Preparing for Situational Interview Questions


Actions speak louder than words, which is why so many interviewers use situational interview questions. Situational questions present you with a condition and ask how you would handle things. Sometimes the situation is hypothetical. More often, situational questions ask you to recall a situation you have already dealt with, for example:

  • Think back to a time when you had too much work to do, and not enough time to get it all done. How did you handle it?
  • What was your biggest sale last year, and how did you close the sale?

These questions allow the interviewer to “see you in action,” so to speak. To showcase your skills and professionalism, it is important to prepare for situational interview questions.

How to Prepare for Situational Questions

When getting ready for your interview, review the job posting very carefully and try to determine the position’s core competencies. What are the skills needed to complete the job successfully? These might include customer service, decision making, leadership, etc.

For each competency you identify, think of at least two anecdotes which show how you have displayed that quality. Ideally, these will be from past work experience, but if you don’t have much of a job history, it is okay to use personal experience as well.

There are some soft skills that will be important in just about every job – teamwork, respect for others, conflict resolution, etc. Prepare anecdotes that display these qualities as well.

Remember to Be a STAR

When answering situational interview questions, remember to use the acronym STAR – which stands for Situation, Tasks, Action and Result. These four items should be included in every answer you give during a situational interview. Here is an example of a STAR answer for a question that might be asked during nursing interview.

Can you describe a time when a patient’s background or culture made it difficult to provide effective care?

(S) There was an administrative mix-up which left us without a translator for a patient who spoke very little English. (T) My doctor was running behind and asked me to make sure the patient understood his treatment plan before they left the office. (A) Using a combination of gestures (holding up two fingers when showing him a prescription bottle), Google Translate and illustrative pamphlets, I was able to explain exactly what the doctor’s plan was to the patient. (R) It took a little while, but I made sure the patient understood everything before he left, and he was very grateful. I made sure that when he was scheduled for his next appointment, we scheduled a translator at the same time, so we would not run into any problems at his follow up.

If you think ahead and prepare STAR answers, you’ll ace your next situational interview.

Helping you get ready for your interview is just one of our employment staffing services at Staffing Partners. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find a great Oregon job opportunity.

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