Job Interview Question

How have you responded to a colleague who is putting you down at work?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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This is a pretty specific question, but it’s basically just another version of “How do you react in difficult situations?” This type of question is often asked in one version or another in behavioral interview situations. Employers want to get a sense of your judgment and decision-making abilities. Your answer here gives them a good idea of how you react to stress.

However, this really is a very specific question, and you have to answer it as it’s asked. In this case, it’s very possible that you just haven’t had that happen. So if it’s true, it’s OK to say, “I’m glad to say that I haven’t had that happen.”

I’ve never had someone put me down. I’ve had someone criticize me to my boss, and he was in a larger role than me, so that was bad. But my boss saw his criticism as a weakness on his part because she saw that I was a threat to him. Even though she told me about the criticism and suggested ways I could be less threatening to him, I didn’t do anything different except try not to step on his toes. I certainly didn’t call him on the carpet. It wouldn’t have been productive.

In some cases, maybe it would be productive to speak directly to that person and help them see how it’s not only damaging to you, it’s damaging to them (as it was to the person who criticized me).

You could also talk to your superior, but when you do that you’re admitting that you can’t handle a difficult situation on your own.

In some companies, people file complaints with Human Resources, but I don’t think it’s a good career move. Again, it’s saying that you can’t handle things on your own.

If you haven’t had this happen, just say so and don’t spend time talking about what you might do in that situation. You always have to think strategically in an interview situation, and wandering down paths of “what if” is not going to be a benefit to you.

If you have had this happen, it’s important that you frame your answer in a positive fashion. Don’t tell the story about how you went to HR. Don’t tell the story about how you reported them to your boss. Don’t talk about what a jerk that person was and how glad you are that in this job, you won’t have to deal with them anymore. You don’t ever want to concentrate on the negative in your interview answers, because it just reflects badly on you.

Tell a story that says, “I’m a capable professional with good judgment and the ability to handle difficult situations on my own and get to a positive outcome.”


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