5 Popular Situational Interview Questions (And How to Answer Them)

Interviewers will ask you many types of questions. Think from their perspective. They don’t simply want to know if you have the right technical skills. A good interviewer also tries to gauge how you will fit into the company culture and if you’d be pleasant to work with. That’s why a lot of hiring managers like to pose situational interview questions.

What are these and how should you respond to them? That’s exactly what we are exploring in this post through the pane of popular situational interview questions. 

Situational Interview Questions: What are These? 

Situational interview questions are two-pronged:

  • First, they probe your decision-making skills. 
  • Next, they are aimed at assessing your personality. 

The goal of the hiring manager is to understand how you might handle a crisis or a tough decision. 

To do that, they ask you to ‘role-play’ some common workplace scenario and explain your actions. Your answers give them insights into how you would handle real-life difficult situations or how you’ve dealt with them in the past. 

In short, situational interview questions are aimed at assessing your soft skills such as  communication, problem-solving, and self-awareness. 

What Is The Difference Between Situational and Behavioral Interview Questions? 

Behavioral interview questions are a bit more abstract. These are reflective questions where you would be asked to recall an event that has already happened to you. One example would be, “Talk about a time when a coworker wasn’t doing their fair share of work.”

Situational interview questions are similar, but they prompt you to provide a more context-bound response, relevant to the problem at hand. For example: “What would you do if your main sales account decided to walk away from the company?”. 

HR manager with candidate

Popular Situational Interview Questions and Answers to Them 

Let’s be honest: we can’t tell what situational interview questions you’ll be asked. Because, in most cases, HRs model them around your industry or the position you are seeking. Still, several industry-agnostic questions are very likely to come up during your conversation.  You can use them as an example to model your replies. 

1. What Would You Do If Your Coworkers Rejected Your Idea? 

Before answering any interview question, always think about the “why” behind it. Here, the interviewer wants to accomplish several things at once:

  • Assess your level of interpersonal skills 
  • Understand how well you can handle negative feedback.  
  • See if you can argue in favor of your ideas.

Good answer:

First, I’d solicit feedback. So that I could understand their position better. Once I understood where they were coming from, I would provide further details or clarification on their concern. I might ask to give a more detailed presentation to address these. If they were correct, I would acknowledge that my idea was not feasible.

2. What Would You Do if You Saw a Coworker Lie to a Customer?

The point of this question is to explore your ethics and gauge your conflict management skills. The trick here is to avoid sounding too rash or overly confrontational, while also showcasing your acknowledgment of the person’s wrongdoing. 

Your answer: 

If the lie put the company at risk or created a dangerous situation, I would intervene immediately. If not, I would get clarification first. I wouldn’t want to make an accusation or report something until I fully understood the situation. So I’d first let them fix their mistake or point out where they were misinformed privately. If that didn’t work, I would escalate to a manager.

3. You Have Too Many Overdue Tasks on Your To-Do List. What Do You Do? 

Your potential employer doesn’t expect perfection. Everyone gets overwhelmed at times. Here, they want to know if you fall apart under the pressure of an overloaded to-do list or if you can keep it together. Your answer should show that you can set priorities, ask for help when you need it, and maybe delegate at times.

Sample answer: 

I would move the most important urgent tasks to the top of the list. I would also speak to my supervisor or customers about pushing back some deadlines or getting some extra help.

You can also recount a quick story about how you dealt with such a crisis in the past. 

4. What Do You Do If Your Mistakes Undermines The Productivity of Others? 

In this case, the interviewer tries to determine if you can take accountability and solve the problems you’ve created yourself. Again, don’t be tempted to say that such things never happen to you. That would be treated as a lie.

Instead, go and talk about your weaknesses and how you are handling these. 

Good answer: 

If someone told me that I’m interfering with their schedule, I’d immediately hop onto the problem and investigate what happened. That way I would know exactly what had been impacted and whose work would be stopped or delayed. Then, I would immediately contact those people and ask how I could help them. After that, I would focus on fixing the problem, and making arrangements to assist my coworker.

5. How Would You Take a Sudden Quota Increase from Your Manager?

This tricky interview question is aimed at assessing your personality from multiple angles:

  • First, can you assess a situation to determine that something is wrong? 
  • Can you approach a member of management with a problem in a direct, yet respectful way? 
  • Also, can you come up with a reasonable compromise?

Here’s what you should pack into your answer: 

First, I would assess the situation to see if there was any feasible way to meet the quota using the resources available to me. If that’s not possible, I would identify the main e.g. lack of supporting staff or materials. Finally, I would approach the manager with that information and a realistic number that could be accomplished.

Conclusion

Remember, no matter what type of interview question you get asked, there’s a simple formula for modeling your response.  

First, consider what the interviewer is trying to learn about you. There’s always a reason behind the question! Then, formulate an answer that addresses their concern, and portrays you as a conscientious, empathetic, yet goal-driven employee.

Do so and you’ll be golden during the next interview!

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