Interview Questions: Work History


Questions about your supervisors and co-workers.

Certain questions may be asked to see if you're a team player. Take a few seconds to mentally draft your response when asked a difficult question. An interviewer doesn't expect you to have a prepared answer, but being prepared certainly never hurt anyone.


Have you ever had to deal with someone you thought wasn't his/her fair share of the work? How did you address the situation and what was the outcome?

George was a member of my team, who almost always carried his fair share of the work load. While working on a project with a tight deadline, I realized George wasn't actively contributing. I decided to wait until after the project to talk with him.

I'm glad I did, because I learned he'd been going through a very tough time in his personal life. He appreciated my willingness to put in additional effort so the project was completed on time. This line of open communication significantly increased our ability to work together.

Do you have an example of a time when you shared a co-worker's or supervisor's achievements with others?

One of my past co-workers, Sue, did an outstanding job of calming an irritated patient, solving the patient's problem and getting them the attention they had requested.

When our manager asked me how things were going, I told him everything was going good and that Sue had just completed calming an irritated patient and the solution she had presented. It was a great situation for our manager, Sue and the patient. 

Have you ever not worked well with a supervisor? What was the outcome and would you have changed the outcome?

When I was 1st starting out, I had a supervisor (Brian) who was in a fairly good mood on Monday, but it deteriorated each day until by Friday, the supervisor was finding fault with everything I did. I realized after I had left the position that I had been a contributor to the decline in his mood.

Brian asked me how my weekend was at the beginning of the week and later in the week he would sometimes ask how it was going. I would tell him how much fun I was having, I was single at the time, and how I was looking forward to the weekend plans. When I left I realized that my life was in complete contrast to his and I reminded him of it almost daily. When he asked the questions, I should have provided a quick answer and then reciprocated by asking how he was doing!


Have you worked with someone you didn't like? If so, how did you handle it?

Yes. I've worked with someone whom I found challenging to like as a person. When I focused on the skills this person brought to the job and their ability to find solutions, my attitude towards them changed. Although we were never really friends, we did work well together.


Describe a situation where you helped someone else.

Recently we had a new hire (Sheryl) who was really struggling with getting to work on time. I knew our boss (David) was getting irritated. One day over lunch I explained to Sheryl how important it was to David for everyone to be there at least 5 minutes early. It was a personal thing with David, but you could really get off on the wrong foot if you were frequently late. Sheryl was grateful for the advice. Where she had worked before, her manager was only concerned about having work getting done on time and meeting deliverables and really did not "watch the clock".


Had there ever been a situation where you misjudged a person? If so, please describe the situation.

In a position I had in the past, there was a long time employee (John) who appeared very short when he first spoke to me. I began going out of my way to win John's approval. This only resulted in making the issue worse, so I watched how he interacted with other employees and found that I wasn't alone. He was short with most people. I quit trying to gain his approval and later learned that his behavior was adopted from a former boss he'd had whom he admired.


How do you respond to generation gaps among your co-workers?

A response for if your co-workers are older: "There are times when I believe that a new approach to doing something makes more sense to me; but I've learned that my "better way" may not be the best way to get the job done. Therefore I respect the knowledge and experience of my older co-workers knowledge, but have learned how to make a suggestion at the appropriate time."

A response for if your co-workers are younger: "I quickly realized it was not my job to "parent" the younger people with whom I work; it was my job to get to know them and for us to find common ground where we could effectively work together. It took time, but the result was worth the effort."