Situational Interviews: Common Questions and How to Answer

Situational interviews can be a tough hurdle for many candidates – but there are a number of common questions to get to grips with, to ensure you can answer them effectively.

The great news is that the hard work on your application and CV has paid off – you’ve been shortlisted for your dream job. All that stands between you and being appointed is the interview in question.

That sounds fine so far, but the company says it will be a situational interview and you aren’t familiar with this approach.

What is involved in a Situational Interview?

A situational, or situation based interview, is all about assessing what you would do when faced with a particular scenario. Like a behavioural interview, questions are very specific but instead of just asking you to give examples of when you dealt with issues, this time they also want to know what you would do if faced with them again in the future. Situational interviews tend to focus on skills like problem solving and dealing with conflict, where you have to do something in order to fix whatever is going on.

Situational interview ideas questions and answers

Common questions

Situational interview questions are often challenging- and intentionally so. You are expected to think on your feet as it is hard to predict exactly what will be asked about. That said there are some common questions which often come up:

How would you handle resistance within your team to a new initiative being introduced by the company?

In answering this it is important to highlight the need to listen to all parties and understand their perspective. Describe how you would take their concerns into account and address them in order to get their buy-in to the changes. Make clear that you would actively support the changes and emphasise the benefits they will bring for the whole team.

What would you do if a project took a sudden change in direction resulting in new work priorities?

This question is designed to test your flexibility and willingness to change in line with the needs of the organisation. Describe how you would review the work done to date and see if this could contribute to the new priorities. Outline how you would re-evaluate the tasks assigned to team members and communicate the change in direction to them. Also explain how you would adjust project monitoring systems to reflect the new goals.

How would you approach poor performance in your team?

In this scenario it really helps if you can give an example of when you have dealt with this issue in the past. People management can be a sensitive area and so the panel may have more confidence in candidates who can demonstrate previous success in this competence. The key components of your answer should include honest communication with the under-performing team member(s), a process to give them an opportunity to improve (perhaps with the support of training or re-skilling) and an agreement to meet regularly to monitor progress.

What action would you take if you realised that a piece of work you completed was not of the required standard, and the deadline had been reached?

Make it clear to the panel that you carefully plan and execute your work to avoid such a scenario but acknowledge that sometimes issues arise beyond all our control. Let them know that you would be upfront and honest with your boss and respectfully ask for an extension on the work. Outline your commitment to addressing the work’s shortcomings and to reviewing what happened to ensure no repeat in the future.

Find out more about how to succeed in situational interviews on the Interview Skills Consulting website.

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