Being well prepared for an interview is one of the best ways to settle your nerves and set yourself up for success. You'll never know exactly what you are going to be asked, but you can have a pretty good guess at the types of questions that will crop up. By preparing answers to the most common interview questions, you can be sure that you have a few stock answers ready to go in the interview.
Preparing and practising answers in advance can help you to spot gaps in your answers and ensure that you communicate all relevant information when the time comes to be put on the spot. You'll be far less nervous delivering your answers if you've already had a chance to think about your answer. This can help you to avoid freezing and struggling to think of something on the spot.
The situational interview question is a great one to prepare for. This question usually starts with the phrase "can you tell me about a time when you..." and then covers a core competency from the job description. This type of question allows interviewers to see if you
a) understand the role,
b) have done something similar before,
c) can demonstrate the key competencies for the role.
Your mind might go blank when put on the spot, so it's helpful to plan in advance and think of a few scenarios that you could talk about. This will also help you to gather any key facts and figures about your career – if needed.
How to prepare for this type of question
Before starting to prepare your answers, return to the job description and make a list of all the key competencies of the role. You might need to read between the lines to understand what they are looking for.
Next, brainstorm examples of when you have demonstrated the skills required for each item on your list. You don't have to limit yourself to work experience. You could also mention situations from outside of work, such as sports, hobbies and volunteer work.
Then, you can start to formulate answers to common situational job interview questions. Read on to see seven examples of situational job interview questions with sample answers.
Top 7 situational job interview questions
Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client?
Can you give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty at work?
Tell me about a time when you had to manage a complex project.
What was the most challenging sale that you ever closed?
Describe a time when you identified an issue in your workplace and what steps you took to resolve it.
Tell me about a situation where you had to use your creativity to come up with a solution.
Give me an example of a time when you showed great leadership qualities.
For each question on this list, you should think of a few examples and then practice answering aloud. This will allow you to see if you are giving enough information or missing key points. You should also use the STAR method to answer this type of question. This will help to give your answer structure.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. You start by outlining when the event happened, then explain what you had to do. Then explain what action you decided to take and the outcome.
Ready to start preparing your answers? Here are some example answers to the questions above.
1. Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client?
"In my previous role, I had to deal with a difficult client who was constantly changing his mind about what he wanted. I implemented a new system for requesting changes that streamlined the process, avoided contradicting requests and encouraged the client to think about requests before submitting them."
2. Can you give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty at work?
"One time when a co-worker was out sick and I had to take on his workload in addition to my own. I ended up working a double shift, which I was a little nervous about, but it was fun in the end."
3. Tell me about a time when you had to manage a complex project.
"I was recently assigned to manage a complex project that involved 10 different team members with various skill sets. I created a kanban board to track every stage of the project so we could all see how our contributions fit into the bigger picture."
4. What was the most challenging sale that you ever closed?
"The most challenging sale I ever closed was for a new piece of software that would replace four software packages for the customer. They were hesitant to try it at first, but after I took them through it step-by-step they were soon convinced it could work for them. This sale took about three weeks, but they switched their whole company to the new software package in the end."
5. Describe a time when you identified an issue in your workplace and what steps you took to resolve it.
"I identified an issue in my workplace when I noticed that there was a lot of wasted paper being generated by the printers. I spoke to the head of IT and we implemented a new printing policy that reduced paper waste by 50%. We also set up a recycling bin for printer cartridges and toner."
6. Tell me about a situation where you had to use your creativity to come up with a solution.
"As a volunteer for a homeless shelter, we found that we often ran out of the things we needed the most and often had to find storage for surplus items. I created an online hub for those thinking about donating that included current stock levels and a link to an Amazon wish list for items we needed."
7. Give me an example of a time when you showed great leadership qualities.
"I was recently put in charge of a team project. I took the time to get to know each team member and their strengths and weaknesses. I then created a plan that played to everyone's strengths. We ended up finishing the project ahead of schedule and under budget."