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How to Answer Describe a Challenging Situation Question in an MBA Interview


In this MBA Interview Preparation video, you will learn the correct approach to answer a question on a Challenging Situation you have faced, in a positive manner. Absorb the tips offered in this video to formulate a well-structured answer to this question and deliver the same with utmost confidence.


How to Answer Describe a Challenging Situation Question in the MBA Interview


The "Describe a challenging situation." question is one of the core, expected questions in an MBA interview; sometimes the interviewer might specify that the challenge should be a professional one and sometimes he/she might leave it open. In either case, it is crucial to provide a strong answer to this question, as any MBA interviewee should expect it and prepare accordingly. This article will cover the common mistakes committed by most candidates, the correct approach, and the possible follow-up questions.

The Most Common Mistakes


As mentioned above, the "Describe a challenging situation." question is a question that should be expected in the MBA interview. As such, one of the most common and most serious mistakes that MBA interviewees make is sounding unprepared. You must have a few stories ready, before your MBA interview, or you risk coming across as casual. The next mistake is going into too much detail, particularly technical details, rather than providing takeaways for the interviewer. There are two major issues with this approach; firstly, the interviewer may not be from the same technical background as you and thus, will not be able to appreciate the technical details that you will provide. Secondly, the purpose of the "Describe a challenging situation." question is not to understand the situation, so much as it is to understand you and how you deal with such situations. In some cases, the mistake that occurs is not a matter of the content, itself, but rather the narration; the most common mistake that most candidates make in narrating their experience is to move back and forth through time.

The Correct Approach


The first step that you must take to answer the challenging situation question in your MBA interview is thorough preliminary preparation. As mentioned above, asking you to describe a challenging situation and how you handled it is one of the expected MBA interview questions; as such, it is crucial that you spend a fair amount of time introspecting on your experiences, thus far, and prepare a few experiences to share; you should have a few different types of experiences, such as those related to leadership, experiences related to ethical dilemmas, experiences related to failure, etc., in case the interviewer asks for a more specific type of challenge. Do not begin answering the question immediately; pause for a few seconds and use that time to consider the question and your answer to it. You must carefully understand the question and exactly what it asks; your story needs to be relevant to what the question actually asks. Before you begin answering the MBA challenging experience question, you should get your thoughts in order to make sure that your answer is well-organized. Taking the time to collect your thoughts will also help you avoid thinking while answering. In addition to taking the time to formulate effective answers, another step that will help you drastically improve the quality of your challenge question answer is avoiding nuance. Eschew the finer details, particularly the technical details, and focus more on the broader aspects of the story.

Structure of an Effective Answer


Now we will take a look at what type of structure you should employ for answering the "Describe a challenging situation." MBA interview question.

Begin your answer by explaining the situation on a macro level; this explanation should clearly mention the stakes involved. Then, relate how you came to take charge of the situation; if at all possible, use this portion of your answer to indicate that you took the initiative and rose to the occasion. Doing so will allow you to convey that you have the capacity to take on new challenges, proactively. Once you have explained how you came to take charge of the situation, elucidate the steps that you took to resolve it; first explain the plan that you formulated and then the concrete steps that you took. Then, state the outcome of your actions, focusing on what it meant to your organization, your client, and to yourself. Close out your answer by reflecting on what you have learned and try to show the experience as a formative event in your professional development. While answering the challenging situation question in your MBA interview, keep in mind that the fifth portion of this structure, reflecting upon what you learned is optional. As such, only include it if you feel that you have enough time. Remember, none of your MBA interview answers are to be longer than two minutes; if your answer exceeds this time limit, you have not understood the question, well enough.

Focus on Takeaways


While narrating your MBA interview answers, bear in mind that the focus must be on providing strong takeaways, about yourself, for the interviewer. Below, you will find an exhaustive list of positive qualities that a story on handling a challenging situation can be used to reflect; please take some time to go through and understand this list, carefully. While no one story can reflect all of these qualities, your story should be able to cover at least five.

Leadership | Initiative | Ownership | Coordination and Liasoning | People Management and Team Skills | Communication Skills | Cross-cultural Skills | Subject Matter Expertise | Cross-Functional Experience | Analytical and Quantitative Skills | Stamina and Dedication | Strategizing with Clear Milestones | Delegation | Honesty and Work Ethics | Perseverance | Training and mentoring Skills | An Eye for Detail | Crisis Management | Multitasking and Time Management Skills | Strong Sense of Commitment | Adaptability | ...

Possible Follow Up Questions


There are a number of questions that your interviewer may follow up the "Describe a Challenging Situation" question with. We have prepared an exhaustive list of some of the most likely options; please go through it carefully.

- In retrospect, what could you have done differently?
- Questions around the details involved.
- What specific qualities helped you handle the situation?
- How will the qualities reflected in the situation help you in your career ahead?

For a more complete understanding of MBA interview preparation, please read the other articles prepared by Experts' Global.

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