Interviewers often ask questions about giving feedback because they help them assess your conflict management, communication, and relationship management skills and how pro-active you are. During this episode, I show you a simple, five-step approach to formulate a convincing answer.
Welcome to today’s episode, during which I would like to talk about how to answer questions about giving feedback. Interviewers often ask these questions because they help them assess your conflict management, communication, and relationship management skills and how pro-active you are. Therefore it is well-invested time to prepare a good example. As for all behavioral interview questions, I recommend using the STAR method, which I explained in more detail in one of the previous episodes. But for now, let’s dive into the five steps that can help you prepare a convincing answer to the question, “Tell me about a time you had to give someone difficult feedback.”
Step 1: Identify your example.
Start by listing all situations you remember where you had to give someone at work constructive feedback. That could, for example, be about an improvement area or a situation they could have handled better. Once you have identified a couple of examples, go through your list and remove those where you think you could have dealt with the situation better. These are not necessarily bad examples, as long as you learned from them. But they are better used in questions focusing on self-awareness and self-improvement. Now sort your remaining examples and put those where your feedback led to a positive change on top of your list. Of those, pick the one where the feedback you had to give was most difficult. That’s the example that probably puts you in the best possible light.
Step 2: Describe the situation and your task.
Summarize in one to two sentences what the situation was about. Cover what the other person’s behavior was and how it impacted you, your colleagues, customers, a project, or any other business-relevant area. Then add one sentence to describe your role and what relationship you had with the other person. For example, maybe you were working on a project together, and he or she constantly missed deadlines, which put the whole project timeline at risk.
Step 3: Describe your actions.
Summarize in 3-4 sentences the actions you took. Start by covering what you did to prepare for the conversation. For instance, you might have prepared a list with examples where the other person missed a deadline and what the consequences of the delays were. Maybe you were also aware that the other person was usually very reliable and seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by their workload. Therefore, you planned to show some empathy while still communicating the severity of the situation. Then describe how you initiated the conversation, how you expressed your feedback, and how you handled the other person’s reaction.
Step 4: Describe the results.
Summarize the results from you taking the initiative and providing feedback. There are four areas that you can cover. The first is how the other person’s behavior changed. In our previous example, your colleague may have started giving more regular status updates and raised potential delays early. The second area is how your feedback contributed to better business results. For instance, the project manager might have been able to mitigate the risk of delays, and the team could deliver the project on time. The third area is how the relationship between the two of you developed. For example, it might have led to more trust between you. And finally, try also to cover what you learned from this experience.
Step 5: Formulate your answer.
Put together a compelling answer by combining the outcome of the previous steps. The main focus should be on your actions and the results. For instance, a good answer based on our previous example could be: “Last year I worked as an individual contributor on a critical project to implement a couple of operational changes to comply with some new regulations. One of my colleagues was missing his deadlines, which led to me stepping in and doing parts of his work. After this had happened twice, I understood that I needed to do something about this. I realized that I had two options. I could either escalate it to the project manager or give him some feedback and see if that could solve the situation. Since he usually was very reliable, I decided on the second option. I prepared a couple of bullet points to remember the details of the situations where he was late and the consequences of these delays. Then I ask him if we could have lunch together since I wanted to talk to him in a less formal environment. After we had eaten, I asked him if I could give him some feedback. He was okay with that, so I explained that he was missing some deadlines lately, which was very unusual since this had never happened before. I also mentioned that I had been stepping in to help him but that I wouldn’t have the capacity to do so again. I provided some more details based on my preparation and then asked him how he experienced the situation. He explained that he had been assigned to two more projects and couldn’t handle the workload. He also apologized for me having to carry his load and thanked me for stepping in. After our conversation, he was much better at raising potential delays so that the project manager could mitigate the risks and we could ensure that we complied with the new regulations on time. I also felt that we trusted each other much more after the conversation, leading to a better work atmosphere. I learned from that experience that seeking a dialog and giving a person direct feedback sometimes can be better than escalating it straight away.”
That’s it for today. I hope this was helpful, and thank you for listening.