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How Do You Adapt to Change?

Adaptability is one of the most desirable qualities employers look for when hiring. Your answer to “How do you adapt to change?” can tell them about your personality, your willingness to learn, and your mindset surrounding change, among other things. So, it’s important to give this question some thought before your interview.

Why do interviewers ask you about adaptability?

Companies are constantly evolving, changing direction and strategy based on what’s best for the market. Being adaptable means you’ll be able to change with the company and won’t get hung up on “the way it used to be,” which can make for a difficult employee to manage.

Being able to adapt to change is also indicative of your ability to learn. Managers want to hire employees they can train, coaching you to do your best job and achieve your full potential. If you’re resistant to change, this will be an uphill battle they’d rather avoid.

What interviewers are looking for about being adaptable

Your level of adaptability says a lot about how easy (or in this case, difficult) you are to work with. If you have a hard time adjusting to change, it might be a red flag that you’re stubborn, inflexible and set in your ways. No manager wants to voluntarily take on a staffer who thinks they know best, so they’re looking for signs you’ll be receptive to new ways of doing things. 

An interviewer also wants to see if you’ll be able to thrive in the company’s work environment. In a culture that’s fast-paced, being adaptable is crucial to success. Your ability to embrace change will help you move quickly and make decisions on the fly, which are important in companies with a fast-moving pace. 

How to answer the interview question ‘How do you adapt to change?’

Think of an example

The best way to help a hiring manager see your ability to adapt to change is to give them a specific example of a time you did it successfully. It’s a good idea to choose a change that’s significant, like learning a different business system or adjusting to new job responsibilities, but nothing that may give the interviewer pause, like getting fired.

Explain your success

Give some brief background on the change, then focus on what you did to navigate it smoothly. Did you step up to lead others? Lead by example with a positive attitude? Make a quick decision that benefited the company? Respond well in the face of a sudden setback? Whatever the case, you want to show that there was a positive outcome directly resulting from your response to change. 

Relate it to the job

Though it’s not a requirement, ideally your answer will be something that’s also relevant to the job for which you’re applying. So, if you know from doing your homework that the company is in the midst of a merger, and you’ve been through one before at a former job, it would be great to talk about how you tackled it with poise.

How not to answer

Getting too personal

While you may have successfully navigated some tough changes in your personal life, talking about a stressful move or a divorce doesn’t help you make the case for your professional abilities. Also, avoid going into too much detail about how the change you cite negatively impacted you, as it may come off as complaining. 

Getting hung up on the change itself

When asked to talk about change, candidates sometimes get caught up in describing what happened, giving all the dirty details of their company’s downsizing or the unfair hand they were dealt. Instead, spend minimal time describing the setup and keep the focus on your response to the change, describing how you turned a challenging situation into a success. 

Sample answers to ‘How do you adapt to change?’

Example #1

“After working from home for more than a year during the pandemic, our company announced with only a few weeks’ notice that all employees would be required to come back into the office. This was a challenge, since I’d completely restructured my life around working from home. I prefer action over inaction, so I started making moves right away to set myself up for a successful return.

To get my schedule back in sync, I started getting up and getting ready ahead of time as if I was going into the office. I set up lunch plans with a few coworkers so we’d all have something to look forward to. Mostly, I zeroed in on my mindset, focusing on all the benefits of returning to the office rather than the downsides.”

Example #2

“A few months ago my department switched to a new computer system, which everyone resisted. We’d been working on the old system for years, but it was clunky and outdated. Though there was a bit of a learning curve at first, I did my best to get up to speed on the new system, even doing a Coursera tutorial on my own time. Once I got the hang of it, I was pleasantly surprised how much it helped with efficiency.”

End your anecdote on a positive note that sums up your willingness and ability to not only survive, but thrive in the face of change.