Situational Interview Questions And Answers (Examples Included)

By Mike Simpson

When I say the words “Role Playing,” what are the first images that pop into your mind?

I bet you you’re thinking about teenage boys crowded around a table tossing multi-sided dice and saying things like “My mage can kick your troll’s butt any day.” Right? (Lol maybe not, but you catch my drift) 🙂

But what if I told you that sometimes role playing creeps into the interview process as well?

Now, before you get all excited and break out your favorite 16-sided dice and dust off your robe and collection of elf ears, let me explain:role-playing-diceAs we’ve gone over before, there are a multitude of different types of questions an interviewer can ask.

There are the usual Traditional Job Interview Questions (Why did you leave your last job? Explain the duties you had in your last position.), as well as the Behavioral Interview Questions (Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.), and Second Interview Questions that tend to come up the further down the interview process you get. But what about situational interview questions?

Situational interview questions are similar to behavioral questions, but instead of asking you to relay a past experience and tell how you handled yourself in that situation, you’re presented with a hypothetical situation.

Rather than being asked Tell me about a time you… the interviewer will start out with a more ambiguous prompt. How would you handle..?

In essence, you’re given a situation and then asked how you would behave in that situation…which as any good dungeon master knows…is the core of all role playing!

Ok, so before we get started we wanted to let you know that there are over 100 other difficult traditional interview questions you could be asked in your job interview. Sounds stressful right?

Well don’t worry, because we created a free PDF that outlines the most common questions and gives you word for word sample answers that you can use at your next interview.

Click the link below to get your copy now!

Get Our Job Interview Questions & Answers Cheat Sheet!

FREE BONUS PDF CHEAT SHEET: Get our "Job Interview Questions & Answers PDF Cheat Sheet" that gives you "word-word sample answers to the most common job interview questions you'll face at your next interview.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE JOB INTERVIEW QUESTIONS CHEAT SHEET

rubik-25817_640Why Are Situational Interview Questions Asked?

So why do interviewers ask situational questions?

Because they want to see how you really think…not just how well you memorize answers and spit them back on command!

Whereas traditional questions can have easily memorized answers and behavioral questions rely on experiences you’ve already had, situational questions demand that the interviewee utilize their analytical and problem-solving skills.

By giving a job seeker a hypothetical situation, the interviewer wants to see how they will react in the moment…with short notice and little preparation.

But how do I study for a test when I don’t even know what the test is going to be on?

Oh come on, you didn’t think we’d really send you in unprepared, right?!? Of course not! Notice we said little preparation…which means as a student of the Interview Guys…you should be more than prepared for anything, including situational questions!

 false-98375_640Common Mistakes

As you can imagine, the nature of situational questions means that it can be easy to make mistakes…after all, when you don’t know which scenario is coming down the pipe it’s hard to ensure you are completely prepared.

You can ensure that you don’t trip up on a situational question by avoiding these common mistakes:

1) Winging It

A lot of job seekers think to themselves, “Well, if I have no idea what the scenario presented by the hiring manager is going to look like, there’s no way that I can prepare for this type of question.  So I’m just going to fly by the seat of my pants and hope I nail it.”

Seems a little bird-brained, doesn’t it?  Believe it or not, this is very common.

So what are you supposed to do?

Practice, of course.  Later on in this article we will give you some example situational questions.  Get a good feel for what makes a good answer and what makes a bad answer, and spend some time crafting your answers to emulate the good examples below.

MIKE'S TIP:

Sit down with a colleague of yours and ask them to come up with some situational interview questions that you can practice together.  Be sure to adjust the format of the questions, the type of scenario, and the skill or ability that is the focus of the question.  When you have finished answering, take a few minutes to discuss the answers together to make sure that your answer is in line with the good responses below.

2) Non-Tailored Responses

If you know anything about the Interview Guys, you know that we always emphasize the importance of tailoring your responses to the specific company and position you are interviewing for (if you aren’t familiar with our Tailoring Method, you absolutely need to read our blog article Job Interview Questions and Answers 101).

Basically, there are certain skills and abilities (which we like to call Qualities) that every company puts a lot of value in when it comes to the ideal candidate for the position being hired for.

You basically need to demonstrate that you have these Qualities in order to get the job.  Infusing these Qualities into your answer allows you to “tailor” the answer to the company you are interviewing with.

Answering a situational interview question with a general, non-tailored response is a missed opportunity.

Think of it this way.  You KNOW the Qualities that the company puts a lot of value it, so you have to use this opportunity to show you have the Quality within the framework of the situational question.

In other words, respond to the question literally but infuse the Quality into your answer and show how you would use or demonstrate it throughout the proposed scenario.

3) Getting Off Topic

This is the most common mistake that job seekers make, and it makes sense.

Situational interview questions have the potential to make the interviewee nervous, because as I said before, they are harder to anticipate.  And nervous people tend to ramble, especially when they don’t immediately know how to answer the question.

Ramblers tend to change the subject and go off on tangents, often not answering the original question.  This can be the kiss of death, mainly because the hiring manager wants to see that you can think on your feet and make quick, dynamic decisions.

So what to do?

Well, you can start by taking a deep breath.

It’s just a scenario.  You’re not stupid.  The answer to the question is often common sense.

However, one great way to break the ice and give yourself time to think is to ask questions.

Get more information…more specificity.

Not only will this give you time to cool down and prepare your answer, but it will also show the hiring manager that you are a critical thinker that methodically gathers information in order to make the correct decision (never a bad thing, unless of course, time is the most important variable in the question).

How To Answer Situational Interview Questions

Preparing for situational questions should be just like preparing for any other type of question that might be thrown at you during an interview…through practice! We’ve pulled together five sample questions for you to go over.

As you read these example questions, don’t just figure out how you would answer them…dig deep through your own work history and see if you’ve already encountered similar situations.

If you have, take a hard look at them and really analyze them. Look for problems you encountered and how you solved them as well as what you learned from the situation overall.

Being asked a situational question and having to come up with an answer on the fly can be intimidating to someone who hasn’t taken the time to practice their own answers…but for someone who has spent some time going through their past and analyzing potential problems and situations…it’s not just a snap, it might just even be considered (gasp) fun!

icon-347225_6405 Examples of Situational Interview Questions (With Right and Wrong Answers)

As we