how to answer interview questions about ambiguity

How to show your tolerance for ambiguity in an interview
  1. I can make decisions in unclear situations.
  2. I don’t panic when something unexpected happen.
  3. I don’t need fixed guidelines.
  4. I can handle a loose organizational structure/an unclear chain of command.
  5. I can function well with competing priorities and moving deadlines.

Tell me about a time you faced ambiguity in your workplace.

The interviewer may ask you this question to give an opportunity for you to demonstrate your experiences and positive action when managing ambiguity. Understanding how you managed ambiguity in the past may be helpful in determining how you may fit into the workplace culture and operate in a team. To answer, you can use the STAR method and explain the situation, task, action and results.

Example: “When I was a nurse at a care facility, I provided care to an older woman with poor eyesight. Every morning, I described the clothing options in her closet and let her choose an outfit by feeling the fabrics, as per her care instructions. Her family informed us that they would be picking her up for a family reunion and that they wanted her to dress presentable. Thats a fairly ambiguous term, as presentable can mean different things to different people.

“To address the situation, I prioritized the patients care by allowing her to choose her outfit like normal. She knew she was going to the family reunion and wanted to wear a bright sundress. I helped her into the outfit, and when the family arrived, she enthusiastically showed them her dress. They were overjoyed to see her so energetic and happy.”

Describe a moment outside of work when you had to make a decision without all the details.

The hiring manager may ask this question to determine how you approach ambiguity in situations outside of the workplace. This allows them to better understand who you are and what your motivations are. To answer, you can use the STAR method to describe a situation outside of the workplace in which you addressed ambiguity. To do this, detail the situation, task, action and the positive results you achieved.

Example: “I was traveling with my family in a foreign country, and we were trying to decide between two restaurants for supper. My cousin is allergic to seafood, so it was important that we chose the right restaurant, but we couldnt read the information on the signs. To figure it out, I walked past the entrances of each restaurant, smelling the food. One of them smelled like seafood and the other didnt, so we chose the other one, and it turned out it was a vegan restaurant, so my cousin was fine, and we got to experience a new type of food!”

How do you approach ambiguity in the workplace?

The hiring manager may ask you this question to assess if you have a strategy for making decisions and approaching challenging situations. This question allows you to emphasize the skills you have that allow you to problem-solve and collaborate with your colleagues. To answer, describe the situations in which you may face ambiguity and describe your strategy for addressing it, as well as the skills that can support you in doing so.

Example: “As a salesperson, I approach ambiguity by centering my actions in my primary goal, which is to provide value to the client. Preferences and trends constantly evolve, which requires me to commit to researching new products and developing an understanding so I can communicate details to the client. The biggest source of ambiguity for me at work is communicating with clients and guiding them toward a purchase. There are many methods for doing this, but I maintain a reliable sales strategy, and it allows me to confidently address ambiguous sales.”

Tell us about the last time you faced ambiguity in work. How did you handle the situation? (Tell me about a time when you had to work on a project with unclear responsibilities.)

This is probably the most typical interview question about facing ambiguity, and it is a very open one. You can talk about a variety of things and situations, such as:

  • Having to make a decision without possessing all important information. You had to decide but could not assess the possible outcome of various options you had on your table.
  • Leading a project with unclear variables and goals, or one that was impacted by many external factors which you had no control over.
  • Hearing or receiving some message from your boss, or even from your subordinate, message that wasn’t clear and offered more than one interpretation.
  • Any other situation when you had to deal with something inexact, and bore the responsibility.
  • Now, regardless of the situation you choose to narrate, you should demonstrate the right attitude to ambiguity. It is crucial to:

  • Show them that you can make a decision, even when things aren’t entirely clear. Management is about making decisions, and unless you make a move your competitors will get ahead of you.
  • Demonstrate that you can deduce things, and find your way around, and do not rely only on information given to you by your superior or client or anyone else.
  • Ensure them that you aren’t afraid of a changing environment, and can work in a fast paced team, where things can change from day to day (think agile project management as a good example).
  • Special Tip: If you are preparing for an interview with one of the Fortune 500 companies, you should know that you will face many tricky scenario based questions, and not only the one about dealing with ambiguity. If you want to be ready for everything the hiring managers may throw at you, consider checking out our Interview Success Package 2.0, which includes multiple sample answers to 104 interview questions, including 31 behavioral questions. This can be the last part of the puzzle you are missing on your way to an amazing job…

    how to answer interview questions about ambiguity

    When responding, be sure to include how you started, how you executed, and how you ended. It will be easier for the interviewer to follow along and remember your story if it is figuratively outlined for her—start, execute, and finish. Alternatively, you can think in terms of architecting, implementing, and operating (or whatever else might be appropriate for your field). You can handle the critical success factor of “making them believe you” by iterating details within each of the sections of your response. For example, below is a marketing executive who is attempting to identify the best approach for a marketing campaign:

    Candidate: “We needed to execute a marketing campaign and wanted to isolate it to one of our customer segments because we didn’t have the budget to cover accommodations for all three (top, mid, and low) levels of customers. We also didn’t have enough data to determine which customer level would be most effective to target. [She identified the problem and highlighted the ambiguity.] To be successful, I knew I first needed to gather the analytics to determine which group to target. Second, once I had that information, I determined what the campaign should be based on the customer level. I then built the material and distributed it. After the campaign was executed, I monitored the activity using our sales force tracking tool to assess the level of performance of the campaign based on the number of responses and leads we incurred.”

    The candidate can then revert back to the beginning to highlight the details of each phase to show the interviewer her logic behind the approach, the thoroughness of the execution, and how she captured and monitored the results. The interviewer won’t necessarily remember any of the details, but she will remember the candidate had a logical approach and a detailed understanding of the process.

    To aid in that effort, I identified the 14 I consider the most comprehensive—to gain the best understanding of the candidate’s overall fit in the least amount of time. I am gradually releasing these through the blog and today’s is Number Seven. You can see a complete list immediately by downloading a complimentary ebook from the milewalk website!

    This is a relatively straightforward question regarding what the employer ultimately seeks. The interviewer wants to understand whether you can operate independently in an organized fashion. The most important element in responding to the question is to ensure you can find a rich example where you identified the necessary components or activities that needed to be executed in order to complete the product, project, or group of activities.

    FAQ

    How do you deal with ambiguity interview question and answer?

    To answer, describe the situations in which you may face ambiguity and describe your strategy for addressing it, as well as the skills that can support you in doing so. Example: “As a salesperson, I approach ambiguity by centering my actions in my primary goal, which is to provide value to the client.

    How do you respond to ambiguity?

    5 Tips to Overcome Ambiguity at Work
    1. Learn to Act without Knowing All of the Details. Having the ability to take action without having each and every detail is a key component in dealing with ambiguity. …
    2. Confidently Take Risks. …
    3. Plan for Different Scenarios. …
    4. Communicate. …
    5. Embrace Change.

    How do you deal with ambiguity in a project interview question?

    When you’re asked about an ambiguous situation in an interview, here are some suggestions to help you answer with confidence and clarity:
    1. Speak in a confident tone. …
    2. Define an ambiguous situation you dealt with at a previous job. …
    3. Explain the information or lack of information available.

    What is an ambiguous situation at work?

    A typical example of an ambiguous situation is where there seems to be two solutions, but they seem to contradict each other. For example, you believe that a problem would be solved if people were more self-empowered — but you also believe that it could be solved with the opposite: more team work.

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