Answering Situational Interview Questions: Interview Preparation

Use These Tips to Help You Ace Job Interviews

Meeting with colleagues

Interviewing for a new position can be an intimidating process. You try to prepare as best you can by reviewing your resume, thinking about what questions might be asked and how you'll answer them, and practicing your responses. You analyze your strengths and weaknesses. You warm up like a ball player getting ready for the big game. Then you find out this is a behavioral interview, and you'll be asked situational interview questions. And you ask yourself, "What's a situational interview question? And how do I prepare for this type of question?"

Well, there are two types of situational interview questions. In one type, you are given a specific set of circumstances (read: challenges) and asked how you would create a positive outcome from them. In the other, you are asked to provide a negative situation from your own experience, and detail how you successfully resolved it. Preparation for either type is the same.

Here's how to prepare for situational interview questions.

  1. Start with a firm understanding of the positionsituational interview questions for which you are interviewing. What is a typical day in this job? What will be your responsibilities? What types of challenges might you encounter? Think about how to answer interview questions that apply to this job. Do your research!
  2. Make a written list of difficult situations from your previous jobs that resulted in a positive outcome. If your work experience is limited, look to volunteer or internship experiences that you can reference. (Example: As PTA president, you dealt with angry, hostile parents demanding you resolve a dispute. You handled it successfully, and were given a big pat on the back from the school principal. This same set of skills could propel you as a customer service or retail manager.)
  3. Review those situations that apply, and replay them in your mind. Consider the steps you took, the words you used, the way you carried yourself. Analyze your actions so that you become so familiar with them that you can give the interviewer very specific details, and demonstrate a keen knowledge of what it takes get positive outcomes.
  4. Relax! If you know you have the skills needed to handle the job, and you've prepared by following the steps above, settle down and converse with the interviewer. When you can "sit and chat" with the interviewer, you turn the interrogation into a conversation. Answering interview questions may not be as difficult with this approach. This relaxes you, relaxes the interviewer, and makes a strong impression.
  5. Answer the questions using what you've learned from the experience of writing and analyzing.

These interview tips should help you nail future job interviews--especially when they ask situational questions. Interview preparation is key, and you should make situational interview questions and answers a part of your preparation checklist.


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