Imagine this: you’re sitting in an interview and just asked a question about a difficult challenge you have faced, how do you decide which life experience to choose as an example?

There are so many experiences we have all had before, so UCGR decided it’s important to help guide you to understand which examples are good to use and which not so good.

Before we delve into this, we wanted to refresh you with the type of scenario questions you may get asked:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Achievements
  • Overcoming a difficult challenge
  • Customer service
  • People/ team conflict

These types of questions will typically be phrased in something like the below:

  • Tell me about a time when …
  • Give an example of when …
  • Walk me through a situation that …
  • Explain an instance where …

Complete it will sound like: “Give me an example of when you had to overcome a difficult challenge and what was the outcome?”

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For more on behavioural questions and how to answer this in a STAR (Situation, Task, Action & Results methodology, head to our blog- have you mastered STAR.

Undercover Grad Recruiter suggests you should reflect and decide on 3-4 set examples which you can alter for various types of scenarios, (of which the main examples are listed above). This way you can hone in on perfecting these answers.  *Remember you may always come across a question you really haven’t prepared a suitable scenario for, so don’t freak out and remember to stay agile and flexible.

Below UCGR has listed life scenarios you can and cannot use as examples during behavioural interviews.

A conflict at work between a manager or team member, as long as you have a resolution to accompany it Any conflict which can come across as unprofessional ie: in regards to something trivial such as arguing with your friend about where you wanted to go on holiday and that you are unhappy because you didn’t get your way. Ensure the conflict topic is professional and ideally a work, not personal scenario
A personal goal achieved, such as saving enough money to volunteer in a 3rd world country for 3-6 months Personal goals which talk about things such as: getting into a relationship, or for that matter out of one, marriage, holidays, purchasing of superficial (not meaningful) items, or goals at the detriment of someone else
A positive or challenging engagement with a customer in a work environment, with a positive outcome A customer or stakeholder engagement which reflects poorly on you because you may not have handled the scenario in the best way possible or the example led to a poor or negative outcome, of which you didn’t learn or develop from.
How you overcame a difficult life challenge such as an injury, impact on your studies, or similar. If you use a difficult life challenge, ensure you don’t draw upon personal experiences such as relationships or financial hardship, as that can come across as unprofessional or immature.
Engagement in any volunteer, charity or non for profit experiences, accompanied with what it has taught you Any type of arguments or fights, whether that be in a work, university or family environment. Irrespective of the outcome or learning’s, don’t go there as it may leave a question mark in the interviewers mind about your ability to get on with others.
Mentoring engagements, whether you are the mentor or mentee, accompanied with what you learnt, gained, observed or how you helped Talking badly about your prior workplace, boss or colleagues is another no go, it doesn’t matter if they should win the ‘worst boss in history’ award, it doesn’t reflect professionalism and nor can anyone support your story.
Sports or team examples of how you helped lead, guide or overcame a situation Referring to any example where you place blame on a team member, whether it be in a work or university/ college environment. We’ve all been there…where your team member simply didn’t deliver their part and let the team down. However, don’t bring this up unless specifically asked or you are exceptionally well prepared for it as often you can become emotive and run the risk of sounding unprofessional.
Any stakeholder or client interaction in a work scenario which led to a positive outcome, learning, innovation, cost saving/ reduction or sale. Don’t talk about your personal life or living arrangements, such as “I’m a single mum with a kid at home’ or ‘I still live at home with my dad and he’s dependant on my care’ or ‘I just moved out with my partner of the same gender’. You must be reading this thinking are you serious? Well let us explain why, all these things are perfectly fine, normal in fact, however people can cast bias on these things, whether consciously or not. You don’t want these biases’s reflecting on your application outcome.


After reading these examples, you can see you should never portray yourself in a bad light and remember to be smart with your examples and choose wisely.

Our motto is key to success with your choices – Prepare, Practice & Prepare some more. Think about how you would interpret your examples if you were on the other side of the table asking the questions and listening to your answers.

Ask yourself some basic questions every time you develop a scenario:

  • Is my answer logical and explained in a step by step order?
  • Did I learn, develop or grow as a result of this example?
  • Do I talk too much or repeat myself?
  • If I heard this example, would it wow me?

We would expect the answer to these questions to be:

  • Yes
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes

If that’s the case, you’re on your way to constructing a solid answer.

Good Luck and prepare, practice and prepare!

UC Grad Recruiter