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Career Advice

Know How To Answer These Sample Situational Interview Questions?

As a Career Coach, I hear many of my clients express apprehension when it comes to scenario or situational interview questions. Not to worry! Being able to verbalize your process, strategy and problem solving skills simply takes some practice.

While behavioral interview questions ask you to recall a past experience and explain how you handled it, situational interview questions present you with hypothetical scenarios you might encounter on the job and ask you to explain what you would do in that situation.

Here are some examples to practice and tips to help you.


Situation #1: Last-Minute Mistake

You're in charge of coordinating your team's sales demo at an event scheduled at a company office overseas. As event coordinator, you have crossed all t's and dotted all i's and everything is in place. Four hours before the event, you are told there is a typo in the brochure that is getting handed out to all participants. How do you proceed in this situation?

How to Answer:

What is this question looking to identify? How you work under pressure. So, first and foremost, state that you would remain calm and listen carefully to the problem. Then, explain how you would take action: say that you would identify who could fix the typo, as well as who could help with the reprinting of the brochures before the event. You'd delegate the tasks to them to maintain your focus on the larger details of the event, but would of course check in with them along the way to make sure everything was completed on time. Mention that afterwards (so as not to lose time on the day of the event), you would have a conversation with the employee who should have caught the typo. Bonus: Say you'd be sure to give a special thank you to the members who came to the rescue!

Themes to Include in Your Answer:

  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Ability to Delegate Effectively & Efficiently
  • Decision Making & Problem Solving Abilities
  • Relationship Building Strengths

Situation #2: Collaboration with Coworkers

You are a member of a team collaborating on a work project. One member of the team is not carrying his/her weight and it is being noticed by everyone but the team manager hasn't addressed it. How might you proceed in this situation?

How to Answer:

Explain how you would professionally approach your team member and/or team manager and justify your choice for talking with one vs. the other.

For example, if you choose to speak directly with your coworker, you might say:

"I would leverage my relationship with my coworker to see if we could address the problem head on, without escalating it to the team manager. I would check in with them to see how they are feeling about the project and ask if they need support. I would then do my best to offer them the support they needed to succeed. If I thought it was too much for me to handle alone, or the problem didn't improve after our conversation, I would escalate the situation to my manager."

Themes to Include in Your Answer:

  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Strategies on How You Help Motivate and Support Coworkers
  • Team Collaboration and Mentoring / Continual Growth Mindset
  • Your Ability to be Assertive (and do something / speak up) when Needed

Situation #3: Unexpected Assignment

Your day is well planned with a long "to do" list that will be challenging to get through. First thing when you arrive to work, your boss calls you into the office and asks you to do her a favor: to find a vendor and have 54 t-shirts made for a charity 5k that she registered the team for last minute. Tell us how you would respond.

How to Answer:

Here, you need to show that you work well under pressure and can plan and prioritize well. You might try saying:

"I would listen to my boss, and assure her that I would be happy to help. If I had any urgent items on my to-do list that might be delayed due to this new task, I would flag them for her so she could weigh in on what I should prioritize, and re-assign any of my tasks if necessary. Once I had addressed any other urgent assignments, I would formulate a game plan on the spot with my boss, given the time-sensitive nature of the assignment. I would ask for any known requirements for the shirts (color, logo, style preferences, budget, sizes, design or vendor contacts) and then get to work calling vendors to determine cost and turnaround time. I would then follow any necessary approval processes before purchasing the shirts from a vendor that was within the timeframe and budget, and would keep my boss updated on their delivery date. I would stay in touch with the vendor to ensure the shirts arrived on time."

Themes to Include in Your Answer:

  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Detail-Oriented Execution
  • Planning and Time Management
  • Proper Prioritization

The Takeaway:

You will notice that in each example above, STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS are key! There's not necessarily one right answer, but you do need to 1) listen carefully to the question/scenario, 2) understand why they've chosen that situation (and what it is they are looking for in your answer) and 3) demonstrate that you have the expertise and awareness to handle the situation effectively.

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