Situational interviewing is different from behavioral interview questions. In the behavioral type, the interviewer delves into the past work experience and asks the candidate to recount instances and how they were handled. On the other hand, situational interviews, also known as ‘hypothetical interview questions’ are those where the interviewer gives certain hypothetical situations and asks the candidate to respond to it.
Here, the idea behind asking situational interview questions is to judge the spontaneity of the candidate and to test problem solving abilities. The spotlight is on the interviewee to evaluate if he/she can handle situational pressure or cower under it. Most HR professionals believe that rather than asking generic questions, it’s better to pose situational questions as it helps to select the right candidate.
For instance, the interviewer might ask questions like:
- What would you do if your supervisor asks you to do something which is unethical? How would you handle it?
- What would you do if you find a colleague stealing?
- If on certain days your workload is heavy because of staff shortage, how would you handle it?
…and so on!
Below are some tips to answer situational interview questions and hopefully, get the job.
1. Guess Questions
You can easily guess the situational questions that the interviewer can ask if you know your role and responsibilities thoroughly. For example, if you are applying for the position of a supervisor, you will be asked questions about managing employees and teams, budgeting, organization vision, and so on. Once you know, you can draw up hypothetical questions and practice. Practice the questions with someone who can point out the positive and negative aspects of your answers and help to improvise. It helps to have someone provide constructive feedback.
2. Know the Organization
Guessing questions are fine but you need to know the organization and its hierarchies and its level of working. You can easily do this research by going through the organization website and its press releases. When you know about the organization, you can answer situational questions better. Secondly, know the advertised job profile and find out the responsibilities attached with it. If you know what the employer seeks, you can prepare better.
3. Draw on Previous Experience
Situational questions are hypothetical but it doesn’t mean you cannot rely on past experiences. Prepare a list of situations you handled in the previous organization/s and how you sorted them out with a positive outcome. Note how you handled situations and how they enhanced your understanding. You should use this knowledge in the present situational interview questions. Take this question, for instance.
Question: What will you do if you find a team member not contributing towards a project actively?
Answer: There has been an instance in the past where one particular team member was not contributing as other members. This attitude was affecting the whole team negatively. I would react to this situation similarly. I would communicate with every team member right at the beginning and delegate responsibilities. Communication will be non-confrontational. When team members do not understand the work involved, it causes problems like this. Therefore, the best way is to find the cause of the problem and sort it out at the beginning.
4. Use Factual Representation
Answers to situational interview questions should be short, to-the-point and concise. No need to give long and rambling answers. Secondly, try to quote facts to support your answers. You can take examples of concepts and examples set by senior managerial leaders in your field. You will come across as well-read and knowledgeable.
5. Be Imaginative
Some of the situational interview questions could be those you haven’t even heard of before so you need to be quick witted and imaginative to deal with them logically and convincingly. This is an attribute that you need to practice actively.
Answering situational interview questions is easy if you know your job well and know how to use past experiences to solve current problems, while keeping an open mind for newer solutions.
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