The first step in preparing for an interview is to research the different types of interview formats and questions used in the industry that you are applying to get into. Different jobs call for different styles, and one of the more recent developments are situational interview questions. In this type of interview strategy, the candidate is asked to describe and narrate specific situations and how they were handled. This allows the interviewer to gain insight not only into how the candidate handled that particular situation, but also how they are able to accurately and concisely describe it later on – a communication skill that in invaluable in an employee.
Situational interview questions typically follow a general query format – an incident or problem that you were confronted with, and how you were able to handle or resolve it. The answer should generally follow the STAR format – an acronym that will help you immensely as you attend interviews for that dream job. STAR is expanded as follows:
The following questions will help you prepare for this line of interviewing.
1. How would you deal with an underperforming co-worker?
In this question, the situation has already been given; your answer can be structured as follows
Situation – A co-worker is underperforming and you need to deal with it
Task – Undertake to confront the co-worker and attempt to resolve the problem
Action – Communicate honestly with the erring colleague and get to the cause of the problem; remove that cause or negate it in some way
Result – A more productive co-worker who has just been helped by you to solve their problem
2. You are introducing a new idea to the team and you encounter resistance. How would you handle it?
In such a situation, you could say that you would first ask them what their concerns and objections were and address those issues one by one and resolve them. You could say that you would then incorporate some of their ideas into the new system being introduced so they have a sense of ownership about it. You must always say that you will not back down unless someone found a major flaw in the idea, and that unless you were passionate about your own idea, you couldn’t expect anyone else to be.
At this point, it would be a good idea to take a course on conflict resolution so you know exactly how you will respond if they go into detail. Try this excellent course – Getting Along in the Sandbox: A Guide to Conflict Resolution
3. A colleague tells you that he is planning on calling in sick and using that time to go on a week’s vacation. How would you react?
This is what you can say: I would be shocked by this revelation, but I would keep my cool and try to reason with him. I would tell him that others would be burdened with his tasks and that this would not be fair. If I could, I might help him work and earn some vacation time – possibly an extended weekend. This way, I can build better rapport with him as well as make him realize that what he is doing will impact everyone on the team.
4. What if your project priorities are suddenly changed and you are given the responsibility of communicating this to the team?
You can say: First, I would fully assess the extent of the changes and their impact on the work already done. I would then calculate the extra time required to cover the changes and come back up to speed on the project. Armed with this information, I would approach the team and give them the facts, and ask for ideas on how we can implement these changes in the quickest and easiest way possible. Involving someone in a problem helps them forget about the problem itself and start thinking about the solution. Not doing this will only make them emphasize the issues rather than focusing on finding the answers to them.
5. If your trainer has a heavy accent that makes her difficult to understand, what would you do – assuming that you were a new recruit?
This can be your answer: First, I would ask the others in my training class if they were having a similar problem. If they were, then I’d take the initiative to go talk to the HR or training manager and let them know about the problem. To solve the problem in the short-term, I would record every class and then make my own notes after class by playing it back. I would also do this if I was the only one in the class who was facing this issue.
6. If you are about to hand in a project and realized on the day of the deadline that you had made a major error, how would you handle it?
You can answer: This hasn’t ever happened to me before because I’ve always been careful to review the requirements of any project I undertake. However, if it did happen, I would be upfront with my boss about the situation as soon as I realized it. I would also offer a full explanation of why the error happened, and steps that I would take in future to ensure that the situation does not repeat itself.
7. What would you do if you disagreed with your team leader on a critical, project-related issue?
This is a good answer: I would first analyze my own idea and list its pros and cons against my team leader’s idea. If I found that my approach would benefit the company or the client more, I would take this list and sit down with the team leader in private and go through it in detail, explaining the reasoning behind each point on the list. I have found that, in most cases, superiors are open to such critical analysis and will often give in if the idea can indeed benefit the company or the client more.
If you want to be an expert at dealing with difficult situations, you can try taking a course like this one: Conflict Resolution: How to Resolve Conflict in 1 Day