5 Situational Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

While reviewing applicants’ previous work experience and academic background are important steps in the hiring process, asking situational interview questions is one of the best ways for determining which candidate is the best fit for your business.

Situational interview questions are in-depth, hypothetical questions that can help you assess prospective candidates’ critical thinking skills, creativity and how they may respond to potential challenges at work. These questions usually begin with, “How would you handle XYZ if you…?” or “What would you do if…?”

Situational scenario interview questions help you identify which candidates have the strongest problem-solving skills and best prepared to handle the duties of the job.

Here are five situational interview questions to ask candidates:

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1. What would you do if you were assigned to work closely with a co-worker on a project, but you could not manage to see eye to eye?

This question provides you the opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s flexibility and empathy. At some point, the candidate may have to cooperate with colleagues who function differently or possess a different work style, so it’s important to assess a candidate’s teamwork and problem-solving skills. Asking this question during the interview provides insight into their character and suitability for the position.

Example: A co-worker and I were assigned a project together, and I soon realized that our communication styles with the client were very different. I like to follow up with the client via email every few days, along with a phone call once a week to give updates, while my co-worker prefers communicating less often. Instead of allowing this to create conflict, I had a conversation with my co-worker. We compromised by following up with the client every two weeks, as opposed to every week, which resulted in a smoother collaboration.

2. How would you react if your team resisted a new idea or policy you introduced?

This question will allow you to evaluate a candidate’s integrity and respect for others. While differing work styles can make collaboration challenging, candidates should be able to demonstrate respect for their colleagues’ opinions and beliefs, while also defending their own ideas.

Example: I would begin by actively listening to the concerns of my colleagues. Then, I would create a presentation or proposal in which I would highlight the benefits and advantages of implementing my idea. I would incorporate the concerns of my colleagues into the proposal/presentation to show that I heard them and value their opinions and feedback.

3. How would you handle receiving criticism from a superior?

The goal of this question is to determine your prospective candidates’ willingness to accept responsibility for their mistakes. Candidates who view criticism as an opportunity for growth rather than becoming defensive are emotionally mature and can be positive assets to your work environment. Ask candidates to provide an example from the past that demonstrates how they responded to criticism.

Example: In my previous position, I was asked to revise a project that I spent a lot of time on. But after listening carefully to the critique, I understood how these changes would strengthen the finished product. I’m always eager to learn from people with different views and experiences, especially when their feedback can help me grow in my career and enhance my skill set.

4. What would you do if you were almost finished with an assignment on a tight deadline, but then realized you made a mistake at the beginning that required you to start over?

This question gives you insight into a candidate’s character and commitment to quality. A strong candidate will have no issue sharing the mistake and viewing it as a learning opportunity. It’s important you feel confident the candidate you choose would inform their direct supervisor immediately and help resolve the error as quickly as possible.

Example: I would begin by assessing the mistake and its cause, and compile a list of possible solutions. If I determined none of the solutions were possible without entirely redoing the assignment and missing the deadline, I would immediately inform my supervisor about the situation. Because the mistake was my fault, it’s important to be open and honest with my superiors, and accept responsibility for my error. Once we identified a solution, I would put in the extra time to finish the assignment properly.

5. How would you manage when you feel unsatisfied by an aspect of your job?

Your goal as a hiring manager is not to find a candidate who loves all aspects of their jobs, but to find a candidate who acts with a high level of professionalism and understands some tasks and assignments are less enjoyable than others. Strong candidates recognize even difficult or monotonous tasks contribute to the organization’s success.

Example: I really enjoy leading, engaging and talking with people, which is why I pursued a management role. Handling paperwork and answering multiple emails are less enjoyable tasks, but still a necessary part of my job. To help relieve my dissatisfaction with these duties, I came up with a routine. Every Monday morning when I arrive at the office, I pour a cup of coffee, turn on some soft music and complete my emails and paperwork. Once I added something fun to the tasks, I actually began looking forward to that part of my day.

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