How to talk about resilience in an interview

We have talked about resilience before, if you missed it or wanted to catch up you can read the full piece here. It is important to remember that resilience isn’t about proving you are tough, strong and never show that you have any problems. Resilience is about being able to recover from setbacks and problems, when things crop up you can call on your self belief tool kit to give you the resilience to move forward.

Developing your resilience skills means you will better be able to look for solutions when things get tricky.

How do you build resilience?

You are probably building your resilience each day without realising it, when you get questions wrong but try again, when your grades aren’t what you hoped so you try a little harder, when you don’t get picked to start on the rugby team but you keep putting your all in to training so you get your shot, when something happens in your team work project and you have to step in and help, when you don’t get the exciting new project or promotion at work but you keep going and working your way through without giving up.

Do you just have to wait for bad stuff to happen and hope that you can come up with the right solutions? Not quite, when people talk about resilience they can tend to think they need extreme examples but what we are really talking about is overcoming challenges. We can often forget the times we have been resilient, especially when the end outcome was good. At the end of a team project we celebrate in the success and forget the many number of challenges and ideas you’ve put forward along the way. If the sports team you play for win their match you are likely to be busy celebrating not necessarily thinking back to that point in the first half where you were losing and couldn’t see your way to winning, but you dug deep re-thought your strategy and won.

-> Start thinking about resilience more, at the end of projects reflect back on what happened. What have you learnt, what went well, what have you had to change and overcome and where have you had to be resilient? Start thinking about challenges as your chance to prove your resilience.

How to talk about resilience?

Sometimes in an interview you will be asked directly to talk about a time you have been resilient, you can (and should) practise for this question. What we have seen so far though is that a resilient person is lots of different things:

A resilient person:

  • Overcomes challenges and problems
  • Stays positive, and can motivate the team or themself to keep going
  • Remains organised and focused when things go wrong
  • Responds constructively to problems and criticism

So in an interview you might get questions come up which might not seem like a question about resilience straight away (they wont always make it easy for you). You might get asked about a time you have overcome a challenge, you might get asked to talk about a time when something didn’t go your way, about a time you had to motivate a team to keep going or about a time when you had to start a project again. These questions are all asking you for examples of resilience too.

In an interview:

It is unlikely that you will be told all or any of the questions that you might be asked in an interview but there are still some ways you can prepare.

Do your research: Firstly look at the job information you were given, does it talk about key skills, core competencies or desired traits? These will tell you all about the sort of person that will be good in this type of job. Now, think about the role you are applying for and think about the type of challenges you might face. Will you be required to deal with unhappy customers or will you have to work to tight deadlines, will you be working on lots of different projects with different teams? Think about what the challenges might be and how you have shown these skills before.

STAR: In any interview question where you are asked to talk through an example of a time you have used a skill you should use the STAR method to practice your example. You can read more about it here but in short:
S = Situation: Explain the what/why and when
T = Task: Describe what needed to be done what you did
A = Action: Describe what you did and how
R = Results: Describe the outcome, what happened as a result of your actions

The challenge

Using the STAR method practise answering 2 of the questions below, remember that your example can involve examples from school, work or hobbies.

  • Tell me about a time you missed a deadline (think about what you learnt, how you dealt with it, were you honest and accountable? and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again)
  • Describe a time when something didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped. What did you do and what did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with someone you didn’t agree with.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to start something all over again, how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you received bad feedback. How did you feel? Did this make you change your behaviour and how?


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