You’ve landed the interview, and prepared for the questions that will likely be asked of you. However, the interviewer has asked you a few situational questions that you didn’t and couldn’t prepare for. How do you react and answer them?
Many times people are asked behavioral questions in interviews, such as “tell me a time when you had to deal with x” or something of that nature. Situational questions are more along the lines of “how would you handle x”. They are hypothetical questions to see how your mind works, and how you would respond to the given issue. Employers are looking at your analytical and problem solving skills.
When you’re caught off guard with a situational question, your mind can wander many places trying to quickly think of a response and the answer that the interviewer wants to hear. It is ok to take a moment to gather your thoughts, but don’t take too long. Depending on what position you are interviewing for, you may have to respond to a customer or to the issue rather quickly.
Employers want to hear genuine and honest answers. It is great to think through the problem and answer thoroughly, but also tying in your answer to a similar experience in the past. When you initially start talking, you may not even know that you’ve experienced a similar issue. It may pop in your head while you’re going through the steps of solving the hypothetical issue.
When you are tying a personal story into the hypothetical situation, remember these three steps: explain what the problem was; explain what you specifically did to resolve/mitigate the issue; and explain the results of your effort. If you don’t have a person story you can use, simply address that although you haven’t experience anything similar to that issue, this is what you would have done in that situation.
The main reasons employers ask situational questions are because they want to know how well you’d fit into the company culture and how well you handle change and respond to problems. Just remember to stay calm and think about how you would or have dealt with that issue in the past. Remember, there are no wrong answers, so be yourself and trust your problem solving skills.
Laura Nelson, LEED GA – Business Analyst