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Interview Preparation

How to Answer Common Situational Interview Questions

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What to include in an answer to a situational interview question5 situational interview questions and how to answer them

Guide Overview

Preparing for situational interview questions

Situational interview questions are asked in a job interview to allow the hiring manager to get a feel for how you'd handle particular situations in the position. These questions entail assessing a circumstance and responding with how you'd handle it in a solution-based way. Many situational questions require problem-solving skills to think through and respond effectively. Here we explore what you should include when answering situational-based interview questions and five situation questions you should be familiar with going into your next job interview.

What to include in an answer to a situational interview question

Your primary objective when answering situational interview questions should be to discuss a related experience and how you dealt with it in your previous job roles. The best way to do this is to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. In this instance, you’ll replace ‘task’ with the problem that best relates to the question. Use the following steps to answer situational interview questions:

  1. Explain the situation. You’ll first need to explain the similar situation you’re using to answer the question before you get into what you did to solve it. Include details such as the type of company, the existing process of handling things, and what was at stake.
  2. Describe the problem. Next, describe the problem and its cause. Was the problem unexpected or was it anticipated? Who did the problem affect? What impact did the problem have on your ability to complete your tasks?
  3. Outline the action you took to remedy the problem. When describing how you handled the situation, be sure to include not only the action you took but also the thought process that led to that action. How did you determine the best solution? Did you speak with other team members or did you use a solution that worked before in a similar situation?
  4. Talk about the results. To wrap up your answer, highlight the results of your actions and how they helped solve the overall problem. Be specific about the results you achieved and use quantifiable data whenever possible.

5 situational interview questions and how to answer them

The following are five common situational interview questions that hiring managers ask as well as how to answer each:

1. Describe a challenging work situation and how you handled it.

This question is asked by interviewers to get a better understanding of how you’d handle a difficult situation in the workplace. Considering that most professionals will experience a challenging instance at least once, this question is relevant across most careers. This is a great question to use the STAR technique, so when providing an answer, be sure to break down your answer into the Situation, Task (problem), Action, and Result format. Don’t be afraid to talk about any mistakes you made when handling a situation. However, if you do discuss your mistakes, be sure to back them up with how you remedied them with a viable solution.

2. Do you work well under pressure? If so, what is your method of approaching high-pressure situations?

Most employees will experience some level of pressure in their positions, so being able to work well under pressure is an important quality that many employers look for in applicants. This question is particularly important if you’re applying for a job that’s known to be high stress. When answering this question, you’ll first want to confirm that you do work well under pressure (if this is true) and then describe how you manage high-pressure situations. For example, you could discuss your organizational approach and how it ensures you stay on track even when your workload is overwhelming.

3. How would you handle a situation in which you knew a colleague or manager was wrong?

Everyone has disagreements, and it’s expected that you won’t always agree with something your manager or colleague says or does during the course of your career. The point of this question is to see how you handle challenging interactions and opposing viewpoints in the workplace. Most hiring managers want to hear the specific actions you’d take to bring to light the fact that a coworker or boss is in the wrong.

Keep in mind that negativity is not the way to go, no matter how easy it may be to respond in this manner. Stay positive when answering this question and provide clear steps you’d take to help your manager or coworker realize their error.

4. How would you handle a situation in which you had to do something you weren’t familiar with?

Starting a new job position often means doing at least a few tasks you’ve never done before. And, depending on the position, you may be asked to regularly perform tasks that are beyond your current experience level. Hiring managers want to know how you approach situations in which you’re required to learn new duties or take on new responsibilities, so your answer to this question should include your personal techniques for developing new skills.

For example, you could say that in your previous position when you were asked to do something new, you were more than happy to do so as long as you had a more experienced employee providing guidance.

5. Discuss an instance in which you failed at work and how you dealt with this situation.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you address and remedy those mistakes that make you a good employee. Hiring managers want to know if you’re able to successfully overcome and learn from failures and use these experiences to positively impact your overall work performance. When answering this question, describe a previous failure at work. Then, talk about the steps you took to overcome this failure and exactly what you learned as a result of this experience. Use positive language whenever possible to convey that the incident, while technically considered a failure, was still a valuable part of your professional experience.

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