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Abstract: Situational interview questions are questions that deal with hypothetical situations that may occur on the job. Employers ask these questions to determine if the candidate’s abilities match those required by the position. They assess communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and decision-making skills.
You’ve just learned that you’ve landed a job interview.
And now, you want to prepare as best you can, so you imagine yourself answering questions about your skills and experience.
You realize that you’re pretty comfortable talking about yourself…
But you’ve also just found out that situational interview questions are a THING… a very common thing.
Luckily, there is a way to prepare for them.
So put your thinking cap on and let’s go:
In this guide, you’ll find:
- 20 examples of situational questions and answers.
- How to answer situational interview questions.
- Reasons why situational-based interview questions are asked during an interview and what employers really want to know.
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You can never be too prepared. Check out our other interview advice:
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- Phone Interview Questions wtih Answers
- How to Answer "Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years"
- How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"
- Best Questions to Ask the Interviewer
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1. Situational Interview Questions—Definition
Situational interview questions are questions that assess how the candidate would deal with a hypothetical challenging situation they would face.
These types of questions are designed around a number of situations that might arise on the job. Basically, you're presented with a theoretical situation that will test your imagination.
These questions often start with:
- How would you handle a situation in which…
- What would you do if…
The best way to nail these types of questions is to prepare for them.
Now, there is no way you can predict what questions will be asked, but you can find out what the most common ones are and get an idea of what’s the best way to answer them.
Although situational interview questions are often asked in a hypothetical format, you can also respond with real-life examples of how you have handled similar situations before.
This will provide the interviewer with valid evidence of your skills and abilities…
And give you a couple of bonus points…
How to Prepare to Answer Situational Interview Questions?
Your answers are supposed to give an idea of your problem-solving abilities. So what are the top tips for preparing yourself for situational interview questions?
1. Tell compelling stories.
First of all, tell a story. Mesmerize the interviewer by talking about how you handled a similar situation in the past… or how you would handle one in the future. Explain how you would use your skills to overcome the challenges that might come your way.
2. Take different angles.
When telling your story, take different angles. Even though the question specifically asks for a hypothetical answer, we also recommend illustrating your answer with a compelling story that demonstrates your approach, your values, and your reasoning.
3. Be prepared to respond quickly.
Situational questions can be difficult if you've never thought about them before, so you will have to improvise and react quickly. When you describe your hypothetical actions, talk about the problem, the solution, and the benefit.
4. Practice answering situational questions.
Below you will find some sample questions to consider. Even if you are not asked them specifically, they will help you train your brain to formulate answers to situational questions.
Expert Hint: The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action and Results) is one of the techniques used to answer the questions asked during a job interview. It helps you organize your responses around the when's, where’s, what’s and how’s.
2. Top Situational Interview Questions and Answers
During your job search, you are likely to encounter one of the following situational interview questions:
1. What would you do if you were asked to do a task you don't know how to do?
When answering this question, the best approach is to be honest in admitting that in a situation where you wouldn’t know how to accomplish a given task, you would ask for help. Ideally, a strong candidate would also show initiative and at least try to find a solution before asking for help.
2. What would you do if you’d have to work with a colleague whose personality was very different from yours?
This hypothetical scenario determines if you have a team spirit. Your goal is to tell your interviewer that you will take the time to get to know a coworker and find ways to collaborate with them by finding common ground.
3. How would you react to constructive criticism?
Feedback is very important for improvement, so you should show that you are receptive to constructive criticism, take it into account and apply it proactively.
4. How would you deal with a mistake you made at work?
The ability to recognize your own mistakes is a sign of maturity. Your answer should demonstrate how you are using your judgment to review the situation to determine why it happened and what steps you can take to prevent it from happening again.
5. How would you go about delegating tasks to subordinates?
Interviewers want to assess your leadership and management skills. Therefore, make sure that you can explain your approach to leading and managing projects and teams. Explain how you would use your skills if you found yourself in a similar situation.
6. How would you motivate people on your team?
Showing initiative and being able to motivate colleagues is always a good skill to have. Talk about how you would motivate and inspire other people to look at a project or idea differently.
7. What would you do if your workload was way too high?
How you manage your time and your to-do list will determine how effective you are. Regardless of how you prioritize your tasks, your organizational skills and attention to detail are both very important.
8. How would you adapt to big changes in your workplace?
This situational interview question can come up if you’re interviewing for a startup that experiences structural changes regularly, or if a company’s product changes a lot. Adaptability is an important trait to have because it shows your willingness to work for a company, rather than a specific project or job.
9. How would you manage a situation of disagreement on one of your proposals?
The objective of the question is to assess whether you know how to be diplomatic in difficult situations. Can you adjust your perspective to be on the same page with everyone else on the team?
10. What would you do in a situation where you cannot achieve your goals?
By asking this questions, the interviewer wants to see how committed you are to the task at hand. It also shows the degree of ownership for the goals that you have. How do you react to not meeting your goals?
More Situational Interview Questions
Here are some other common situational interview questions that you might get asked:
- How would you explain a complex idea to a client who was already frustrated?
- How would you approach a situation in which you had to persuade someone to see things your way at work?
- What would you do if you found out that you misunderstood something important on the job?
- How would you approach a situation in which you would have to give bad news to a client or coworker?
- What would you do if you had an upcoming deadline, but you don’t have all the information and resources you need to deliver the project on time?
- What would you do if a customer or superior tried to push a project through that could go at the expense of other projects with already confirmed deadlines?
- How would you respond if an order has not been delivered to a customer on time, and they’re furious about it? They want to cancel their order and threaten to close their account with your company. How would you repair the damage to keep the customer?
- Could you tell me how you would deal with a demanding client who keeps changing the requirements of a project that you’re working on?
- How would you handle a situation in which you had a big conflict with a coworker?
- How do you make important decisions? What elements do you take into account?
Remember to answer truthfully, there is nothing worse than lying on a job interview.
Now practice some more, and don’t forget to wear a smile to that meeting!
When preparing to answer situational interview questions, keep these tips in mind:
- Employers ask situational interview questions to determine if the candidate’s abilities match those required by the job.
- Just because the question refers to a hypothetical situation, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use examples from situations you’ve been in in the past.
- Practice answering situational interview questions using the STAR method.
- When answering, always be truthful and confident.