What are Situational Interview Questions?

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  • Written By: Tiffany Manley
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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Situational interview questions are designed to find out how an interviewee would react in various hypothetical situations. These are most common in job interviews, and the questions are generally tailored to the type of job for which the individual has applied. Situational interview questions usually can be prepared for in advance. Understanding the type of job being interviewed for, reflecting on past work experiences and knowing a bit about the hiring company are ways a person might effectively prepare for these types of interview questions.

Although situational interview questions deal with hypothetical situations, they are based on real-life situations. An individual might reflect on past experiences that are similar to the question at hand to formulate an answer. Researching the interviewing company might also be helpful, because it might give the interviewee a good idea of the types of questions that might be asked. In addition, interviewers like to see that a person has taken the time to find out more about the company.


If an individual is interviewing for a management position, he or she might be asked questions related to managing employees. A job in a power plant might warrant questions about how one reacts if an equipment alarm sounds. Someone interviewing for a customer service job might be asked about ways he or she deals with rude customers. It is important for an individual to prepare for the types of questions that might be asked at his or her interview so that the answers will seem insightful, natural, honest and concise.

Several steps might be taken to prepare for situational interview questions. Research might be found on the Internet or at the library about common questions. After a person has familiarized himself or herself with the types of questions to expect, he or she can begin the process of formulating answers based on prior experience. Generally, a suitable answer drawn from past experience will include identification of the problem, what steps were taken to address the problem, the desired outcome, the actual outcome and any lessons learned from the situation. After this information has been recalled, an individual can begin to think of possible answers to common questions.

Situational interview questions deal with hypothetical situations and not necessarily past experiences. Although it might be helpful for a person to reflect on past experiences to identify the ways he or she might react in a certain situation, his or her answer should deal with the hypothetical situation at hand. The interviewer is interviewing for his or her position, not an individual’s past employment.


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