February 27, 2023

What are situational questions in a job Interview?

Are you applying for a job and you’ve been notified you made it to the interview phase? That’s great!  You are now a step closer to your goals. That said, are you prepared for the interview questions? Preparation can make all the difference in the world if you really want a good interview session. One of the obstacles you’ll have to overcome are situational questions.  

Are you familiar with situational questions? At T2W we have an extensive experience with selection processes and job interviews, so we are familiar with this concept. In this article, we’ll delve into situational questions, why is it that they are so difficult and how to answer them correctly. 

What are situational questions? 

What are situational questions? 

Situational questions in a job interview are designed to put candidates in hypothetical and very specific work scenarios. These aim to understand the way you would act in a difficult situation in the available job position. It’s important keeping in mind that each position will present a different set of challenges and problems. 

It’s likely that some candidates already have some experience in similar positions. However, the distinctive workstyle, the complexity of the projects or the nature of the company can create new and difficult situations for each person. For this reason, recruiters must find the candidate with the best chances to face correctly the specific situations inside the position.  

Situational questions vs behavioral questions 

Many people refer to situational questions and behavioral questions as if both terms could be used interchangeably. That is an understandable mistake, since both analyze candidate’s actions. However, behavioral questions focus on past events in professional life. Here, recruiters will ask about events in your previous jobs and how did you deal with them. 

Behavioral questions usually start with, “Tell me about a time when you…” or “Have you ever…” On the other hand, situational questions focus on hypothetical events that people might find if they get the job position. These usually start with, “Imagine that you…” or “What would you do if…” 

The complexity of hypothetical situations 

In general, situational questions put candidates in imaginary scenarios that can be new, complex and difficult to face. In those cases, people can’t use the help of their previous experience, since these are events they have never seen before. Recruiters will analyze your capacity for critical thinking and the way you handle complex situations.  

Examples of behavioral questions 

We have delved into the concept of situational questions and what makes them so difficult to answer. Now it’s time to understand the form these questions usually take during the interview. Keep in mind that these questions will change depending on the specific challenges each position presents. These are some of the most used questions: 

  • Imagine that you have many important tasks to complete (you are given a short list). How would you prioritize them? 
  • Imagine that you have to complete a project (they give you its characteristics). How would you approach it?  
  • Imagine that you have a disagreement with a coworker regarding a project. How would you deal with it?  
  • Imagine that you don’t get along well with a coworker, but you have to work together with that person in a project. How would you handle the situation? 
  • What would you do if two members of your team have very different ways to approach a project? 
  • What would you do if a person in a team you lead makes a serious mistake in a project? 
  • What would you do if you are given a specific deadline to complete a project and suddenly the client reduce the time to a half. 
  • What would you do if the management of the company rejects a project you worked very hard on? 
  • How would you deal with a situation of low morale in your team?  
  • How would you deal with an upset client? 

How can you answer situational questions? 

Situational questions always represent a challenge. In this case, recruiters want to see your capacity to analyze and assess specific situations that will definitely be problematic. In addition, these questions will change significantly depending on the position, so you can’t use a one-size-fits-all formula to answer them correctly.  

However, sometimes you can use past situations to answer these questions. While you will be asked what would you do in a specific hypothetical scenario, you can answer with the way you have previously acted in similar events. Her, you can use the STAR technique to offer an organized response. 

Of course, this will only work with situations you are already familiar. What can you do if the question takes you to a completely new situation for you? In that case, you need to pay close attention to the questions and visualize the scenario it puts you in. Evaluate the situation carefully. Remember that you need to use your critical thinking. Try to formulate an answer without showing any hesitation. 

Now you know what are situational questions in job interviews. If you really want to keep a good performance in an interview, you need to prepare for the questions in advance. 

At Talent2Win, we strive to align your company’s business objectives with the best Talent Acquisition strategies available. If you want to learn more about the services we offer, do not hesitate to contact us.      

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