Situational job interview questions you need to know


I participated in your employee engagement webinar hosted by a state university. At the event, I remember you discussing outdated approaches to interviewing job candidates. Could you elaborate? — Rainbow connection.

There are many job interview questions that you can find on the internet. The problem is that you can’t tell how necessary they really are. What’s the point of asking “Tell me something about yourself” in the first few minutes of an interview. From experience, I consider such a question a waste of time.

Why do recruiters ask such questions? “It allows them to get comfortable with the actual interview,” says Alina Campos, leadership development coach. In other words, such a question is designed as an icebreaker.

I do not agree. An icebreaker should cover neutral topics. Today’s investigators, whether inexperienced or seasoned, are busier than ever. Even if the interview is done online, interviewers may have to spend considerable time to do justice to the process and be fair to other candidates.

Fairness would require that a question posed to the first candidate be posed to all other candidates. This is where the trouble starts to multiply. Standard questions can be Googled by candidates, which are likely to give you a memorized answer.

So why bother with typical interview questions or “idea”? answers can be searched and stored? There is an argument for using such questions as an icebreaker, although my preference is for neutral questions about traffic or the result of last night’s match, to ensure the candidate is put comfortable.

Another set of questions that I would consider ineffective would be asking the candidate about their strengths and weaknesses. Hiring managers should avoid such questions, which waste valuable time. Your rule should be: if your interview questions and their answers can be found on the internet, don’t bother using them.

Try asking how candidates would handle specific employment situations that are unique to your organization. The process of formulating these questions begins with an inventory of current workplace issues. Test the candidate for unrepeated answers. Be consistent and fair in asking situational questions of all candidates, such as:

1) How would you handle an angry customer in front of your colleagues?

2) Describe a time when you were praised by your boss.

3) What skill can you apply to perform well?

4) What do you think would be the critical issues faced by someone taking on this job? What answers would you suggest?

5) How do you handle pressure?

6) What made you fail in your past or current job?

7) Describe a toxic management style you have encountered and how would you resolve it?

8) Describe incidents where your boss rejected your ideas.

9) Have you ever made a decision contrary to the management policy?

10) Describe a “life or limb” crisis you have dealt with.

11) What innovative idea did you manage to get your boss to accept?

12) Describe a difficult job that you mastered to the point where it became easy.

13) How would you handle a senior colleague on your team who behaves in a toxic way?

14) Describe how you prepare for a major project?

15) What are the top three things you will do on day one?

16) How would you react to a colleague who does not want to cooperate?

17) What aspect of this job is the least interesting for you? Why?

18) Describe a major project and how you handled it.

19) How would you know if you are doing a great job?

20) How would you motivate an average worker?

I’m sure you can create your own questions by incorporating key elements of the job and imagining how an ideal employee would handle any situation that might arise. This means reviewing the job description and performance standards to find relevant questions.

The job of the interviewer is to control the flow of the interview without being talkative. Instead, give each candidate plenty of time and allow them to give clear answers with appropriate illustrations. If you don’t understand their answers or if the candidates are beating around the bush, be firm about the time you give them to speak.

My rule of thumb is to give each candidate no more than an hour for an online interview. Once you’ve decided on your shortlist of three candidates, invite them in for a face-to-face interview to better gauge their behavior when you ask a different set of situational questions.

Be friendly with all applicants and

configure your questions to better bring out what a candidate brings to the table.

Chat with Rey Elbo via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or send your workplace questions to [email protected] or via


Comments are closed.