Be Prepared for Situational Interviews With These Tips

John Krautzel
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No matter how much you prepare, a situational interview always has a tendency to throw you off balance. Situational interview questions place you at the center of a hypothetical conflict or problem that you need to work your way out of, helping the interviewer determine your problem-solving and improvisational skills. Here are a few key tips for acing this tricky type of interview.

Prepare for Common Situational Interview Questions

Interviewers may come up with specific questions relating to the position for which you're interviewing, but oftentimes, they choose blanket questions that cover more common on-the-job situations. For instance, the interviewer might ask you how you would handle conflict with a team member, how you might work through an issue with a difficult manager or how you would respond if you missed an important deadline. You may also encounter questions about job dissatisfaction, receiving criticism or handling stressful situations.

Draw on Past Experiences

While hypothetical questions allow for hypothetical answers, you can also bring up past experiences that match the situational interview question. It's also important to prepare for questions that specifically ask for past experiences. Take time to revisit mistakes you've made on the job and how you handled them or moments when you resolved a conflict with a coworker. Try not to rationalize your mistakes or blame someone else, as employers like when candidates are honest and own their faults. On the other hand, you can explain why you made certain decisions as well as what you learned from each situation.

Give Details

While interviewers can't foresee every conflict and problem that may strike during your time with the company, a detailed situational interview helps them better understand how you handle work-based conflicts in general. The more relevant detail you include in your interview answers, the better the interviewer can get to know you. If you're sharing a past experience, details such as who was involved and what led to the situation help the interviewer create a mental picture of the scenario.

Place Yourself in the Interviewer's Shoes

A situational interview is meant to measure certain skills and qualities and knowing what your interviewer is looking for can help you choose the right experiences to share. For instance, interviewers ask questions about how you would handle conflict with a team member to determine how well you work with others as well as how you can overcome differences to get a job done. However, keep in mind that the underlying goal of questions about receiving criticism or sharing a past mistake may be to gauge your honesty and humility. If you say that you don't receive criticism or haven't made any major mistakes at work, the interviewer might view this as a red flag.

Situational interviews can be difficult, but with a level head and the right preparation, you can boost your chances of success. What is the trickiest situational interview question you've ever faced?

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