The hypothetical question

An increasing trend in the interview process is to ask hypothetical and behavior based questions. Answering a hypothetical question will show how your thinking works in unknown situations and the process you use to achieve results. But when it comes to how to answer a hypothetical question, you should be aware of what type of questions might be asked. There are two basic forms of questions:

  • Behavior based
  • Situation based

Behavior Based Questions

Behavior based questions are used to find out how you would respond when faced with an actual situation. Some examples of these questions would be:

  • Describing situations where you became so involved in the problem that the day simply flew by
  • If you were to encounter a certain situation again that occurred in the past, how would you handle it now
  • Discussing a recent time when you took responsibility for a task outside your job responsibility
  • Discussing a recent situation when you took action without your supervisors prior approval

The best way to answer this type of hypothetical question is with an example of what you did, the steps involved in the action and why you took those steps.

Situation Based Questions

Situational based questions are used mainly to have you consider a situation and then describe how you would act. Some examples of these questions would be:

  • The famous question relating to 'what you would do if…'
  • Questions relating to extreme circumstances such as 'if you had no food, would you steal food or money to get it?'
  • Questions which have more than one clear answer where you pick the most appropriate response for you

The best way to answer this type of hypothetical question is with reasoning and personal values. If you attempt to answer in a way you 'think' an employer wants, it will become apparent to the employer and look like a practiced 'correct' answer.

Answering a hypothetical question is hard to do. How you answer a hypothetical question will show your reasoning and thought process. You should consider your answers carefully but not for any length of time. This will require fast thinking and adaptation skills. To be ready to answer hypothetical questions, practice by having someone simply thinking up situations and have you respond; record these sessions and see what you need to change.