Situational Interview Questions And How To Prepare For Them

Situational interview questions have become a common part of interview techniques. Interviewers are keen to dive deeper into our behavioral traits and work ethic to ensure we’re the perfect fit. So what are situational questions, why are they so popular, and how can you prepare for them?

Situational Interview Questions And How To Prepare For Them

What Types Of Situational Interview Questions Are There?

Situational interview questions tend to fall into two categories. There are the questions about past experiences and the questions about potential future experiences. Both are equally insightful for interviewers, and you should expect to answer both kinds.

Questions about past experiences tend to begin with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when…”. These prompts force us to go back into our past experiences in work or similar environments. It could be a prompt to talk about a previous ethical dilemma, customer dispute, failure, or significant mistake. While these sound like negative experiences, it’s all about showcasing your maturity to see your weaknesses and your growth in moving past the issue.

Questions about future experience are a little different and tend to begin with the phrase, “How would you deal with…”. These are more focused on situations that may develop during your time at the company. Again, they will be negative in nature, such as dealing with criticism, underperforming colleagues, or other disputes. They are looking for people that fit into their system and ethos.

There are lots of different specific questions that interviews may turn to during the process. The more familiar you are with their style and structure, the less likely you are to get caught out. Luckily, there are lots of examples of situational interview questions and answers online that can steer you in the right direction.

Why Do Interviewers Like To Use Situational Questions?

These interview techniques are highly advantageous for interviewers. By creating these hypothetical situations or asking for real-life examples of past experience, interviewers get a better sense of who you are. They know your practical skills and job experience from your application and resume. They can see what you were paid to do and some of the results achieved for your past employer. The problem is that they can’t see how you handled your tasks, your team, and any problems that may have happened along the way.

Are you a team player or someone that works better alone?

Are you able to communicate with peers or higher-ups about conflicts?

Can you think on your feet and solve problems, or do you wait for someone else to step in?

Interviewers can’t ask this directly because they’ll just get a simple yes or no answer. Instead, it’s more effective to ask for examples of situations where you proved to be one way or another. Or, they might ask how you would handle situations that might arise in their workplace. This can expose some vulnerabilities, but it can also open up a more interesting conversation and let you connect.

A plus side for candidates is that these situational questions can give an indication of what it’s like to work in that environment. If an interviewer is really keen to see how you would respond to a specific negative situation, that might be a red flag about their practices and expectations. You can always challenge them on their choice of a hypothetical situation and back out when you need to.

How To Prepare For Situational Interview Questions

Once you have a better idea of some common interview questions that interviewers like to ask, you can start prepping your responses. Remember that you are trying to tailor a response to showcase your skills and promote yourself as a good candidate. One method is to use the STAR outline. Start by setting the scene with the situation, then explain the relevant task or problem, talk about the action you took to deal with it and end with the result.

Think about how you come across in your answer. It’s not just about telling a good story. Nor is it a chance to show off. If you start bragging about how amazing you were solving this difficult problem or saving a business, it can come across as cocky or unrealistic. You can be humble and show weakness as long as you also show the lessons learned and growth along the way. How did the situation shape you into the person you are today? How is that person going to be the perfect fit for that organization?

Another concern you may have with these questions is that you don’t have a relevant situation to talk about. If you don’t have previous experience in the field, how can you talk about the way you handled situations? This is where you can twist the questions to your favor and offer something else. For example, if the interviewer is looking for ways you’ve handled ethical issues with bosses and supervisors in the past, you can take a different approach. They’re looking to see how comfortable you are with people in authority and standing your ground for what is right. That could apply to a parental figure or someone in the education system. It’s better to give a slightly different answer that still displays your strengths than not have one at all.

Also, don’t forget that you can use hypothetical situations within reason. Companies aren’t expecting everything you say in an interview to be 100% accurate. Everyone embellishes or omits details to sound better. As long as the situation fits the job history or other circumstances on your resume, you should be fine.

Practice Makes Perfect

These situational interview question answers might not come naturally at first. However, the more you practice these interview techniques, the better you will get. You will have a memorized script ready to go that you can recite at as many interviews as necessary to get a job. Treat the process like practicing for your exams with mock tests. Go through all the common questions, write out your responses, and have friends or family conduct practice interviews. Eventually, the answers will be natural and effective enough to impress any interviewer.