I have around 15 years working experience already so I'm not a workplace newbie, but I've never actually "prepared" for an interview or role-played answers or anything like that (I just turn up and talk!). I've had my share of success and failure with that 'technique' - as you can imagine - so I am working on proper interview technique in the hope of improving. I am also looking to move on to a more senior level role (in a different company) due to 2 reasons - I'm now "stagnating" here, and I'm not sure about the long term viability of the job (layoffs etc) due to signals I'm picking up.
I am curious about how to handle interview questions like: (I made these up based on examples on websites so there may be a better way that a real interviewer would word them...)
- "Can you describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person in another team?"
- "Deliverable X has to go to the customer tomorrow, but it will still take 3 days based on your estimates -- what do you do?"
- "What's a time you exhibited leadership?"
My problem is that out of those 15 years experience, my most recent (and largest amount of time / most senior / most relevant - edited to add: 8 years here) workplace is sort of "extreme" in that I can think of examples of those situations/scenarios but have been 'conditioned' into responses that I don't think are typical or are what interviewers are looking for.
In the 1st question (difficult people in other teams) we have a very "conflict averse" culture on the whole (which isn't the way I am naturally) and any 'difficult behaviour' with people in other teams is handled - if you can call it that - by passive aggressive behaviour and/or escalating it to their manager... Due to this I've mostly been on the "receiving" end (manager speaking to me because of my perceived being difficult towards others) rather than handling it. I am quite comfortable with conflict myself and don't really see "difficult people" other than I have to figure out this person's motivations and then make it work for them as well as for me. Maybe I'm lucky but I don't have too many "difficulties" with people as a result!
With the 2nd question about the customer wanting Deliverable X tomorrow but it will take 3 days -- the response in my workplace is to somehow find a way to make it work, even if that takes an all-nighter or two, you have to call in favours "off the record" from people in other teams, cut corners in an undetectable way (that still produces the results). I know that isn't the "right" answer to that interview question and was struggling to think what was the right answer! I asked a friend (not at this company) who said a normal response would be more like -- "figure out what we can complete by tomorrow and if we can agree with the client/product owner/sales person to deliver that "minimum" product, explain what the problem is and commit to follow up later with the "full" product in 3 days time."
Thinking about "exhibiting leadership" I have a limited amount of that in my normal role, but was faced with a situation last year where due to a combination of circumstances my manager, and her manager (so the 2 levels of management above me) were unexpectedly out of the workplace for a sustained period and I had to pick up a lot of responsibilities that weren't really my place. I didn't have anyone to ask (I was the 'senior' in the team but not their manager) and had to make it up as I went along. I didn't have a 'strategy' or anything like that, I was really just surviving day to day.
'Difficult/demanding customers' - my experiences with customers mostly seem mundane compared to the time I was 16 and the shop I worked in at the time was "held up" by an armed robber and I had to defuse that situation myself! I don't think an interviewer wants to hear about that though.
Question: How should I respond to interview questions similar to the above, when I don't have 'sane' recent experiences to draw on? I have come across the situations, but my examples relate to more extreme experiences.
I also want to get across that I'm more than capable of dealing with (what I perceive as) "mundane" situations compared to experiences I have already.
NB: I looked at this question ('Spinning' a dysfunctional workplace) from the suggested duplicates but I don't think it's a duplicate because I'm asking how to come up with sensible answers to questions like "dealing with difficult people", rather than presenting the "dysfunctional" experiences in a positive light.
Added a country tag but I don't think this is country specific.