Situational Questions

Situation based questions at interviews are qualitative questions. Each interview is a comparative event. In some cases applicants will give very different answers to situations. It's a very effective interview technique.

Depending on the job or the employer's needs, situation-based questions can contain a variety of elements, and be looking for several different things in their answers. Some questions involve things like decisions and leadership, defending a viewpoint, or dealing with a rejection situation.


How do you deal with conflicting information from subordinates?

You identify the points of conflict, and establish for yourself which information is correct. You then take whatever action required regarding the source of the incorrect information.

You're trying to get a new policy established, and things keep going wrong. People don't do things properly, and the wrong information is being given to customers. What do you do?

This is a training issue. If necessary, you hold training sessions, but you ensure that the policy is being put into practice, and that your staff are giving correct information, by direct supervision if necessary. You can also consider remedial action regarding staff who obviously aren't performing.

A client has a complaint, and has had a serious dispute with one of your staff. How do you clear up the mess?

You separate the parties, get the client's complaint first. Give the client some quiet space, while you find out what happened with the staff member. (Don't pass judgment on anyone at this point) Then, negotiate with the client, and solve the problem. If the staff member was in the wrong, say so. Bear in mind the staff member shouldn't have had a dispute with the client in the first place, that matter will have to be addressed.

You're sure the instructions you've received from management are a mistake, not in the company's best interests. What do you do to warn management of the your concerns, and how do you deal with your instructions, until you can get them modified?

You contact your immediate manager, and inform that person of your concerns, with whatever information you have to best support your case. Otherwise, you're obliged to carry out your instructions, and should do so.

Two of your staff are having some sort of office war. They're always complaining about each other, and you're getting a lot of nasty rumors from friends of one person against the other and vice versa. What are you going to do about it?

You make it clear to both of them that there isn't going to be a problem, as far as their work is concerned. They're not paid to like each other, but they are paid to do their work together. Make it clear that anything interfering with the work will not be tolerated. If there are any further issues, penalize both parties, because they didn't get the message.

Your supervisor has told you to drop everything, and concentrate on something you don't think is important, or even necessary. Do you put up with it, or try to get your more important work done, and deal with this matter afterwards?

This is an instruction, like it or not. It's best to deal with the matter immediately, get it finished, and try to minimize disruption to the more important things. Even in theory, and even if you're right, you're making a mistake by re-prioritizing management's instructions.

You're getting distracted by extra work and meetings, and it's generating a backlog of work for you. How do you cope with it?

You may not be able to avoid these things, so it's safest to establish a separate chain of processes for dealing with your normal work, where you can make time and space to ensure that work is done. You can either delegate, or ask to have delegated, some of the work, but it has to be kept moving. Backlogs are destructive, and should be prevented at all costs.

You get two difficult clients at the same time, both demanding your attention. What do you do?

You get briefings from both clients. You set times for dealing with their matters, then you prioritize one or the other. You make sure that each client is attended to as quickly as possible, and reschedule other work as required.

Your database crashes, and you have to work on some sort of improvised system for receipts, while also collecting the data. What do you do?

You set up a paper receipt system and get your data into a paper form which can be easily used for data entry when the system comes back online. You take copies of all paper issued and received. You create a reference system for each document, preferably numerical, associating each receipt with its related document.