“What is a time…” How to Answer Situational Interview Questions Like a Pro

February 19th, 2013

Let’s face it, we’ve all been in work situations that we’ve found challenging. Those that have tested our mettle and enabled us to rise above the fray or caused us to trip over our own feet. Instances like these make us human. They demonstrate to our employer and ourselves what we are capable of handling.

These are exactly the types of experiences that potential employers are hoping to unearth. After all, their purpose for interviewing candidates is to determine who brings the right type of work experience, skills, and abilities to the job. Asking situational interview questions can help employers find out how you’ve performed in the past and, therefore, are likely to perform in the future.

Understanding the Role of Situational Interview Questions

Situational interview questions offer interviewers insight into how you respond in specific work situations – those you have already encountered and those you may face in the new job.

They enable you to draw from your previous work experience to show how you adapt to real-life, on-the-job situations. This allows an employer to gain a better understanding of how you handle pressure, use your problem-solving skills, prioritize your responsibilities, work with teammates, and demonstrate other behaviors important to successful job performance.

Ultimately, by asking situational interview questions, an employer gains a better understanding of whether or not your work style fits with the company’s corporate culture and work environment.

Getting to the Heart of the Situation

Preparing for situational interview questions is no easy task. Unlike skills, experience, and accomplishments that you can easily list on a resume, responding to questions that require you to describe your performance when confronted with specific situations requires more effort.

Situational interview questions are challenging because of the number of circumstances that might occur. However, you can make it easier on yourself by:

  • Having a solid knowledge of your own work history and career accomplishments
  • Requesting a copy of the job description in advance and jotting down specific examples of how your experience and skills apply
  • Practicing a three-step approach to your response: explain a situation, the outcome, and the measurable results

Formulating an intelligent and articulate response takes practice. Give yourself time and think it through before you answer.

Favorite Situational Interview Questions

It is likely, you’ve heard a wide variety of interview questions throughout your career. Hiring managers and recruiters who interview on a regular basis generally develop a list of favorites. Here are a few situational interview questions that you might encounter.

What has been your toughest career challenge and how did you work through it? Choose something that reflects positively on you such as completing your college education, working out a relationship with a difficult co-worker, or completing a project on a shoestring budget.

What was the outcome of the last new idea or concept you introduced? Here’s your chance to shine and to display your innovative side by describing how the company implemented one of your suggestions or recommendations.

What would you do about changes midway through a project? Demonstrate your flexibility and adaptability by drawing upon an experience you’ve had dealing with unexpected change, such as a shortened deadline, change of venue, or reduced budget.

Responding to situational interview questions doesn’t have to be a mind-numbing ordeal. Not if you have the guidance of a professional. Let Select Group steer you through the pitfalls of job interviewing!

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