Sample Situational Interview Questions

Interviewers use situational interview questions to determine how you would handle the most challenging or important situations that you may experience on the job. They require you to tell the interviewer how you would handle a specific, hypothetical situation that you may encounter on the job.

People often confuse these questions with behavioural interview questions.

Although they are similar, in situational interviewing, employers describe a specific situation and ask how you would handle it, while in behavioural interviewing employers ask you to tell your own story about a situation you dealt with in the past.

An easy way to tell the difference is that situational interview questions ask, "What would you do if…" and behavioural interview questions ask, "Tell me about a time when…".

Some sample situational questions:

  • This company has a safety policy that states that when clients are in the office, at least two staff will work together. It is the end of the day, you are alone in the office and your colleagues did not lock the office door when they left for the day. An upset client walks in demanding help that you are not able to provide. How will you handle the situation?

  • You notice that a colleague is making mistakes that are affecting clients. Other staff don’t work as closely with this person, so they have not noticed the mistakes. How would you handle the situation?

  • You are working on a project with a co-worker. You agreed to divide up work in a way that was fair, but now your co-worker is failing to do his or her share of the work. How would you handle the situation?

When developing situational questions for a job interview, employers often describe the most challenging, important or consequential situations that you could face on the job and ask how would handle them. These situations are often not the type of tasks that you would handle on a daily basis. They will more often be situations that come up infrequently, but can carry important consequences and, therefore, must be handled appropriately.

Employers use situational questions to determine whether you have the ability to problem solve, think on your feet and handle the most challenging and consequential work related situations appropriately.

To prepare for situational interviews, think carefully about the job. What do you think would be the most difficult or important situations you might face in this role? Determine how you would handle those types of situations and practice saying those answers out loud.

It’s fine to ask for clarification when asked a situational question. For example, if you were asked the first sample question that involves being alone in the office, you might ask the interviewer whether there was an evening security patrol in the office building. If the interviewer stated that there was a foot patrol security officer, the first component of your answer would include the fact that you would notify security that you were alone in the office with a client.

Finally, be very specific with your answers to situational interview questions. Employers are often listening for very specific steps that you would take. The more detail you can provide, the better your answer will be.

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