Situational interview questions are meant to test how you behave and perform in certain situations that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for.
The best way to answer situational questions is by using the STAR method:
Here is a list of the most common situational interview questions with examples of how to answer
How do you handle working under pressure?
Even if the environment in the company you are interviewing with is laid back and relaxed, most companies go through stressful periods of time and interviewers or recruiters want to make sure that you are able to cope with that.
This is one of the most common situational interview questions, regardless of the type of job you are interviewing for.
“Most jobs involve pressure, be it from management, clients or partners and personally, I had the chance to experience quite a lot of working under pressure both in my current job and previous jobs, especially with deadlines. This has taught me how to organize and plan my time according to priorities and ensure that I deliver on time.”
- Situation: Working under pressure
- Task: Handling work under pressure
- Action: Organizing and planning
- Result: Delivering on time
Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult coworker.
This is one of the situational interiew questions that you will surely be asked.
“While working for ABC Company, my line manager started giving me a hard time, from micromanaging me, to sometimes raising his voice at me.
After several weeks, I decided to request a one-on-one meeting and requested feedback. Surprisingly, the feedback was positive, so I then explained that I am not comfortable having the voice raised at me and if there is something that I did wrong, I can absolutely understand and work on fixing it, however, there is no need to create tension.
He was very surprised and told me that he didn’t even realize that he was doing that. He then continued by telling me that he has problems at home and he is constantly tense. He apologized for his behavior.
I offered to help if there was anything I could do for him and from there on, we had a great rapport.”
Are you a good listener? Describe a situation you used this skill to solve a problem.
By now you should have already proven that you are a good listener by not interrupting the interviewer and paying attention to his/her questions.
Still, being able to provide with a situation you used your listening skills should give you an advantage in front of other candidates that might be less prepared.
“While I generally truly enjoy listening to what people are saying when talking to me, this has proven beneficial on several occasions.
During my time working as a Sales Manager for ABC company, being able to carefully listen to potential clients, instead of waiting for the right opportunity to just sell, has allowed me to identify their pain and needs in order to provide them with the right solution.
This way the client was happy because he got something that he really needs, he no longer had a problem and he felt taken care of instead of just being sold to.
This gave me the opportunity to build great relationships with my clients and become a top-performing salesperson in my company.”
This question is meant to test your conflict-solving skills. Make sure you avoid mentioning fights if it happened that you worked with an a#@hole in the past. Keep it professional.
“Most of my previous roles required me to work with a team, so naturally, you can’t always agree with everyone.
When these situations happen, what I usually do is sit down with the person I don’t agree with and try to understand their point of view.
At the same time, I also try my best to explain my arguments for having a different opinion and what usually happens is that, after having a mature conversation and laying down all the options, both myself and the person involved in the conversation, agree on the same things.
I find this to be the most productive approach to solving any disagreement.”
Explain how you set goals and achieve them.
The reason behind this question is to find out if you are a realistic person and also if you have good time management and prioritizing skills.
“Setting goals is something that is important to me, both professionally and personally. It helps me keep track of my achievements.
The way I like to set goals is by prioritizing them into 3 categories: short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. This helps me to tackle my goals one day at a time.
If I complete my short-term goals I will be much closer to completing my medium-term goals, after which achieving my long-term goals should be more realistic.”
How would you handle a manager that doesn’t like you?
This question, similar to the “What do you do if you disagree with a coworker?” is meant to test your ability to solve conflicts and having a mature approach to difficult situations and is one of the most common situational interview questions.
“I understand that we can’t like and be liked by everyone. As long as my relationship with my manager is respectful and professional and doesn’t get in the way of me doing my job, I would just focus on fulfilling my duties, trying to be helpful whenever I can and keeping the communication as positive and efficient as possible.”
If the interviewer continues by asking “What if your manager is not respectful towards you? What would you do?”, you should answer:
“I would first try to understand where this is coming from, by having a private discussion with my manager. If it’s because of my performance, I would work hard to improve it, although being disrespectful is not the way, in my opinion. If my performance is not the problem, but it’s something personal and the behavior doesn’t change, I would raise it to the HR.”
What would you do if a task or project was not up to standard but the deadline had passed?
This question is meant to test your ability to work under pressure, dealing with deadlines and taking decisions.
“If this would happen to me and I’m the person in charge of the whole project, I would first assess how long would it take to bring the project to standard and how many people can help.
I would split the tasks between myself and the rest of the team and work on the project until it’s finalized and up to standard.
From the two evils, not delivering on time or delivering poor quality, I would always pick not delivering on time.”
How would you react if you were given a task that doesn’t belong to you?
This question is meant to test if you are a team player and if you are the type to go above and beyond at work.
While sometimes having work that doesn’t belong to you thrown at you might bother you, avoid mentioning that during a job interview and keep things positive and professional.
“I’m always happy to help my colleagues, as long as this doesn’t get in the way of fulfilling my own duties. Also, whenever I am given a task from another colleague, I first make sure that I am actually able to help and it’s not something that I do not have experience with. If I’m not able to help by finalizing the task myself, I’ll make sure to get the rest of the team involved and find someone who can help.”
Providing such an answer shows the interviewer several skills: teamwork, prioritizing, communication skills and problem-solving skills.
How would you handle criticism from your manager?
Most work environments are fast-paced and working under pressure is the norm.
Being able to accept criticism is one of the most important traits in a candidate, as this shows resilience and determination to improve and therefore to grow.
“I personally like to call criticism, negative feedback and I find it to be an important factor in helping an individual to grow. I prefer receiving negative feedback in order to know what am I doing wrong so that I can work on improving. As long as the feedback is provided in a constructive and professional way, I have absolutely no problem with it.”
How would you handle an aggressive customer?
Knowing how to deal with an aggressive customer or coworker and how to de-escalate conflicts is a great skill to have in any type of position.
“In my experience so far, trying to calm an aggressive customer down, will only make things worse. If I deal with an aggressive customer I always try my best to understand exactly what their problem is and how can I help sort out the problem. Also, showing empathy always works and helps disarm an angry or aggressive person. We all have bad days but when someone is genuinely trying to help you out, you can’t possibly continue to be aggressive.”
How would you manage several tight deadline projects?
Your answer to this question should emphasize on your prioritizing and time-management skills.
“In my previous role, as a Marketing Executive for ABC Agency, my job was to handle the social media accounts of up to 10 clients at a time. Naturally, it happened a few times that 2 clients had product launches at the same time.
In order to make sure that I finalize all my deliverables on time, I assessed the amount of time needed to finalize the 2 projects and prioritized working them, while making sure that the rest of the clients were not affected. When needed, I asked for support from the rest of the team in case the time was not enough even if I were to stay late at the office. This way I always managed to deliver on time.”
“While I haven’t personally experienced having several tight deadline projects so far, what I would first do, is to assess the time needed to deliver the projects. I would prioritize the tasks and, if needed, I would ask for support from my coworkers.”
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