How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time When You Had a Project and You Weren’t Sure How To Get Started” in an Interview

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Why do employers ask "Tell me about a time when you had a project or some work and you weren’t sure how to get started"?

Employers ask this question to gauge your problem-solving skills and ability to work under pressure. They want to see how you handle unexpected challenges and how you approach problem-solving in a professional setting.

How to answer the question:

  1. Start by recalling a specific instance where you were faced with a project or task that you weren't sure how to begin. This could be a school project, a work assignment, or even a personal project.
  2. Describe the situation in detail, including the task at hand and any challenges or uncertainties you faced. Be sure to emphasize the steps you took to get started and how you approached the problem.
  3. Focus on the steps you took to overcome the challenge and get the project underway. Emphasize your problem-solving skills and ability to think on your feet. Be sure to mention any resources or assistance you utilized in getting started.
  4. Conclude by discussing the outcome of the project. Did you successfully complete it? What did you learn from the experience? How did it contribute to your personal and professional development?

How to prepare for the question:

  • Think about a specific instance where you were faced with a challenge or uncertainty and had to figure out how to get started. Consider both personal and professional examples.
  • Write down the details of the situation, including the task at hand, any challenges you faced, and the steps you took to overcome them.
  • Practice explaining the situation and your approach to problem-solving out loud. This will help you feel more confident and comfortable during the interview.
  • Be prepared to discuss the outcome of the project and any lessons learned. This will show the employer that you are reflective and able to learn from your experiences.

Common Mistakes

1. Not having a specific example in mind

One common mistake interviewees make is not having a specific example in mind when answering this question. It's important to have a specific situation in mind rather than generalizing or making up a scenario. Your example should be genuine and specific to you.

2. Focusing on the negative aspects of the situation

While it's important to be honest and genuine in your response, it's also important to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Don't dwell on any setbacks or negative aspects of the challenge you faced. Instead, emphasize your problem-solving skills and ability to adapt to unexpected challenges.

3. Not demonstrating your problem-solving skills

The purpose of this question is to gauge your problem-solving skills, so it's important to emphasize the steps you took to get the project underway and any resources or assistance you utilized. Don't just describe the situation; focus on the steps you took to overcome the challenge and get the project started.

4. Not discussing the outcome of the project

It's not enough to just describe the challenge you faced and how you got started. Be sure to also discuss the outcome of the project and any lessons learned. This will show the employer that you are reflective and able to learn from your experiences.

Sample Answers

  1. "One time I had a project in college where I was assigned to create a marketing plan for a new product. I had never done anything like this before and wasn't sure where to begin. I started by researching similar products and their marketing strategies. I also reached out to my professor and a couple of industry professionals for guidance. With their help and my own research, I was able to put together a solid plan that I presented to the class. The project ended up being a success and I learned a lot about marketing and product development in the process."
  2. "I remember when I was working at my previous company, I was asked to lead a team on a new project that none of us had any experience with. It was a big challenge, but I knew I had to figure out a way to get started. First, I gathered as much information as I could about the project and the industry it was in. Then, I met with my team to brainstorm ideas and delegate tasks. We also reached out to other departments for assistance and guidance. By working together and utilizing all the resources available to us, we were able to complete the project successfully and on time."
  3. "I had a personal project where I wanted to learn how to code and build my own website. I had never done anything like this before and didn't know where to start. I started by researching different coding languages and tutorials online. I also reached out to friends and family members who had experience in coding for advice and guidance. It was a lot of trial and error, but I eventually taught myself how to code and built my own website. It was a huge accomplishment for me and I learned a lot about computer programming in the process."
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