Job Interview Questions About Adaptability

Interviewers are looking for qualities that make you successful in a job. For many employers, adaptability is the most important soft skill they look for in candidates. In today’s competitive markets, it’s important for companies to have people in their workforce that are able to adapt to changing work environments. Therefore, make sure to prepare for job interview questions about adaptability, because they will come up. Interviewers are looking for candidates who can demonstrate that they have been able to adapt in professional work situations.

Job interview questions about your adaptability are called ‘behavioral job interview questions.’ Behavioral job interview questions focus on work situations that you experienced in the past. The way you respond to questions about adaptability tell the interviewer more about your work methods, flexibility, and ability to stay calm under pressure.

Interview questions about adaptability might be tricky because it can be challenging to demonstrate such skills. However, with the right preparation, you can actually use your answers to your advantage by showing your suitability for the job. Sharing examples that really show the skills that the interviewer is looking for will give you an advantage over the competition.

In this article, we discuss why the interviewer is asking about examples of adaptability, frequently asked adaptability questions and how you should answer them. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why the interviewer is asking about adaptability

Adaptability is one of the most important skills that employees should possess. People who are adaptable easier accept new ways of working and changing team environments. Also, when uncertain situations occur, they can come up with effective solutions to work towards their goals. Furthermore, people who are adaptable are more likely to stay calm under pressure and work their way through dynamic work environments.

Interviewers ask certain questions to assess your adaptability skills. Through these interview questions, they want to find out how you react in unpredictable work situations but also if and how you adjust to changing environments at work. For instance, when a new system, software, or other technology is introduced. Furthermore, interviewers want to know how you take on new tasks even if these are not part of your job description. By asking certain behavioral questions, interviewers try to assess which candidates are more qualified than others.

Behavioral job interview questions usually start with:

  • Give me an example of
  • Tell me about a time when you
  • Have you ever
  • What do you do when
  • Describe situations where

Behavioral interview questions about adaptability are, as said, quite typical in a job interview. This type of interview questions focuses on your past behavior in professional work settings. The reason for asking behavioral job interview questions instead of just asking traditional ones is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is your past performance in similar situations.

During your job interview, the interviewer wants to discuss previous work situations and wants you to elaborate on them. This is also the reason that you should prepare your examples prior to the interview. Ensure that you provide the interviewer the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that can come out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer. The STAR method is discussed in more detail later on in this article.

What the interviewer is interested in

In short, the interviewer wants to gain knowledge about your flexibility and adaptability when it comes to your work approach. That’s why we can’t emphasize the importance of being able to demonstrate your skill of anticipating and responding to changing situations enough. Also, the interviewer is looking for you to show that you can handle such transitions effectively. Adaptability means being able to fit into new environments quickly and easily.

The interviewer wants to gain knowledge about your proven work and which accomplishments in your career are most valuable, according to you. They want to get insights into who you really are and how you approach your work. Basically, they want to get the following questions answered:

  1. Are you able to adequately respond to unforeseen situations that occur during your work?
  2. Are you able to adjust to changing work environments?
  3. Can you assist your coworkers in embracing changes?
  4. Are you willing to take on new tasks, even if this increases your current tasks list? Are you flexible in your approach?

Red flags for the interviewer

  1. If your answers or example situations indicate that you’re not open-minded or open to new experiences these are considered red flags. This is because employees who rather stick to what they know are less likely to adapt well to changing environments. Generally, they are less likely to look for non-traditional approaches as well, which is required to tackle non-traditional challenges.
  2. Showing signs of being hesitant towards or actually being scared of the unknown is a red flag. In dynamic work environments, it’s expected that you are able to take calculated risks. Also, you need to adapt to the unknown by developing new skills. Fast-paced environments require employees that can take on multiple tasks at the time even though at times, this may be beyond the scope of their responsibilities.
  3. Another red flag is implicating that you’re not that great of a team player. Fast-paced and dynamic work environments require good team players. This means that you should be able to adjust your working style for the sake of team performance. Candidates that are flexible and experienced in collaborating with others have an advantage over those who don’t.

More red flags that interviewers assess when asking you questions about adaptability

  1. Including too much negativity in your answers about situations that you have encountered can also be viewed as a red flag. If you faced challenges in the past and you blame this on others because you had to adapt to certain changes, you are more than likely to have difficulties with accepting changing circumstances in the future too.
  2. Also, if your answers indicate that you tend to get nervous when put under pressure, this can be considered as a red flag as well. If you cannot stay calm when unexpected changes occur, and if you are not able to quickly find effective solutions, the interviewer might get the idea that you do not possess the needed adaptability skills.

Frequently asked job interview questions about adaptability

Below you can find commonly asked interview questions about adaptability:

  1. Tell me about the biggest challenges you faced when starting a new job
  2. Describe a situation in which you were assigned new tasks. How did you adapt to this situation?
  3. Tell me about a time you had to learn how to use a new system or software at work. How did you approach this, and how long did it take for you to fully understand its features?
  4. How do you adjust to changing situations that you have no control over?
  5. Tell me about a time you had to do something you had never done before. How did you approach this situation, and what did you learn?
  6. If your colleagues are not open to learning something new that could improve team performance and efficiency, how would you try to convince them?
  7. Tell me about a time you had to work on a task that was outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the result?
  8. Let’s say you’re working on a project for some time when the manager suddenly informs you that the client’s requirements have changed. What would you do?
  9. Tell me about how you would readjust your schedule when your manager asks you to prepare a report within a day? How do you make sure that your regular tasks don’t fall behind on schedule?
  10. Describe a time when you had to adjust to coworkers working style to complete a project or achieve your goals. How did you approach the situation?

How to answer job interview questions about adaptability

There are a couple of things you should focus on when you discuss adaptability. Make sure to include (some of) the following elements in your answers:

  1. Show that you can adjust your style of working. But also your communication and approach to match changing situations, tasks, different coworkers/people, teams, and work demands.
  2. Demonstrate that you can adjust your priorities to meet new deadlines.
  3. Show that you can adjust your activities and attitude in order to work as effectively as possible in new work environments.
  4. Always say that you are willing to try new approaches to changing situations and environments. If possible, give an example of how you did so in the past.
  5. Positivity. When situations change to demonstrate that you can embrace such situations positively. Also, show that you always attempt to understand changes and approach them positively.

General elements to consider when structuring your answer:

  1. Give the interviewer an answer in the form of a ‘story.’ Walk them through the challenges you were facing and how you approached them to adapt. Also, discuss the actions you took and what the outcome of your actions was.
  2. Structure your story logically. Use the STAR interview technique to do this. STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. Below the STAR technique is described in more detail.
  3. Highlight how you approached the situation and how you adapted. This might sound logical, but it’s important that you focus on demonstrating that you’re the right person for the job. Therefore, provide the interviewer with an answer that includes information that he or she needs.
  4. Display the skills and abilities that are needed for the job you’re applying for and that the interviewer wants to see. Make sure you match your qualifications to the job and skills as mentioned in the job description.
  5. Give a serious answer and focus on your goal to land that job. This is not the time to make funny comments or remarks. Answer the question as professionally. Describe how you adapted to a changing work environment or a challenging situation.
  6. Be honest. Interviewers will notice if you make a story up. Also, they will ask follow-up questions to go more in-depth into the situation you provide them with. Make sure to prepare several example situations of how you adapted in challenging environments that you can bring up during the interview.

STAR Interview Technique

Job interview questions about your adaptability are best answered by providing example situations according to the STAR method. This way, you can give interviewers exactly what they are looking for. Also, it allows you to provide a concise and to the point answer about how you adapted in previous work situations. Below the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.

Situation

When you give your answer to the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the situation or challenge you were facing. Also, make sure to provide relevant details.

Task

After you describe the situation, talk about your specific responsibilities and what your role was. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task.

Action

Then, talk about the actions you took to resolve the challenges you were facing. Provide the interviewer with a step by step description of what actions you took.

Result

Finally, talk about the outcomes of your actions. Make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Here you answer questions such as What happened? What did you accomplish? Also, provide the interviewer with information about what you learned from the situation. Make sure to focus on positive results and positive learning experiences.

Sample answers to discuss your adaptability skills in a job interview

Below you will find some examples to adaptability questions. The examples are already written in STAR format so that you can clearly see how you can structure your answers. However, these are ‘general’ examples. Do not forget to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job!

STAR-Method Example 1:

First, we discuss the adaptability question ‘Give me an example of a time you had to adapt to a change in the workplace.’

Situation: ‘In my previous position, I encountered a situation that required me to quickly adapt to changes in the organization.

Task: ‘After our company was sold to a major player in the market, a lot of our management teams and protocols changed as well. As a result, new systems were implemented, and we needed to adjust as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition between the company processes.

Action: ‘I took the initiative to get familiar with the new systems and software to make sure that I could stay productive and would not fall behind on my daily tasks. 

Result: ‘After learning to work with the new systems, I found out that these were actually beneficial for my productivity. The company who bought us developed tailor-made software for all departments, and therefore the transition went smoothly. As a result, I was pretty happy that we got to use these new systems to increase our output.’

Why is this a good answer?

  1. The provided example is related and relevant to the workplace.
  2. This answer shows important skills such as being pro-active, problem-solving skills, and adaptability.
  3. The new situation led to increased productivity, which gives more weight to the scenario in which you had to adapt.

STAR-Method Example 2:

Secondly, we discuss the adaptability question ‘Tell me about a time when you had to perform a task in which you had little or no experience in doing. How did you approach this situation, and what did you learn?’

Situation: ‘In my previous position, my manager had to unexpectedly leave for six months due to a medical condition.

Task: Because of this unexpected turn of events, our director asked me to step in as interim manager. At the time, I was familiar with the basics of management and what my manager was looking for in our team because I worked with her for quite some time. However, I was certainly not trained to be a manager yet.

Action: I accepted the interim position because I enjoy challenges and was confident enough to think that I could do it. I gathered the team and told them about the situation we were in. Also, I asked them to cooperate together as well as possible and that we had to get through this period together. Furthermore, I asked another manager to coach me during the process to make sure all projects would stay on track, and the team would stay productive. 

Result: We managed to get through the six months very well, and all the projects were finished on time. When my manager returned, she was very pleased with the work the team delivered, and I even got compliments from our director. My performance led to me being promoted to team manager myself at the end of that year.’ 

Why is this a good answer?

  1. This example shows that you’re not hesitating when uncertain events occur but also that you possess management skills and leadership potential.
  2. The provided example is related but also relevant to the workplace. It show’s that you’re able to adapt when a situation asks for it.
  3. This answer shows important skills such as being proactive, problem-solving skills, teamwork, adaptability, and creativity.
  4. Your choice of taking up the task of interim manager turned out successful, which gives more weight to the situation you discuss in which you had to adapt.