How to answer "Can you tell me about a time when you had to work with limited resources?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why employers ask this

When a hiring manager asks you to describe a situation where you had to work with limited resources, they are trying to evaluate your adaptability, problem-solving skills, and ability to perform under pressure. They want to know if you can handle challenging situations and make the most of what's available. Your answer will give them insight into your resourcefulness, creativity, and capacity to manage priorities in a fast-paced environment.

Moreover, working with limited resources is a common scenario in many industries, and employers want to know if you are comfortable working in such an environment. They also want to assess how you perceive limitations and constraints, and if you can come up with innovative ways to overcome them.

How to answer the question

When answering this question, it's essential to keep in mind the STAR method:

  • Situation: Describe the context and the resources available to you at that time.
  • Task: Explain the challenge that you faced and the objective you needed to achieve with those limited resources.
  • Action: Detail what actions you took and how you utilized those resources to accomplish your task efficiently.
  • Result: Share the positive impact that your actions had on the situation, such as financial savings, increased productivity, or customer satisfaction.

When discussing your actions and results, focus on highlighting your problem-solving skills and the critical thinking that you used to develop solutions. Use specific examples and quantify your achievements whenever possible.

Finally, it's essential to keep a positive attitude and demonstrate your ability to thrive under pressure. Emphasize your adaptability and ability to improvise and find solutions even with limited resources.

Sample answers

Good answer:

During my time as a project manager, I worked on a project with a limited budget to develop a new software application. We were able to create a prototype and conduct user testing with minimal resources by utilizing open-source software and leveraging the expertise of team members with diverse backgrounds. Our collaborative approach allowed us to complete the project within budget and on time.

This is a good answer because it demonstrates the candidate's ability to work efficiently and collaboratively to overcome limitations.

Bad answer:

I once had to plan an event with a small budget, and we ended up cutting corners on decorations and food. It wasn't the best event, but we made it work.

This is a bad answer because it does not provide enough detail or show how the candidate problem-solved with limited resources.

Good answer:

When I worked as a sales representative, I was given a limited number of leads to work with for the month. Instead of relying solely on those leads, I researched and found additional potential customers through social media and networking events. By expanding my prospect pool, I was able to exceed my sales goal for the month.

This is a good answer because it demonstrates the candidate's resourcefulness and ability to think outside the box to overcome limitations.

Bad answer:

One time at my old job, we ran out of copier paper and had to use scraps we found in the recycle bin instead.

This is a bad answer because it does not provide any helpful information to the interviewer and is not a significant example of working with limited resources.

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