Situational Job Interview Questions

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Situational interview questions, more commonly known as “hypothetical interview questions” are questions an interviewer uses to find out how you would approach certain problems if they were to arise. This type of questioning is designed to help the interviewer with determining how you would handle a certain situation. Unlike behavioural interviews which you are required to provide examples of how you handled a certain situation, situational questions ask you to envisage and hypothesise how you would handle a particular situation if it were to arise.

Examples of Situational questions:

  • If you found out an employee was stealing from the business how would you approach this employee?
  • What would you do if your supervisor asked you to do something that you felt was unethical?
  • Imagine you have a deadline and you are running out of time. What would you do?
  • How would you handle an employee that is disrupting the work environment?
  • In a position of management, how would you handle a heavy workload if you were short staffed?
  • If your supervisor makes a decision you do not agree with how would you handle this?
  • How would you react if a team member was not contributing towards a project?
  • As a leader, what would you do to build team spirit?

Keys to answering situational interview questions:

Remember that situational interview questions deal with hypothetical situations and not necessarily past experiences – while a hypothetical question may seem daunting to answer, the best way to prepare yourself is similar to the steps involved a problem solving exercise.

Rule 1: Be prepared and have a definite understanding of the role and the position that you are applying for. By understanding the position, you can already second guess the questions that an interviewer might ask. For example, if you are applying for a managerial position, it is more than likely that the situation questions will be about how you would handle certain scenarios as a manager.

Example: “How would you react if a team member was not contributing toward a project?” By researching the type of organisation and hierarchy you are in a better position to answer this question.

Rule 2: During your research, make a list of events that happened in your previous role or in your past that led to a positive outcome. If you’re a recent graduate or entry level, draw on other areas such as volunteer work or memberships you belong to. That would affect your entry level resume positively.

Rule 3: Develop a few short stories about specific examples where you solved the problem and how you solved the problem. Most important is to have a clear understanding of how you resolved the issues.

Rule 4: Apply these examples to the questions.

Sample questions and excellent answers:

Question 1: How would you react if a team member was not contributing towards a project?

Answer: Unfortunately, I have been in this situation before where one team member was not contributing, and it caused a detrimental effect on the whole team. I would handle this situation with honest communication at the very beginning. What I have found is that the more you ignore the problem, the worse it can get. Speaking with the team member in a non-confrontational way is the best approach. Often the reason for a team member not contributing is that they don’t understand the work or what is expected of them. By communicating with the individual, I am at least able to find out what the cause of the problem and then be able to work toward a solution.

TIP: As you can see from my answer I have drawn upon my experience, listed the event that occurred and presented a positive solution to the problem.

Question 2: If you believed your supervisor was wrong how would you handle the situation?

Answer: I would present my reasons to the supervisor and provide an alternate solution. In my experiences I find that telling someone they are wrong without providing facts or examples is the wrong way to go about it. I would ensure that I was fully prepared and had analysed the situation before speaking to the supervisor. Most importantly, I would discuss my reasons in private, in a one on one situation, not in front of other team members.

Question 3: How would you react if a project you had been working on suddenly changed or the deadline had been changed?

Answer: My first response would be to speak with the supervisors to get an understanding why the project had been changed and ensure that I had all the facts and answers before approaching the rest of the team. As soon as I had the answers I would notify the team to let them know things had changed. Once everyone was aware of the changes I would want to sit down with the team to develop a new strategy to move forward with the project.

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