describe a situation in which you didn't get something you felt you deserved
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Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved.

You are so excited, after all the hard work you are finally sitting there in that medical school or residency interview and life couldn’t get any better at that point in time.

Then you get hit with a complicated question:

“Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved.”

How are you supposed to answer that?!

It seems like that question is really setting you up to talk about a grudge or rant on about the bitterness you have about a situation.

You have been told that you really shouldn’t be focusing on negative things during your interview right?

This question seems like they are focusing only on negative feelings.

It’s a tough question to answer, and this article will dive into details of how to answer it appropriately.

Lets get to it.

The whole point of this question

Seeing how introspective you can be about your own shortcomings.

In a situation where we don’t get what we want, it is easy to hold a grudge or be upset about it. Especially if we feel like it was something we deserved. The interview committee understands this

So, the whole point of asking you about a time you didn’t get something you felt you deserved is to see how you handled the situation.

Did you throw a tantrum like a child?

Did you handle it like a professional and acknowledge that sometimes you don’t get everything you feel you deserve?

To keep it simple, the point of this question is to see if you can reflect and be introspective about not getting what you want, or your shortcomings.

Formulating a plan

Now that you are aware of this question, then it is easy to prep for it.

The key with having a plan for responding to specific interview questions is not to memorize a response. Because it may not always be asked in the same exact way.

Have a basic plan for a type of question.

For this question, choose your story and formulate a response in your head of how you responded to not getting what you felt you deserved.

Below are some bullet points to help you after you choose the story to help come up with talking points about it.

Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved.

Choosing the right story

  • What didn’t you get
  • How did it make you feel
  • Did you do anything about that

Those three bullet points are the main things you want to discuss. If you have a story that you didn’t get what you felt you deserved, then remember the scenario and really start to think about how it made you feel and what you did about it.

Now that you have reflected on a situation, we will cover a way that you can prep a response, and the same method can actually be used for responding to the question in your interview, it is the SAR method.

Using SAR to answer this question

Situation: What actually took place.

Share the details of the situation

  • Where were you
  • What was happening
  • What was your role

Example: I was waiting for the results to a foot race that determined my scholarship amount (dumb, but you get it right?).

Action : What took place. The main point of the story.

What action happened, and what action did you take

  • Go over what happened
  • Then go over how you reacted to it

Example: While waiting for my foot race results, I really felt like I won. It was a close race, but I ducked my head past the finish line first. Then the results came in, and because of the camera angle at the finish line everyone thinks I took 2nd place.

It was obvious that I won, but since that was the only camera angle someone else won.

Result: What did you do when you didn’t get what you wanted?

Talk about the Results

  • Did you hold a grudge
  • What ultimately happened
  • Did you eventually get what you want
  • Are you and those people still friends
  • How did you change your outlook/perspective
  • How this makes you more professional

Example: After I realized that the general consensus was that I took 2nd. I decided to go shake the individuals hand and congratulate them on the win. Then, afterwards I spent a good amount of time trying to come up with a plan to pay for that semesters tuition another way.

I know, my example was pretty ridiculous. Nobody ever runs a foot race to determine an academic scholarship right? If you have, then let me know cause that would be funny.

You can see that using the SAR layout makes it pretty easy to break down the entire story.

What they want

The important part is what the result is. They want to know what happened in the story, and then what you did about it.

Handling defeat with grace and humility is the ultimate goal. This means you shouldn’t tell a story about a time when you ultimately held a grudge and still feel like you should have gotten whatever it is that your story is about.

Tell a story about a time where you showed the grace and humility they want to see. Handling situations this way tells them that you are introspective about defeat and your own shortcomings, which is essential to have as a practicing physician.

That you don’t hold a grudge and you handle it professionally


Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved. This is a tough question to answer.

As a question it inherently has a negative tone to it. At first thought it seems like the person asking this likely wants you to talk about how you are still upset at someone.

Truth is, they just want to see how you responded in a situation that requires a lot of introspection and humility.

With the tips laid out above, you should be able to nail this interview question and hopefully that helps you get into the medical school or residency that you want.

Hope this helps

Thanks for reading

Sean Kiesel, DO, MBA

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