Today, I answer the 25 “Tell me about a time” interview questions from Top Echelon.
As a cat lady, it’s sometimes easier to answer questions based on my life with cats than in the workplace. So all responses are based on actual situations I’ve had with cats.
Would you hire someone that talked this much about cats for a job that had nothing to do with cats?
1. Tell me about a time when you reached a goal at work. How did you reach it?
Back in 2014, a stray mom cat brought her kittens to my yard. My goal was to make her our indoor cat after the kittens were big enough to be fixed.
I fed the mom cat and her kittens every day and spent time with them in the yard. The mom cat was not feral, but she was also not super friendly. I trained her to eat food in the back of the cat carrier. The evening before her appointment to be spayed, I quickly closed the cat carrier door when she was eating.
When I picked her up from the vet, I put her in an extra room with her kittens. She’s been our indoor cat since then! Goal accomplished.
2. Think of a time when you set a goal that you didn’t reach. Why didn’t you reach it? How did you handle it?
I had a goal of finding homes for all five of the stray mom cat’s kittens. My brother’s family adopted one, and a friend’s parents took two.
I asked coworkers, friends, and family. And while there was some interest, nothing worked out. And the longer the kittens were inside, the more attached I became.
So, my husband and I decided to keep the last two kittens, and we went from having three cats to six!
3. Tell me about a time when you were behind on your work. Why were you behind? What did you do to catch up?
Sometimes my daily routine changes, and then I forget to scoop the litter boxes at the usual time. So to catch up, I scoop all the litter boxes and hope there haven’t been any litter box misses because of my delay.
4. Tell me about a time you led a team at work. Did any problems come up? How did you solve them?
I am in charge of the cat care team in my home. I manage the litter box scooping, cat feeding times, cat brushing, and cleaning of the water fountains. I like to delegate the cleaning of the water fountains to my husband. However, sometimes he doesn’t do it as often as I would like.
So I leave him a note on the counter when I’m going somewhere. And most times, he sees the message, and when I return home, the water fountains for the cats are clean!
5. Describe a time when you had a disagreement with your manager. What happened?
My manager once said he thought my work was delayed because I spent too much time with a challenging cat situation at home. He may have been right, but I didn’t want to admit it. So, I worked extra hard to complete the work promptly.
6. Think of a time when you didn’t get along with a co-worker. Did this impact your work?
Sometimes my cats do not get along with each other. This can make my day feel stressful. When this happens, I set aside extra time to play with the cats and try to keep those not getting along distracted from each other.
7. Tell me about a time when you weren’t prepared for something (presentation, meeting, etc.). What did you do?
I wasn’t prepared when my cat started to foam at the mouth after being chased by a younger cat. My husband and I thought she had a stroke. We rushed her to the vet, and it turned out she was upset about the cat chasing her and was fine once she calmed down.
8. Did you ever have to adapt to a completely new system at work? Tell me about what you did to adapt.
When we rescued Buster from the yard in 2011, his poo was very stinky! So after 8 years of using non-clumping cat litter, we switched to clumping litter and scooped much more regularly.
9. Describe a time when you took initiative at work. Were the results positive? How did people react?
When a feral cat had kittens in my yard in 2017, I took the initiative to find out if the mom cat belonged to someone. It turned out that she used to eat ten houses away. The original feeders were very happy to learn that the cat was okay.
10. Tell me about a miscommunication with a co-worker. How did you work to prevent this in the future?
My cat Charlotte needs a bit of Miralax every day. One day my husband gave it to her after I had already given her the daily dose. We decided that I would be the only one giving her the Miralax.
11. Describe the most stressful situation you have experienced at work. How did you handle it? Would you handle other situations like this in the future?
One time, my neighborhood needed to trap a feral cat that needed to see a vet as soon as possible. She had been trapped before (when she was spayed), so trapping her a second time was stressful.
We set up traps in multiple locations and asked any feeding her to withhold food. It took nearly a week before she went into the trap. The vet did surgery the next day, but she passed away during the night.
Because of this situation, I purchased a drop trap for cats, as the outcome may have been different had we trapped her sooner.
12. Tell me about a time when you had to solve a difficult problem.
Sometimes our cat Buster poops next to the litter box. We’ve tried many ideas and some work for a day or two. But are still working to solve this difficult problem long-term litter box problem. It would be much easier if Buster could just tell me his issue in English.
13. Has there ever been a time you discovered a co-worker made a mistake? What did you do?
Yes. I discussed it with them and went over the correct way of doing it.
14. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work. Who discovered it, and what did you do to fix it?
One time, I decided to abruptly change our cat’s litter to a brand a friend recommended. Unfortunately, I made a mistake by not slowly transitioning to the new litter. Two of the three cats we had then were okay with it, but the other stopped using the litter box completely!
Because the litter boxes were in the basement, I didn’t notice right away that the cat wasn’t using the litter box (since the other two were) and that he was going to a different room in the basement.
To fix it, we switched back to the old brand of cat litter.
15. Tell me about a time when you had to make a split second decision. How did it work out? Would you have chosen another option if you had more time?
This one time, I took a stray cat to the vet, thinking it was pregnant. It turned out to be a male cat that was very sick. I had to decide on the spot whether to have the cat euthanized or look into expensive alternative treatments for wet FIP. I choose euthanasia.
16. Describe a time you regretted a decision you made at work. What would you do differently?
I regretted not leaving work when I thought my cat (she had been declining for a while) may have needed to see the vet. But, instead, when I arrived home, she had passed.
I would have called in sick that day to be with my cat in her final moments.
17. Tell me about a time when doing the right thing hurt you or your career. Would you make the same decision again?
I am thankful that I’ve never been asked this question, as I would not have been able to think up an answer quickly.
18. Think of a time when you did something at work that went against your judgment. How would you react now?
Nothing comes to mind. There have been times we’ve probably given the cats too many treats on the same day. My husband and I have cut back not only for the cats’ health (we have some chunkers) but to reduce the monthly amount we spend on cats.
19. Think of a time when someone personally attacked your work. How did you handle it?
I’ve had people tell me to my face that I have too many cats. So I explain that too many isn’t a set number and wrote a blog post about how many cats is too many for people to reference in the future.
20. Tell me about a time when you were juggling multiple projects at once. How did you prioritize?
There was a time when I was the transport person for any cats trapped in the neighborhood that night, up to five cats (the clinic’s limit at that time). I coordinated with the other feeders as we each monitored traps at our homes.
21. Describe a time you encouraged someone (co-worker, boss, customer) to see things your way. Was the outcome successful?
I’ve had to explain the benefits of fixing all outdoor cats in the area with TNR, not just the females. Thankfully, we fixed all the males and females that we could!
22. Tell me about a time you were part of a team that you didn’t like. Why did you dislike the team? How did you cope?
Do people admit they didn’t like their team in an interview?
23. Tell me about a time you were having a hard time balancing your personal and work life. What did you do to get through it?
There were times when I would need to drop off or pick up cats after being fixed for TNR (trap-neuter-return) during the work day. I made sure that I was still getting all my work done while being able to drop off, pick up, and return cats from the clinic.
24. Describe a situation where you had to problem solve.
We had to figure out how to easily give a cat Miralax since she needs it every day for the rest of her life. Instead of using a syringe, we figured out that mixing the Miralax with a bit of water and a meat tube treat was much easier and less stressful for the cat.
25. Tell me about a time you wanted to quit. What did you do to motivate yourself?
I wanted to quit my day job. So after planning for it for two years, I quit that job to be a stay-at-home cat mom (really a full-time writer for my other website).
About The Cat Story Series
I want to be a better writer. Like becoming better at anything, it takes practice. I am posting a short cat stories based on a photo, a writing prompt, a true story, or something I make up.
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