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There are lots of questions that put you on the spot in an interview, but ‘tell me about a time’ interview questions can be particularly challenging because they’re behavioural questions. This means that the interviewer is trying to gauge how you behave when faced with a particular type of situation.

Some examples of common ‘tell me about a time’ interview questions include:

  • Tell me about a time you were faced with a difficult situation. How did you overcome it?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work outside of your comfort zone.

There are three easy steps to follow to make sure you provide a well-rounded answer to a ‘tell me about a time when’ interview question. More than likely, you will need to answer this question with a brief story - a story that should loosely follow this format:

  • Explain the context of the story – Explain the difficult situation, mistake or task that you were faced with. This should be highly relevant to the question. You should think carefully about what is and isn’t appropriate to tell the interviewer before you go into the interview.

  • Explain what you did – Your response to the difficult situation, mistake or task is what the interviewer is most interested in. Make sure you have thought carefully about how you word this portion of your answer, and take your time while relaying it in the interview.

  • Explain why you did it – Explaining why you responded in the way you did gives the interviewer an insight into your thought process.

Here's an example:

Question: Tell me about a time when you were behind schedule. Why were you behind schedule, and what did you do to catch up?

Answer: When I was at university, I was behind schedule for one of my assignments because I had been off sick for a week. This meant that I had missed a couple of my lectures and needed to catch up to make sure I knew all the relevant information to complete the assignment.

I decided to spend a few extra hours at the library when I started to feel better - luckily all of the lecture materials I needed were available online. I decided to do this rather than pestering my course mates because I knew they would all be busy getting their own assignments finished!

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