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Situational Interview Questions: How to Prepare and 7 Sample Questions

by | Feb 11, 2021 | Business

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Situational interview questions are tailored to understand potential future employers’ way of thinking and how they used skills in past situations

They are also known as behavioral interview questions. They can be asked in any type of interview for any level job. 

Situational interview questions are typically phrased as hypothetical situations. The typical hypothetical question format is, “how would you handle…” and “what would you do if…” 

Hiring managers want answers that indicate the soft skills that an interviewee acquired. 

Before the Job Interview

One man interviewing another.
Photo by Daoud Abismail on Unsplash

Job interviewing takes a great deal of preparation. One thing that should be considered and heavily formulated is the situational questions.

In general, don’t view these job interview questions as trick questions but instead as opportunities to share your experiences and how well you’d work in the company. Do not focus on memorizing stories but know your strategy and a general idea of what you would say. Then, focus on how you would say it.

The best thing to prepare is to focus on soft skills. Start off by identifying your strongest skills. Next, match them with skills that are prioritized in the job description. After finding the most important soft skills, prepare stories of past experiences that you have that show those soft skills.

List of Soft Skills 

  • Communication skills
  • Work ethic
  • Time management
  • Detail-oriented
  • Decision making
  • Customer service
  • Confidence
  • Flexibility
  • Team oriented
  • Problem-solving
  • Positive attitude
  • Dependable 
  • Self-motivation
  • Good under pressure

7 Examples of Situational Interview Questions and Why They’re Asked

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1. Tell me about an example of a time when you failed at something. What happened and how did you control the situation following it?

This question is to test how you handle difficult situations and taking liability for your own failures. It is humbling to have to admit failure but this show will mimic how you would handle it in a similar situation if hired.

2. What would you do if you were asked to do something that you have never done before?

Within an answer, you want to show your independence and how you approach situations that involve problem-solving well. 

3. Describe a time when you had a difficult client or customer. What did you do?

This question is asking you to share your conflict-resolution skills. A good answer will highlight your customer satisfaction skills. 

4. Tell me about a time when you had to make a hard decision at work. What did you do?

This answer doesn’t have to be too complicated. Outline the steps clearly. This shows your decision-making. 

5. When did you have a big accomplishment at work and how did you reach it?

This answer should be subtle, humble brag about yourself and your work. Show them that you are enthusiastic about your career thus far and proud of what you have done. 

6. Tell me about a time when you had to work with a coworker that was hard to work with.

This question is asking about your teamwork skills and adaptability in difficult situations. This answer shows how you handle team members in real-life. Within this answer, it is important to leave a good impression with your description of how that coworker was hard to work with. Was it because of their external factors? Give them lenience and do not bash them. 

7. Describe a time when you had too many things to do on your list and weren’t going to hit a tight deadline. How did you handle that and what were your thought processes?

This answer will show your interpersonal skills. The answer should highlight your clear steps on your prioritizing ability when you are faced with little time.

Answering Common Interview Questions with the STAR Method

One man interviewing another man.
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When telling stories, use the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

The situation is a brief and general description of what happened. Then, the task is sharing what your personal responsibilities were in that situation. After that, share the action that you, your team, or your boss did in that situation. The last part is the result. What outcomes came out of this? What did you learn and apply? After understanding the STAR method, apply it when answering situational interview questions.

For more advice on interviewing and beyond, read Scholars’ blogs and listen to The Internship Show!

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.