Situational Interview Questions

This page was last updated on 18th of April 2014

The Situational Interview

Hello. and welcome! My name is Dave. If you’ve come here seeking information on how to ‘bone up’ on Situational Interview Questions, you’re in the right place.

Stick with me for a couple of minutes and I’ll give you a couple important nuggets I’ve learned over the years and show you where I’ve turned to for some important insight and knowledge about modern situational, behavioral and competency based interviewing methods.

Situational Interview Questions

Where You Are Now

At long last, you succeeded in submitting a resume cover letter that made the cut -resulting in you receiving that coveted phone call, inviting you to come in for a personal job interview.

As you probably know, this is where the rubber meets the road.  The agonizing that went into the resume and cover letter is history now. 

Everything is riding on the performance you turn in at the interview.  That is the Reality.

Interview Questions Tip
They are sometimes called ‘behavioural’ or, behavioral interview questions, situational interview questions, or just plain competency based interview questions –depending on where you are.  The terms are sometimes thought to be pretty much interchangeable. 

Closely related, though they are, there are some important subtleties.  

To Wit:
Situational interview questions are designed to get a feel for how you might deal with something in the future.  You might be given a fictitious scenario, like your computer ‘smokes’ while putting the final revisions to a report that is too near the deadline for such set-backs.  How would you handle that?  Can you articulate that on the fly?

 

A Behavioral question is concerned with how you may have handled a certain situation in the past; how you may have handled yourself under pressure to meet an unrealistic deadline.

 

How You Acted in Certain Scenarios is Examined
Are you a no-nonsense, gruff, authoritarian type?  Maybe that’s exactly what they are looking for.  Perhaps not

Competency based interview questions is what it is referred to in the UK and Ireland, where the interviewing technique is becoming more common.   It is much the same thing as those techniques described above.  

Core Competencies
Hiring managers are seeking candidates that display certain core competencies.  There are about ten of them that you will likely be screened for; confidence being the one nearest the top of most lists.  Problem solving, planning ability, organization skills and how you handle pressure are some other examples.

The interviewer wants to know whether you have the qualifications, of course, based upon education and past experience.  They also want to know if you possess some skills required of the position. 

You could be placed in a fictitious scenario and asked to demonstrate how you might use your persuasive skills when faced with a problem involving a co-worker, for example.

Where the Interviewers Are Now
This topic is important to know about because it is where we are in today’s world.  Gone are the days of questions like, “Can you tell me a little bit about your background?” 

Unfortunately, (to my way of thinking) the questions now posed at job interviews carry with them the gravity of questions I can picture ‘Neutron Jack’ Welch asking to a candidate to run the GE Energy Division.  The questions tend to be a little ‘over the top’ –if you ask me.

Ah, but that is neither here nor there.  The Genie is out of the bottle and he’s not about to go back in. 

If you are out of work, you would now do well to consider it ‘your job’ -to learn to be adept at answering behavioral, competency or situational based questions.

The Best Place to Obtain Expertise in Situational and Behavioral Based Interview Questions
When I first began my attempt to familiarize myself with the concept of situational interview questions, I was hoping I’d be able download some questions and answers and commit them to memory and be done with it.

What I found was a bit disappointing.  I found a degree of difficulty I hadn’t anticipated.  I did find many websites that offered competency based questions.  But it seemed like the information was scattered far and wide and in many variations.

I Eventually Found What I was Looking For
I finally found a site that offered comprehensive guidance on interviewing and, in particular, how best to prepare oneself for the barrage of behavioral based competency questions that I knew were coming my way.

Here is one of the most in-demand websites -at which you can download everything you need to know about improving your interviewing skills Today.

 The Ultimate Guide to Interview Answers Review

Situational Interview Questions Tip 

The ‘For Example’ Path
When you respond to a situational interview question it will be followed up with a ‘For Example’ segue that will take you down a path to illustrate what, in your experience, will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are competent.

You will organize your thoughts in accordance with the S.T.A.R. interview method.  That is:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Results

Find Out More …
Hopefully you’ve found the tips and suggestions I’ve provided on this page to be useful.  They will not be enough to get you through the competency based interview, however.

The final suggestion I will offer is to go and review The Ultimate Guide to Interview Answers to find out what it can do for you, how much it costs (not much, considering what’s riding on the interview), and exactly what it includes (bonus items -like Advanced Memory Techniques and more). You can learn more about getting all the information here:

The Ultimate Guide to Interview Answers 

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9 Responses to “Situational Interview Questions”

  1. Jeffery K. says:

    Hello -

    I read, with considerable interest, the Interview Answers Guide. I found it quite enlightening.
    It is clearly relevant and if I didn’t stumble upon this guide, I don’t know where I would have learned the interview answers (competency based) -or, how long it would have taken me.

    I am, by nature, (it is said), a cock-sure type of person. I call it confidence. In my last interview, I was able to temper my confidence so it was not misconstrued as cocky.

    That is only one good thing I extracted from the guide. There were more. On balance, I feel safe in saying, if I hadn’t run across this Guide to Interview Answers, I would not have landed the job I got recently.

    It is the little difference that made the big difference for me.

    Thank you.

    Jeff K.
    Belfast

    • Dave Potts says:

      Hey Jeff -

      Congratulations to you. I am glad for you that you were able to land the job.
      I do appreciate the note and your compliment.
      Dave P.

  2. Michael says:

    Sometimes the interviewer is much dumber than he/she thinks they’re and they ask big questions that no one has answers for. i admit that I get stuck on normal questions too, but sometimes they just throw you questions that really have no answers. The only thing you can do is to get yourself ready for any kind of question, but it’s been challenging to find a website that teaches you that in particular. I’ll give The Ultimate Guide to Interview Answers 2012 a try and hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.

  3. Gabriel says:

    I don’t know if I’m going to get The Ultimate Guide to Interview Answers 2012 Review or some other guide, but I need help with situational interview questions badly. I’m definitely not stupid and I know that much, but I also know I’m not quick witted either. I basically do pretty well with the generic questions, but when it comes to questions that have multiple answers, I tend to think for too long for answers and my answers are never that clever. The only solution for people like me is just better preparation, but I know I can’t do that on my own. I just need some sort of a guide.

    • Dave Potts says:

      Gabe (may i call you Gabe?)

      You are not alone. No one is born with good interviewing skills. It is a learned skill (some might say art form).

      Better prep is what you need -you are right. It takes memorization. It takes a story telling ability.
      It takes practice -until these things roll off your tongue like it’s second nature.
      How do you think actors do it? Do you think they get it right on the first try? Before they do it on camera,
      they’ve practiced their lines a hundred times in their own space.

      Which is what you need to do. The Interview Answers Guide is a tool to help you develop the ‘right’ answers.
      I suggest you consult it. Unlike movie actors, you only get one shot.

      Dave P

  4. Carson says:

    It looks like a lot of people have a hard time with situational interview questions and I’m afraid I’m of no exception. I wonder if it’s only an excuse or a legit complaint when I say that half the questions I get asked on job interviews are pretty dumb. They always keep you guessing whether you should answer the questions with big answers or if you should try to give as simplified answer as you can give. Suffice to say I have much to learn in this field.

    • Dave Potts says:

      Thanks for the note, Carson.
      Indeed. You are in good company.
      Unfortunately, the Genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back.

      The Interview Answers publication is an excellent way to hone your
      skills in this area. It worked for me.

      All the best,
      Dave Potts

  5. Alan Day says:

    Dave

    Ive just read your website, and wanted to thank you for the information you have shared.
    I have a ‘dream job’ interview next week but the main problem for me is nerves.

    Its so hard to come across as perfect for the job when nervous laughter and nerves get it the way. I know I can do the job I just need advice on presenting myself in a confident and competent light.

    Any help gratefully recieved.

    A

    • Dave Potts says:

      Hi Alan -

      A recurring theme among some of my posts is the necessity to be well prepared.
      If you have doubt about that, I still recommend the Ultimate Guide to Interview Answers.

      It’s a confidence builder to know in your heart that you can handle anything they throw in your direction.

      Dave

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