Hiring managers always keep coming up with new and better ways to judge their candidates better. There are different types of interview questions that help companies understand how well a candidate suits the job vacancy. Be it interview questions related to your personal information, to interview questions that judge your knowledge about the company you have applied for a job at, to generic questions or behavioral interview questions – your answers to all these questions reveal the different facets of your personality. However, the category of interview questions that get candidates all worked up – situational interview questions.
This article talks about mostly everything you need to know about situational interview questions. So, let us start by understanding –
What are Situational Interviews Questions?
Situational interview questions are questions that present hypothetical situations – conflicts or problems, to the candidates and ask them how they would respond to those situations. In simple words, situational interview questions help understand the forward-thinking of the candidates. This gives recruiters an even deeper insight into your personality as most interview questions probe into what you would have done in the past.
Outlined below are some of the reasons why hiring managers ask situational interview questions:
* Situational interviews help interviewers discover how a particular candidate would react and respond to problematic work-related situations.
* Based on the candidate’s responses, the interviewers would be able to tell how good she or he is at making wise and responsible decisions by understanding how s/he breaks down and processes the information provided to him/her.
* Since situational interviews present hypothetical situations which the candidate may have never come across in his/her professional journey, the responses would be able to reveal various skills such as managerial skills, organizational skills, problem-solving skills, decision-making, interpersonal skills, etc., in a very authentic light. This is something that even the behavioral interview questions cannot reveal since they talk about how the candidate has handled real-life problematic situations in the past.
Here are the top five tips that can help you ace situational interviews:
1. Prepare Answers to Common Situational Interview Questions
The best way to ace situational interview questions is by being prepared to face them. The Internet can be your starting point to research what the common situational job interview questions are. You must also go the extra mile to either research situational questions asked for the job role you have applied for or alter the common ones to suit the job role better. Always remember – the better prepared you are the more confident you will be while facing the situational interview questions.
The next section in the article covers five of the most commonly asked situational interview questions.
2. Think on Your Feet
By preparing, we do not mean that you go to the situational interview with a script ready. Treat common situational interview questions as an exercise to brush up your problem-solving, decision-making and analytical skills. Most likely you will be asked questions which you would not have prepared. So, do not hesitate to ask the interviewer for a moment to process the situation given to you. Be flexible and think on your feet to be able to come up with relevant and impressive answers.
3. Say What the Recruiter Wants to Hear
By asking certain questions, the hiring manager wants to discover certain personality traits, which will be favorable for the job role, in the candidates. To answer situational interview questions properly, you must try understanding why the interviewer is asking a particular question and giving a particular situation. Once you understand the intention, you will be able to answer how the interviewer wants you to.
4. Hook Recruiters with Your Story
Process the situation given to you accurately and build a succinct yet impactful story to share the solution to the problem. You can build a good story easily by following the STAR method. The STAR – situation, task, action, results – technique allows gathering all the relevant information and understanding what needs to be done in a particular situation. Following this systematic approach will help you paint an articulate picture and explain the results you expect to see after employing the measures you suggest.
5. Base Your Answers on Past Experiences
Although situational interview questions present hypothetical situations, it is only natural that a candidate’s way of thinking and processing the situation will stem from his/her past experiences. So, it is perfectly all right to quote past experiences, even the non-work-related ones as long as they are relevant to the situation presented to you and help you come up with an immaculate course of action.
Explained below are the five most commonly asked situational interview questions and answering tips to ace them:
Q1. What would you do when the important project you are working on suddenly undergoes a change in priorities?
Tip: Most candidates, when asked this situational interview question assume all the interviewer wants to know, is how flexible you are which is partly correct. Along with the flexibility, they want to know if you are the type of person who his/her foot down or not. The interviewer wants to understand whether you would make an effort to understand the reason behind the sudden decision even when you will have to request your superiors to spare some time to answer your questions. The interviewer wants to know how well you can think under pressure, how good you are at analyzing situations, and how good your interpersonal and communications skills are.
Q2. What would you do when you know you would not be able to meet the deadline for your section of work in an important because your supervisors or coworkers were unavailable to or could not answer some key questions?
Tip: This situational interview question helps the interviewer to judge how seriously you take your work. Will you take complete responsibility and accountability of the projects that may be assigned to you in the future or not, if hired? Or are you a type of person who will conveniently pass the entire blame on others in the team.
The best way to answer this situational interview question is to explain how hard you will be willing to try to reach out to the person concerned. Even after trying hard, if you are unable to reach the supervisor/coworker, you will complete the areas of the project which are clear to you and does not require anybody else’s inputs and wait in the meantime for the required person to respond to your queries. In addition, it would be good, that you will keep the rest of the team informed about the challenges faced so that if you are somehow not able to meet the deadline, it does not come as a surprise to them.
Q3. You and your team is working on a critical project that ranks high on the business priority and you realize that one of your team member’s work is not up to the mark/dissatisfactory. How will handle such a situation?
Tip: This situational interview question gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how good your teamwork skills and leadership skills are. Therefore, ensure your answer does not establish your personality as someone who likes to use his/her power to undertake harsh measure and dictatorship as the means to approach employees who may be underperforming.
An appropriate answer would explain how would first try investing the reason behind the employee doing an unsatisfactory work followed by thinking of ways to solve the root cause of the problem. The problem may be either personal or professional and both would require a different approach on your part. All through your answer, emphasize on the fact that how much of an advocate you are of using a humane approach to solve problems of the people who work under you.
Q4. You and your boss are working closely on a critical project together. While working/discussing you realize that your boss is 100% wrong about something. How will you handle the situation?
Tip: This one needs to be answered carefully as answering situational interview questions regarding bosses can be complicated. Your answer should demonstrate the tactfulness with which you deal with the boss. It should show how you would make an effort to point out the error to the boss in a polite and respectful manner. Do not forget to mention that such a situation is rare to come by but it only means that as all of us are humans it is natural to make mistakes sometimes and the boss is no exception to this fact. Choose your words carefully and arrive at the results you expect to see once you have had the conversation with the boss with an open mind.
Q5. You are working on a project and halfway through you realize that you have a mistake which nobody else noticed so far. How would you approach the situation? Would you ignore the mistake and continue moving forward or fix the error even if slows down the progress of the project?
Tip: The sole purpose of asking this question to understand your work ethics and morals and whether or not they align with the company’s beliefs and ethics. So do not think of answering that you will continue working without correcting the mistakes because you do not want to slow down the progress of the project. You must establish that you are a person of integrity and would take responsibility for your mistakes.
In your answer, emphasize that you would not shy away from taking any measures within your capabilities to correct the mistakes and learn from them. Even if takes putting in extra hours beyond the normal work hours to redo the work to ensure that you do not deviate too much from the given deadline, you will be willing to take that route.
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