Situational Interview Question And Helpful Guidelines For The Job Interview
Situational interview questions can catch even the most experienced interviewees off guard. Make sure you ace your next interview and land your dream job with these tips on answering situational and behavioral interview questions.
Situational Interview Questions | Everything You Need to Know to Ace Your Next Interview
What Are Situational Interview Questions?
Situational questions are geared towards assessing how an interviewee may handle certain hypothetical situations in the workplace. These questions are often designed to allow recruiters to gauge not only the candidate’s problem-solving skills, but also his flexibility, time management, and communication skills.
For many candidates, situational interviews are often curveballs. This is because a lot of candidates prepare for common interview questions. Situational interview questions, however, force them to go beyond these “comfort zone questions” and into potentially unfamiliar territories.
With these questions, candidates are forced to think critically about how they will approach certain hypothetical scenarios if their potential employer does hire them. They allow hiring managers to see what principles or core values the candidates will uphold (as well as the ones they’ll overlook) when faced with a challenging situation.
Some common situational interview questions include:
- How would you deal with an irate client?
- How would you handle workplace disagreements?
- Let’s say you have a number of assignments given by different managers. How would you prioritize?
- How would you address an unproductive subordinate? What if it’s a colleague of the same rank?
What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Situational interviews force candidates to look at and evaluate possible future circumstances. On the other hand, behavioral interviews force candidates to share real experiences they have had.
Behavioral questions are often used by hiring managers who believe that a past experience (and how the candidate dealt with it) is a great way of understanding how he or she will perform as an employee in the future.
Behavioral interview questions also give hiring managers insight into personal problems a candidate may have and how he or she is trying to improve it. A common example of how this is asked is, “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake, as well as what you learned from it.”
Other examples of behavioral interview questions include:
- What is that one professional accomplishment that you are most proud of and why?
- Share a time when you had to deal with difficult situations at work and how you resolved them.
- Tell me an important project you were given in the past and how you handled it.
- Give me an example of a time when you were able to identify a problem in the company. What were the possible solutions you saw to fix that problem? Which was the best solution and why?
While a distinction is technically made between behavioral and situational interview questions especially for higher level positions, for hiring managers interviewing job applicants, the two are practically the same. Both questions are great at gauging a candidate’s creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration or interpersonal skills.
A common situational job interview question, for example, is, “Tell me about a boss you’ve worked with in the past and what characteristics in him did you like or dislike?” Phrased as a behavioral question, a hiring manager might ask, “What characteristics would you want to see in your future boss should we decide to hire you?”
How Do You Prepare For a Situational Interview?
Again, keep in mind that situational job interview questions are asked to allow hiring managers to get a feel of how you would handle a specific scenario. As an interviewee, this makes it a great way for you to showcase your skill set by responding in a solutions-based way.
A great tool to use when answering situational interview questions is the STAR Method. This stands for:
- Situation – Start by explaining similar situations that you may be using to answer the question. Delve into the specifics of the situation to establish a solid foundation before you get into what you did to solve the problem.
- Task – In this case, use the “Task” part to describe the problems or obstacles you faced, as well as what caused them. Was it unexpected or anticipated? Who did the problem affect? What impact did that problem have on the affected people’s ability to complete their tasks?
- Action – Outline the actions you took to handle the situation. Make sure to highlight as well the thought process that led you to that particular route or solution. Did you involve other team members in fixing the problem? Were you able to identify any personal weaknesses along the way and have you addressed these?
- Result – Now, finish strong. Highlight the results of your actions and how they solved the problem. Did you come up with a new approach that was adopted by the company? Were you able to foster teamwork and cooperation among your colleagues? If any, what feedback did you receive from a supervisor or a superior?
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Answering Situational Interview Questions?
The very nature of situational interview questions makes it easy for interviewees to make mistakes when answering them. A lot of candidates are typically caught off guard by these questions, as they are prepared for more common interview questions.
Being able to smoothly answer these types of questions can easily make you stand out. Do this easily by avoiding these common mistakes:
1. Winging It
A lot of interviewees think that because they don’t know what scenarios the hiring manager will present, there is no point in preparing for them. This could not be more wrong.
While it may be true that the specific scenario will differ, you can still practice at least the structure of your answers. Again, this is where the STAR Method will come in handy.
Plus, there are a ton of examples of situational interview questions and other job interview resources that you can easily practice on and access online.
2. Answering With Non-Tailored Responses
Cliches don’t always work, ladies and gentlemen. When it comes to job interviews, make sure you don’t stay with generic, everyday answers that interviewers have heard a million times already
Instead, tailor your responses to the position and company you are applying for. Take time to study the qualities they value and frame your answers to these accordingly.
3. Going Off Topic
Situational interview questions have the tendency to make interviewees nervous. And of course, nervous people have the tendency to ramble.
Be conscious of what you’re saying and avoid going off topic. If you have to, take a few seconds to gather your thoughts. This will not only make you look smart, but also composed in the face of difficult situations.
Take the time to develop your public speaking, presentation, and critical thinking skills so you can think on your feet and avoid rambling when answering these types of questions.
Sample Situational Interview Questions
1. Describe What a Challenging Work Situation Might Look Like for You and How You’ll Handle It
Most professionals will face at least one challenging situation in the workplace. Interviewers use this question to gauge how you would handle this should it happen to you.
The STAR method is perfect for this kind of question. Give a brief answer of your mindset towards similar situations. Follow up with a specific scenario in the past wherein you were able to conquer a challenge using that mindset.
Again, make sure to tailor fit your response to the company and the job you are applying for.
2. Do You Work Well under Pressure? How Do You Approach These High-Pressure Situations?
Knowing how to work well under pressure is a crucial attribute of any applicant. In most cases, every employee will experience pressure in doing their job, whether it be in finishing the work with a tight deadline, or meeting a sales quota for the month.
To answer this question, start by confirming that you do work well under heavy pressure. Acknowledge that you know that it is a part of every job. Then, explain how you handle pressure – whether it be through organizational techniques, making lists, etc.
Show them that you have a system in place for when you know that stress and pressure are starting to pile up. In these scenarios, it is important to highlight that you have healthy decision-making skills as well.
3. How Would You Deal With a Situation Wherein You Know That Your Colleague or Boss Was Wrong?
At one point or another, everyone experiences disagreements with just about everyone in their lives. This question measures your interpersonal skills, which will come in handy when you encounter workplace disputes.
Hiring managers may want to hear concrete steps you will take in handling opposing viewpoints or a challenging interaction. After all, no one wants to promote a hostile workplace environment.
When answering this question, remember that positivity is key. Show them that you are diplomatic and that you promote healthy communication within the team.
4. How Do You Cope With Circumstances Wherein You Have to Do Something You Are Unfamiliar With?
Starting a new job always entails doing something that you are not familiar with. Plus, depending on your position, you may even be asked to regularly perform tasks that are new to you.
When answering this question, highlight the fact that you have a positive attitude towards unfamiliar territories. Tell hiring managers that you love learning and that you see these as opportunities for growth.
After all, the fact that you are applying for a new job just goes to show that you are willing to learn an entirely new company culture, function, and set of duties and responsibilities.
5. Discuss an Instance Wherein You Failed at Work and How You Addressed It
Everyone makes mistakes. The difference is how those people remedy those mistakes and learn from them.
Don’t be afraid to discuss a specific mistake you made in the past. Of course, follow up with the mindset that you maintained, the actions you took to fix that mistake, and the learnings you got from addressing it.
Show the hiring managers how you have applied those learnings now to avoid committing them again in the future.
Additionally, make sure to use positive language when discussing the incident. Let them know that while it was a failure on your part, ultimately, it became a valuable part of your professional and personal growth.
Learning how to answer situational interview questions is a great way to ensure that you ace your next job interview. Make sure to allot time to review the tips above and practice regularly so you can land your dream job.
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