Tell us about a time when you found it difficult to work with someone

We are people. Regardless of how hard we try to cooperate together, we will always experience some conflicts. After all each of us has their own personality, strengths and weaknesses, good and bad days. It is completely natural that things do not always click, and that we find it difficult to work with someone. This is true both at schools and in corporate environment. With diverse teams in place everywhere, we will get along better with some colleagues and worse with others. Why do the hiring managers ask the question then?

Well, they care mostly about your attitude. Finding it difficult to work with someone and refusing to work with them are two different things. Regardless of whether we talk about teaching or any other profession, hiring managers want to hire people who can get over their ego and try to build bridges instead of fences. Simply people who manage to somehow get along and work with colleagues they do not particularly like as people, or even find it difficult to share the same office space with.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting question. I tried to include answers for both teachers and other professions, since this question isn’t specific to interviews in education only. You will also find on my list a couple of answers for people who lack any previous working experience, and one or two unconventional (and rather philosophical) answers. Simply a nice selection that should help you think, and eventually come up with your own perfect answer to the question. Enjoy!


7 sample answers to “Tell us about a time when you found it difficult to work with someone” interview question

  1. I am finding it difficult in my present teaching job. In special education, it is pivotal to have good connection with the counselors and aides, being on the same wave, in order to do the most for each individual student. Regretfully that’s not how it works at the school where I teach right now. Two counselors are in only for money–or at least that’s my impression, and I find it difficult to work with them, since I feel that even with my unrelated qualification I’d do a better counseling job for the students. It is not because they do not know how to do their job. It is because they do not like their jobs. And while I try my best anyway, helping them to find the motivation, to reignite the fire for their professions, and at the same time doing my job as well as I can, I do not see any improvements, and it is one of the reasons why I am looking for a new job.
  2. I found it difficult to work with my previous manager, since they had very high expectations on me, and criticized me roughly. Yet it was a typical “love and hate” relationship in the workplace. On one hand, I found it hard to bear the criticism, since it touched me personally. On the other hand, I knew that while they could have expressed  their thoughts differently, said things differently, they had their point and their feedback helped me to improve in the job. That’s why even though I found it difficult, I managed to stay in the job, and do it well. Of course I talked to the manager, explaining my point of view and asking whether they could not deliver their feedback in a more sensitive way. They said that they would try, but it seems it is just the part of their personality and they cannot help it. Anyway, the experience taught me that I can get along with anyone, and I am looking forward to start working with new colleagues again.
  3. This is my first job application in the field, and hence I didn’t have a chance yet to work with anyone difficult. But I understand that just as I have my weaknesses other people have them too, and that a perfect colleague does not exist. The way I approach relationships in life is always to look for things we have in common, and respect another person as they are, with everything that belongs to them. I want to stick to the same attitude in the workplace, and though I know it won’t be easy to work with some people, I am sure I can get along with anyone.
  4. I found it difficult to work with some of my students in my last teaching job. It was a certain class, many children from broken families, several disruptive students, hard to keep discipline in the classroom, as you can for sure imagine. Yet I still did the best I could to make at least some progress with students that cared. What I try to say is that bad behavior of some students did not discourage me from trying my best in each lesson in this class. Sure enough I didn’t achieve the same results as I did with some other classes, but I did what I could, and it is something I want to stick to in my new job.

  1. I have never worked anywhere, but can talk about an example from my studies. I was working on a seminary project from financial analysis with a classmate. Teacher assigned us to the group according to alphabet, so we didn’t choose who we wanted to work with. It was very hard to work with this classmate, for several reasons. First of all, they never delivered their work on time. Secondly, they had a job besides school and hardly had any time for meetings. And last but not least, they expected me to do the entire work, since I was the better student. In my opinion, communication plays a big role in similar situations. I knew that I could not convince them to do half of the work, but we found some compromises and they did at least something. I also tried to avoid pointless arguments, and simply focus on the task at hand. Eventually we got C for the project, and I certainly expected better, but the most important thing is that we managed to get the work done in spite of the differences, and of how hard it was to work together.
  2. My answer may surprise you, but I am typically the one others find it difficult to work with. And that’s because I like to think outside of the box, and also I talk and work quickly, and most people just cannot cope with my pace. I realize it isn’t easy to have someone like me in a team, since it can even make some people feel incompetent, or at least bad about their own work. It is one of the reasons why I decided to apply for this job with you, since I understand I will work mostly on my own, and my results won’t be dependent on results of other people in the sales department.
  3. I found it difficult to work with my colleagues on shift at STARBUCKS. The thing is that I was a new barista in the team. As I quickly understood, I replaced a guy who was with the company for five years, and everyone on the shift loved them. They just did a stupid mistake, stealing some change, and since the manager found it they had to go… My colleagues let me feel that I was not welcome, that they wanted the old colleague back. However, I did not let it to discourage me. I work hard and tried my best to be attentive to the needs and feelings of my colleagues on the shift. Eventually they get used to the changes and accepted me as a person, and as a new barista. I like to remember this experience, since it teaches me that we can change a lot with out own attitude, and that no battle is lost and we should keep trying…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions you may face in your teaching (or other) job interview:

Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)