Situational Interview Questions

Ask the below-given situational questions when interviewing candidates for managerial positions or sales and client service executives. You can modify these questions according to your needs.



What is the purpose of situational interview questions?

With situational interview questions you can find out how candidates react and handle work-related situations. Hiring Managers and Recruiters use hypothetical situations that are not related to candidates’ previous experiences.

Look for candidates who give most sensible and realistic answers. With situation interview questions you can assess following skills:
  • Managerial skills (e.g. how candidates manage their team and assign work?)
  • Organizational skills (e.g. how candidates prioritize their work and handle work pressure?)
  • Problem-solving skills (e.g. if candidates can suggest effective solutions to work related problems.)
  • Decision-making skills (e.g. how capable they are in making immediate and challenging decisions?)
  • Collaboration and interpersonal skills (e.g. how candidates resolve conflicts at work and manage relations with colleagues, seniors and customers)

Give hypothetical scenarios to find candidates with required skills. Situational interviews prove helpful for assessing candidates for client service, manager and sales positions. Most candidates mention on their resumes that they have particular skills. With situational questions, you can make sure that they are not lying and can actually solve work-related issues.

You can also ask ‘what would you do’ interview questions to compare candidates and choose one who matches your company values. Not all people have the same thinking style and problem-solving capabilities. You should look for candidates who look professional, share your company’s mission and can bring innovative ideas to the table for company growth.

Situational interview questions

  • If you notice a key metric drop week after week, what would you do?
  • When working on many projects with strict deadlines, how do you stay on track?
  • If you have two projects with the same deadline, how would you prioritize your work?
  • If you find out your colleague is not following the company’s code of conduct, what would you do?
  • If our competitor- Y launches a new product X, what should be our team’s action plan?

How to assess candidates’ answers?

  • Begin by writing down important skills for the job role you are recruiting for. Then, ask questions to find out how candidates use their skills on the job. Say, if you are hiring managers for your company, ask situational interview questions like:
    • If you don’t know the answer to a client’s questions, what would you do?
    • If an angry client wants to talk to your Manager without discussing the problem with you, would you try to talk to him?
  • Situational interview questions use hypothetical scenarios, thus it is difficult to prepare the answers. For example, when interviewing candidates for sales role, ask questions like:
    • If you have to increase sales revenue by Y% in X months, what would be your strategy?
    • If your client satisfaction rate decreases, how would you improve it?
  • Give enough time to candidates to prepare their answers in their mind before they answer your questions:
  • When preparing your interview questions, make sure you include realistic scenarios. The questions should be challenging, but also role-specific.
  • One situational interview question can set a stage for further discussions. For example, you can point out a few things and ask more details or tell them what they could have done differently. You will find candidates who are open to feedback and show adaptability.
  • Candidates may answer situational questions from their past experiences. If they are used to a particular working style, find out how open they are to new changes. Tell them about your style of working. Also, ask them if they are flexible to adopt new methods.
  • Don’t just listen to the answer, but pay attention to their thought process. Their approach to solve a problem can tell a lot about their work style. Do they have innovative thinking? Can they work in a team? Do they value other’s opinions?
  • In most of the cases, there are multiple right answers. Look for candidates who give you creative answers as this shows their innovative way of thinking.

Red Flags

  • No answer: Many candidates get nervous during interviews, especially when asked very tricky situational questions. If they can’t answer your questions, they should ask questions for better understanding. No answer could mean that they are not interested in the job role or lack essential problem-solving approach.
  • Essential soft skills missing: An ideal candidate, other than education and knowledge, should be moralistic, empathetic and a team player. If candidates show unprofessional behavior, blame others or don’t take responsibility they are unlikely to build strong work relations.
  • Impractical answers: Candidates in order to impress you give very unrealistic answers. See if they take limitations into consideration and give you nuanced, thoughtful answers.
  • Apparent answers: Even though situational interview questions are difficult to prepare in advance, some candidates may have past experience with situational questions and use “obvious” answers. If they are giving very straightforward answers, you can’t actually check their way of thinking.
  • Irrelevant answers: During the interview also see how fast candidates can think and come up with a satisfactory answer. If candidates shift from the original topic, that is a sign they are having difficulty staying focus or senselessly inserting prepared answers into the discussion.