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How To Answer Situational Interview Questions

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How To Answer Situational Job Interview Questions

Job Interviews (Part 5): How to answer situational job interview questions

One of the main types of interview you might encounter when applying for a new job are situational interviews. These interviews use questions based on specific scenarios that could conceivably be part of your new role. They seek to deter you from providing pre-packaged, scripted statements about your skills and experience, to instead focusing on a given hypothetical situation and how you would handle it.

Situational interview questions can be tricky to answer, as you are required to think on the spot which in itself is a skill the interviewer is testing you on. However being able to answer these questions well can prove that you are able to stay calm under pressure, and make positive choices that help you to overcome any situation that you may be faced with in the job.

If this type of question comes up in an interview, before jumping into a response take a moment to fully understand what it is youre being asked & what skills the interviewer is trying to determine. For example, is the interviewer looking for evidence of your time management skills? Do they want to find out how you manage conflict?

Below are some example situational type questions and guidance on how to answer them to help with your upcoming interview prep.

Examples Of Situational Questions About Problem

  • How would you deal with a situation in which you face a problem you cannot solve. What would you do?
  • If you face an urgent problem, how do you react?
  • How do you come up with a new approach to solve a problem?
  • How do you cope when you face a challenging situation youve never previously experienced?
  • Example answer to situational questions about problem-solving skills: If you face a complex problem at work, what steps do you take to identify and resolve it?

    Usually, when I face a complex problem, I start by doing research and analysis. Being able to identify the cause of the issue and understanding it fully is essential, especially when time is a factor. Depending on the complexity of the issue, I might ask team members for a brainstorming session and consulting more experienced coworkers.

    Based on the outcome, I start analyzing the situation. My analytical skills and experience help me develop effective and efficient solutions. Furthermore, through analyzing a problem thoroughly, I make a distinction between effective and ineffective solutions.

    What interviewers look for in your answer:

    Note: Even though situational questions are hypothetical by definition, you can always refer to example situations from your work experience in which you have used your problem-solving process to come to resolve an issue. Including results you got based on your decision-making skills gives your answer more weight.

    Typical Situational Interview Question :

    Describe a mistake youve made at work.

    How to answer: Were all human, and as a candidate, the interviewer will use this questions to show that you are able to admit that you have made mistakes but that you are proactive in solving problems. This isnt a question designed to catch you out but, a refusal to admit to any past mistakes may leave the interviewer with the impression that you arent willing or able to learn from difficult situations. However, they will wish to see evidence of how you reflect on and learn from errors for the future. As mentioned, try to think about why the interviewer is asking the question, and what information they are looking for in your answer. Here try to refer to genuine experience. Clearly structure the answer to give an overview of the situation, the steps you took to resolve this and, importantly the actions you took afterwards to ensure the same mistake wouldnt repeated.

    Although situational questions may seem daunting they are a great way for you to really showcase how you utilise your skills. Before your interview think of some key scenarios from your career that you can have front of mind at the interview so you can draw directly from these experiences to answer questions with confidence.

    If you are looking for further advice on interview preparation and job hunting, download our Job Interview Guide here or take a look at more career advice here.

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    Tell Me About A Time When You Exceeded A Customer’s Expectations

    Interviewers often ask this type of question for roles in the customer service or hospitality industry but it may apply to other industries too. It is important that your answer shows that you possess a good emotional quotient to understand the customer’s needs and are passionate enough to go above and beyond to give them a delightful experience.

    Sample answer:’I was on a long-haul flight to New York in my previous job as a flight attendant. There was a teenaged girl travelling alone, looking nervous. While serving the meals, I noticed on the passenger manifest that her birthday was in three hours. The scheduled landing was 12 hours away. I worked with the crew to give her a little surprise with the leftover cake and a birthday song. Later, before landing, the captain wished her a happy birthday on the loudspeaker on behalf of the airline and the crew. She was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed by the gesture.’

    Situation Interview Questions And Answers: Failure And Success

    interview questions and answers situational
  • Tell me about a time you failed. How did you handle it?
  • Tell us about a time you demonstrated seriousness and achieved after falling in the first attempt?
  • Narrate us about a time you learned from your own mistakes?
  • Tell us an incident where you failed to perform the given task. Would you mind explaining to us your overcoming strategy?
  • Have you ever failed to deliver the expected results? How do you overcome such situations?
  • Sample Answer

    During my internship as a Content Writer, I was assigned to write a 1000-word article for a digital marketing agency.

    Due to a lack of my experience, I copied some data and texts from other websites. Also, without understanding the clients requirement, I draft my first copy in an informal tone.

    After my submission, my senior writer confronted me with the draft. I was very nervous, but he kept his cool. Firstly, he asked me about my writing process and my research methods. After listening to me, he explained the pros and cons of my writing procedures. He taught me about plagiarism, target audience, and other essential factors lacking in my draft.

    On the same day, I wrote another draft keeping all the pointers in my mind, and submitted it to him with the necessary changes. And guess what, it was approved in the first go!

    It was one of my best experiences working in my initial days.

    • Questions Related to Working With Hard-to-Get-Along With People

    Situation Questions And Answers: Getting Along With Hard People

    Sample Answer

    Sample Answer

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    If Your Manager Assigned You A Task That You Had Never Done Before How Would You Approach It

    The interviewer is trying to check if you can learn things quickly and grow with new challenges that may be present in the new role. In your answer, show your openness to learning new things and using available resources to your advantage.

    Sample answer:’Asamarketing assistant, my manager asked me to do new market research and present a detailed report. This was my first such assignment. I informed my manager that I was willing to learn and give it my best shot. I started by reviewing the basics of market research that I had studied in college but never applied.

    I also took a short-term course online on how to perform basic research and analysis. By the end of the week, I had an in-depth report ready and a deeper understanding of different research methodologies. This impressed my manager and eventually, I got promoted within months.’

    Situational Interview Question #: What Would You Do If You Had Made Significant Progress On A Project Only To Realize That The Projects Goals Had Changed And You Needed To Re

    Example answer: Im sure this has happened to most of us. Having to spend time on rework is frustrating, but goals and priorities shift now and then. When I realized that my project was no longer on the right track, I would pause all work immediately until I could collect more information about the new direction.

    I would make sure to ask plenty of clarifying questions to confirm I understand the required changes and then get started on making the necessary tweaks. I would also commit to providing regular project updates from that point forward to build more regular opportunities to course correct.

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    Common Situational Interview Questions And Answers

    To help you prepare for a situational interview, we have compiled a list of six common scenario interview questions that could come up. Each question is accompanied by a sample answer to help you see how a candidate may respond to the question.

    How To Answer Situational Interview Questions Using The Star Technique


    The ideal way to answer situational interview questions is to relate the interviewers hypothetical situation to a similar situation you’ve encountered in the past.

    While the hypothetical situation will most likely be set in the workplace, your past situation can be in any context, such as work, school or volunteering.

    Your goal is to demonstrate soft skills that would help you deal with the hypothetical workplace scenario and predict your future performance at work. Such skills could include:

    The STAR technique is a helpful tool for structuring your answers to situational interview questions. The acronym works as follows:

    • S = Situation. Choose a situation that presents similar issues to the question at hand.
    • T = Task. What problems or challenges arose which required you to take action?
    • A = Action. What action did you take? What skills did you use and develop? Did you consider any alternative solutions?
    • R = Result. What was the result? What did you learn? What were the reactions of others around you?

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    Describe A Challenging Work Situation And How You Handled It

    This question is asked by interviewers to get a better understanding of how youd handle a difficult situation in the workplace. Considering that most professionals will experience a challenging instance at least once, this question is relevant across most careers. This is a great question to use the STAR technique, so when providing an answer, be sure to break down your answer into the Situation, Task , Action, and Result format. Dont be afraid to talk about any mistakes you made when handling a situation. However, if you do discuss your mistakes, be sure to back them up with how you remedied them with a viable solution.

    How Would You Handle A Disagreement With Your Superior

    This question revolves almost entirely around your soft skills. It requires you to demonstrate your communication and conflict-resolution abilities. You also have the chance to demonstrate that you can both respect company structure and come up with creative solutions.

    Example answer: ‘A couple of years ago, I was working as a customer service agent. Our work was shift-based. At the beginning of every month, we had a meeting with our manager to discuss our shifts. However, on one occasion our manager suddenly changed our shifts halfway through the month.The sudden change disrupted my schedule and that of my colleagues.

    Although my manager resisted requests to rethink his decision, I asked if I could be of any help and volunteered to act as an intermediary. This allowed me to present my concerns and those of others. I assisted my manager in amending the shifts so that the disruption was minimal. I had to compromise, but the overall change was positive for all involved.Because of this, I was given extra responsibilities for managing shifts. A year later, complaints related to scheduling had dropped by 20%.’

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    What To Include In An Answer To A Situational Interview Question

    Your primary objective when answering situational interview questions should be to discuss a related experience and how you dealt with it in your previous job roles. The best way to do this is to use the STAR method. In this instance, youll replace task with the problem that best relates to the question. Use the following steps to answer situational interview questions:

  • Explain the situation. Youll first need to explain the similar situation youre using to answer the question before you get into what you did to solve it. Include details such as the type of company, the existing process of handling things, and what was at stake.
  • Describe the problem. Next, describe the problem and its cause. Was the problem unexpected or was it anticipated? Who did the problem affect? What impact did the problem have on your ability to complete your tasks?
  • Outline the action you took to remedy the problem. When describing how you handled the situation, be sure to include not only the action you took but also the thought process that led to that action. How did you determine the best solution? Did you speak with other team members or did you use a solution that worked before in a similar situation?
  • Talk about the results. To wrap up your answer, highlight the results of your actions and how they helped solve the overall problem. Be specific about the results you achieved and use quantifiable data whenever possible.
  • What Professional Accomplishment Are You Most Proud Of And How Did You Achieve It

    Situational Job Interview Questions and How To Answer Them ...

    Employers ask this question to identify the type of work you find fulfilling and steps you take to meet goals. Your response should address a career highlight thats also relevant to the job for which youre applying.

    Example:In my previous role as an IT administrator, during my regular maintenance rounds, I found a security vulnerability. Rather than simply patching it, I looked into the network records and discovered a virus had recently compromised several files. I notified the rest of the team and we quickly isolated the infected files and prevented its spread, which saved the company millions of dollars. That experience ignited my passion for preventing cybercrime and drove me to apply for this position as a cybersecurity manager.

    A situational interview allows you to communicate your expertise, skills and talent for overcoming challenges on the job. By having a few examples prepared, you can ensure your answers highlight your best professional accomplishments and abilities.

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    What Is The Purpose Of Situational Interview Questions

    Situational interview questions ask candidates to describe how they would react and address work-related scenarios. Unlike behavioral interview questions, recruiters and hiring managers choose hypothetical situations that dont rely on candidates past experiences.

    When asking situational questions for interviews, your goal is to find how candidates would handle a problem that is likely to arise in your company. Some skills that you could assess using situational questions are:

    • Interpersonal and collaborations skills
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Organizational skills
    • Managerial skills

    Ask situational, or scenario, job interview questions to identify candidates with skills that match your requirements. Situational interview questions work particularly well for sales, manager and customer service roles. Most candidates claim on their resumes that they have a specific skillset. With situational questions, you have the chance to see how they use these skills to solve work-related problems.

    You will also find this type of ‘what would you do’ interview question helpful to compare candidates and select those who match your company culture. Not all people think and react in the same way. You should look for candidates who show professionalism, share your companys values and have fresh ideas that will contribute to your team.

    Here are some sample situational interview questions you can ask candidates during your hiring process:

    What You Could Be Asked

    Interviewers might pose a variety of behavioral questions. Examples of interview questions include the following:

    • Can you give me an example of how you motivated an underperforming subordinate to increase productivity?
    • Describe a time when you implemented a new program that was successful.
    • Give me an example of a conflict you had with an employee. How did you resolve it?

    Behavioral interview questions will often start with phrases such as:

    • “Tell me about a time…”
    • “Describe a time…”
    • “How did you handle .”
    • “Give me an example of…”

    Employers are looking for a detailed explanation of an experience from your past. They want to know what the experience was and how you dealt with it. Your responses will give the interviewer an indication of how you handle projects and issues at work.

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    + Common Situational Interview Questions And Answers

    Find out what the most common situational interview questions are and how to answer them. Prepare to rack your brain and visualize hypothetical scenarios that are thrown at you.

    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 candidates abilities match those required by the position. They assess communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and decision-making skills.

    Imagine this:

    Youve just learned that youve 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 youre pretty comfortable talking about yourself

    But youve 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 lets go:

    In this guide, youll 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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