Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
- Can you share an example of a high-pressure situation you’ve been in? How did you handle it?
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to make a critical decision under time pressure?
- Describe a situation where you had to overcome a significant obstacle at work.
- How have you handled a sudden change or unexpected turn of events in your job?
- Can you give an example of a time when you had to respond to an emergency or unforeseen problem at work?
- Tell me about a time when you had to handle a major issue that had no standard procedure.
- Can you describe an instance where you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation?
- Describe a time when you faced a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.
- Can you give an example of a time when you had to work under tight deadlines and high pressure?
- How do you prioritize tasks and responsibilities when dealing with a crisis?
- Can you describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision with limited information?
- Tell me about a time when a project or task went off track. How did you handle it?
- Can you describe a situation where you had to manage conflict in your team during a crisis?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
Take, as we are discussing, the question: “Can you describe a time when you had to handle a crisis or an emergency situation?” While it might seem like this question is just seeking to know about your crisis management skills, it’s actually probing deeper into those three fundamental areas.
1 – Can you do the job?: Handling crises or emergencies is a skill that extends beyond a specific role. It speaks to your overall competence, problem-solving ability, and decision-making skills under pressure. When you answer this question, the interviewer is trying to gauge if you have the necessary skills to perform effectively even when things don’t go as planned. They want to see that you’re adaptable and resilient, qualities that are crucial in almost any job.
2 – Will you do the job?: Your response to this question also showcases your level of commitment and drive. The fact that you’re able to handle tough situations and navigate through crises shows that you’re not only capable, but also willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. It speaks to your determination, tenacity, and resourcefulness, which are all indicators of your motivation and commitment to your work.
3 – Will you fit in?: Lastly, your answer can provide insights into your interpersonal skills and how you deal with stress, which are crucial elements in determining cultural fit. The way you interact with others during a crisis, handle stress, and manage relationships under pressure can indicate whether you’ll be able to gel with the existing team and adapt to the company culture.
In essence, this question isn’t just about whether you can handle emergencies. It’s a window into your overall capabilities, dedication, and cultural fit. Therefore, when preparing your response, remember to address these three areas to provide a comprehensive answer that truly showcases your value as a potential hire.
How Best To Answer ‘Can you describe a time when you had to handle a crisis or an emergency situation?’
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Let’s break down how you might structure your response using this method, while still referring back to the three fundamental things an interviewer is trying to ascertain.
B – Belief: Begin by expressing your philosophy when it comes to dealing with crises or emergencies. You might say something like, “I believe that handling crises effectively is crucial in any job. It’s not just about solving the problem at hand, but also about maintaining composure, making sound decisions under pressure, and leveraging teamwork to navigate through the situation.”
S – Situation: Briefly describe an emergency or crisis you had to handle. Keep it concise, focusing on the crucial elements that led to the crisis. For example, “During my tenure at XYZ Corp, a critical software we used crashed right before a major client presentation.”
T – Task: Describe your role in the situation. Given that the interviewer is interested in your skills, motivation, and cultural fit, make sure to highlight these aspects. “As the project lead, it was my responsibility not only to fix the issue but also to ensure that our team remained calm and focused, and our client stayed informed and reassured.”
A – Activity (or action): Detail the actions you took to manage the crisis. This is the heart of your answer and should showcase your problem-solving skills, resilience, and ability to handle pressure. “I coordinated with the tech team for an immediate fix, reassigned tasks within the team to meet the deadline, and maintained transparent communication with the client throughout.”
R – Result: Finally, describe the outcome, ideally quantifying the success if possible. This will demonstrate the effectiveness of your actions and your ability to drive positive results even in challenging situations. “We managed to fix the software in record time, deliver the presentation as planned, and subsequently received a commendation from the client for our professionalism and reliability during the crisis.”
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action
Can you describe a time when you had to handle a crisis or an emergency situation? – Example answer
Project Manager Example
“In my view, crises are inevitable in any work environment. They test our ability to stay calm under pressure, make quick decisions, and navigate towards solutions. I faced such a situation during my time as a project manager at a software company.
We were on the verge of delivering a major product update to one of our top clients. However, just two days before the scheduled release, a critical bug was detected that caused the software to crash unexpectedly. As the project manager, I was responsible for ensuring the product delivery while maintaining the team’s morale and the client’s trust.
My immediate action was to assemble a task force of our best developers to focus on the bug. I also worked closely with the QA team to replicate the issue and isolate the problematic code. Simultaneously, I delegated other members of the team to ensure that the rest of the project tasks were still moving forward.
I also made it a point to keep our client informed about the situation. Transparency is key in such scenarios, and I wanted to assure them that we were doing everything possible to fix the issue without compromising the quality of our product.
Despite the immense pressure, the team worked tirelessly and we were able to resolve the bug within a day. We delivered the product update as initially scheduled. The client was very appreciative of our transparency and prompt action, and our company was commended for its professionalism. This experience not only strengthened our client relationship but also fostered a stronger sense of teamwork and resilience within our team.”
Absolutely, here’s a response to the same question from the perspective of a school teacher:
“I firmly believe that in the field of education, being prepared for emergencies is as important as delivering quality teaching. This belief was put to the test during my tenure as a high school teacher.
One day, during a regular class session, a student suddenly had a severe allergic reaction. It was an alarming situation, as it was a life-threatening emergency and there was no school nurse available that day. As the teacher in charge, it was my responsibility to ensure the student’s safety and manage the situation effectively without causing panic among the other students.
Firstly, I immediately called for medical assistance. I had been aware of the student’s allergy, so I was able to provide the necessary information about his condition to the emergency services. Meanwhile, I kept the student calm, followed the first-aid protocol for such reactions that I had learned in a recent training, and ensured that his epi-pen was administered.
Simultaneously, I had to manage the rest of the class. I assigned a responsible student to lead the class to a nearby room, maintaining order and preventing panic from escalating.
The paramedics arrived promptly and were able to provide further medical care. The student recovered fully and returned to school after a few days. Following this incident, our school administration acknowledged the need for more regular emergency response training for all staff, which was implemented subsequently.
This event reaffirmed the importance of being prepared for emergencies and being able to make swift decisions under pressure. It was a challenging situation, but the outcome positively influenced our school’s emergency preparedness procedures.”
Restaurant Manager Example
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