A job interview can be both the opportunity of a lifetime and one of the most trying experiences you’ll need to endure. Know what to expect before you walk into the room, and it’ll give you a definite advantage.
In this article, we will help you prepare for another type of question that interviewers like to use: the Situational Interview Question.
What are Situational Interview Questions?
Situational interview questions focus on how you would handle hypothetical situations in the workplace. Potential employers ask these questions to test problem-solving skills and your ability to think quickly.
Here are some examples of this interview question type:
Notice these questions sound similar to behavioral interview questions. However, they take out the mention of previous work experience.
The difference between behavioral and situational interview questions is that the second question type is hypothetical and ambiguous. This means they’re purposefully asked in a manner that requires you to solve a problem with little or minimal experience to draw upon.
Like behavioral interview questions, interviewers use situational interview questions to get an idea of how you anticipate and respond to different situations.
These questions are meant to throw a curveball at the interviewee. It may be tempting to use the STAR technique, but situational interview questions require a little less structure and a little more thinking on your feet.
So, how do you answer these questions?
Let’s review what recruiters like to ask, why they ask it, and what you can say in response. Hopefully, these examples will help you succeed in your next interview.
Answering Common Situational Interview Questions
1. How would you handle an employee who is having performance issues?
Why they ask: Employers want to know if you’re capable of addressing issues with employees under your direction. As a leader, sometimes you must have difficult conversations with employees who aren’t performing to the best of their ability or the expected standard.
Situational interview questions like this help hiring managers know if you can have an honest and open conversation with your direct reports about this topic.
Ideal Response: I’ve had this conversation in the past with a few employees, and it’s obviously not fun for anyone. And, it’s not something I look forward to. However, when it is necessary to let someone know that they’re not performing up to standard, I don’t hesitate. It’s my job to ensure our team is reaching the goals we set to achieve.
Generally, I like to let the employee know about some positive aspects of what they’re doing and recognize their work. Then, I discuss where they’re missing the mark, and ask why it’s happening and what is going on.
Most of the time, they already know they’re not working up to standard. Once I assess the situation and discuss any issues they bring up, I list my expectations and what they need to do to improve. I end by offering myself as a resource who wants to help them succeed.
Answering this way will show that you’re willing to address an employee issue and give feedback when needed. Communication is important in any work environment, and it’s important to show that you can communicate in a tactful and mature manner.
ESL Tips: Be sure your language clear, concise, and forward. Your ability to answer this question will also reflect how you would give feedback to an employee. You want to use proper business tone and language in your answer. Review our article on business English to learn more.
2. How would you handle it if there was something about your job you didn’t find interesting or appealing?
Why they ask: These types of situational interview questions test your maturity. No one likes every single aspect of their job, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect you to do so. However, you want to show a level of wisdom and professionalism around unpleasant aspects of your job that are necessary to accomplish the goals of a company or project.
Ideal response: I love many aspects of my career. For example, I love to be around and work with people. The social aspects are always the highlight of my job. However, with the social aspects of my job, there are logistical aspects as well.
Who likes to do paperwork? Yet, I realized early on that if I don’t immediately tackle the logistical tasks, then I’ll have less time for the social tasks. If I wanted to get to the fun things, I would need to take care of things that are less fun first.
That’s why I assess the goal for a month and use my calendar to set aside specific times (or days) to take care of logistical items. I shut out any distractions and take care of it. Oddly enough, it’s become a great exercise for me because I’m able to take a small mental break from social items and focus on one task.
Any interviewer or recruiter wants to be sure you have professional maturity and can take care of the day-to-day, uneventful tasks in the workplace. It’s important to show that you won’t pass all of your mundane jobs to others. Part of being a leader is showing a willingness to do necessary work without a negative attitude.
ESL Tips: You already have great experience relevant to this question: you learned English! It means that you had to schedule time and put in the effort. We’re sure it wasn’t all fun and games! You can use your experience to create an answer that shows you’re willing to take on tasks that aren’t always desirable and apply yourself towards any goal.
3. What would you do if your co-workers didn’t respond positively to an idea you hoped to implement in the workplace?
Why they ask: Any candidate must have awareness and respect the opinions of other team members. It doesn’t mean you agree with them. It also doesn’t mean you have to go along with them. Companies use situational interview questions like this to see if you can implement an idea that was initially unpopular.
Ideal response: To start, I would figure out why my team was responding negatively to the idea. You can’t address the issue if you don’t know what it is. Maybe they’re not comfortable using a new system and would prefer to do things in a more familiar way.
With a full understanding of the problem, I would either create a presentation or a training program to show why my idea is best for the team. Also, with an assessment, I would address their doubts and concerns within the presentation or training.
In addition, I would collect anonymous feedback that would make the new system better and acknowledge other ideas. Hopefully, at that point, the team would see things as a group project and would show more openness to the idea.
There are many ways to answer situational interview questions like this, but the idea is to show you’re capable of compassion and understanding. Instead of giving a stubborn response, you show willingness to listen to your team and figure out a way to tactfully address their doubts.
ESL Tips: This is your chance to show you’re confident in your English language skills. If you’re willing to get in front of your co-workers and give a presentation or training session, then you have the confidence in your language skills to take on any task.
Get Ready for Your Next Interview
If you’re not comfortable interviewing in English yet, that’s okay! Review our article for intermediate to advanced English language learners to see how you can take your English speaking skills to the next level.