and did almost everything together. First few months were extremely difficult, and I even lost my job, because I couldn’t cope emotionally with the loss. But I started to work with the psychologist and eventually learned to accept my new reality. I started spending time with supportive people, found new hobbies, and also found courage to do things alone. This interview is a culmination of my efforts. Finally I feel ready to work again, and I can perhaps even find a meaningful purpose in this job.
- I had to learn new teaching methods in my last job. Let me explain. Before, in my only other job, I taught at a school with high level of discipline. You can spend hours lecturing and students always paid attention. That changed completely in the other job. I had disruptive students in every class, and children expected something more from their teachers. Instead of blaming them, I decided to take responsibility, and try to make the lessons more engaging and interesting. Showing documentaries, inviting inspirational guests, and applying new teaching methods, such as flipped classroom or learning by playing, I eventually managed to win most students over. They started to pay attention, because they enjoyed the lessons and played an important part in them. Of course, it didn’t work with everyone. But it worked with many, and I am glad that I went out of my comfort zone and learned something new.
- I changed my career a couple of times already. Because I’ve experienced a couple of burnouts. When you switch from IT to nursing, you have to learn a lot of things. The same is true when switching from nursing to HR. But I always embraced the challenge, because my goal is to do a good job–regardless of what I do for a living. And for doing a good job you have to understand the field and all the nuances of the job. I never struggled spending time outside of work learning, and you can be sure I won’t struggle to do so in your company.
- This is my first job application, and I cannot talk about an example from work. But I studied a hard subject–finance and investment. And I must admit that I wasn’t talented in Math or Statistics, and it took a lot of effort to learn the subjects and pass the exams. Having said that, I always knew why I was doing it. I had career goals I followed. And I am glad that I put in the effort and did not give up. Because if I did, I would never have a chance to interview for a job in this amazing company…
Story from your personal life can resonate strongly with some interviewers
You should never forget that interviewers are people like you or me, regardless of their position and salary. They also have their life outside of work, their families, their joys and sorrows. Talking about a new situation you were confronted with in your life–and struggled to learn to live with–such as when your partner passed away, or left you, can resonate strongly with the interviewer, especially if they experienced something similar in their life. And perhaps they still struggle to cope with it.
Of course, examples from work are better. But perhaps you apply for your first job, or did the same thing for past fifteen years. In such cases, it is better to narrate a tough lesson from your personal life, than talking about something minor you had to learn in your work, or at school.
* Special Tip: This isn’t the most difficult 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!
You attitude is the key
Ensure the interviewers that you never stop learning, that you want to keep improving. Because the world evolves quickly, and unless you try to keep up with the pace, you will fall behind with your knowledge and skills.
What’s more, you enjoy learning new things, and you care about the results you achieve at work. Hence you continue working on your education, and trying something new at work. That’s the attitude they seek in the very best job applicants. Show it in your interviews, and improve your chances of walking away with a new job contract…
Ready to answer this question? I hope so! Do not forget to check sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- How would you describe your personality?
- Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis.
- What are your weaknesses?
- Interview Success Package – Premium answers to all interview questions.