Interview Questions

20 Situational Interview Questions to ask Candidates

By Mike Baumgarten

Last updated: Apr 17, 2023

Situational interview questions help to show a candidate’s work ethic and demeanor. In this article, you’ll find 20 situational questions to ask candidates.

Job interviews are about getting to know candidates and assessing their fit for a role. A great way to do this is to ask questions that allow each candidate to show how they would handle hypothetical situations in the role. That’s where situational interview questions come in.

Situational interview questions help the interviewer get a sense of a candidate’s work ethic, demeanor, attitude, and approach to problem-solving. As an interviewer, you need to decide which situational questions to ask — and as a candidate, you should think about how to answer them.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • What are situational interview questions?
  • How to prepare for a situational interview
  • 20 situational interview questions to ask candidates

Let’s get into it.

What are situational interview questions?

Situational interview questions, also called hypothetical interview questions, are questions that help the interviewer get a sense of how a candidate would approach a specific situation or problem. In this sense, situational questions are similar to behavioral questions.

The difference between the two types of questions is that behavioral questions are focused on candidates’ past behaviors — what they did in a specific situation and why they chose to do it.

Situational questions are questions about hypothetical situations which the candidate might not have encountered before. Asking situational interview questions allows the candidate to show how they would approach a given situation. This can help the interviewer get a sense of their work ethic and demeanor, as well as gauge whether the candidate is a good cultural fit for the company.

As an interviewer, the best way to get the most out of situational interview questions is to use real examples of situations, problems, or dilemmas that might occur in the role. For example, if you’re hiring for a customer service position, you could ask: “If a customer calls with a complaint about our service, how would you handle the situation?”

How to prepare for a situational interview

If you’re an interviewer, it’s a best practice to determine the situational interview questions you’ll ask every candidate ahead of time. There are a few reasons for this:

  • It’s difficult to come up with situational interview questions on the fly. If you’re not prepared, you’re going to seem unprofessional — and that’s the last thing you want the candidate to think.
  • Preparing your questions before the interview means that you can keep the questions consistent for all candidates. This will help you best evaluate the different candidates fairly.

If you’re a candidate, you have no way of knowing for certain what situational questions you’ll be asked. Even so, you can still prepare by studying up on a variety of questions and considering your answers. This way, you won’t be caught off guard when the interviewer asks you to imagine yourself in different situations relevant to the role.

The best answers to situational interview questions include a description of:

  • The action — the specific action(s) the candidate would take and why
  • The desired result — a clear description of the outcomes the candidate hopes to achieve

If the candidate has previous experience with a situation like the one described, their answer may end up having a more behavioral focus. However, this isn’t a bad thing — it just shows that the candidate is able to reflect on past experiences and, ideally, learn from them.

20 situational interview questions to ask candidates

To help you prepare for the interview, we’ve compiled a list of 20 situational interview questions that can be tailored to specific organizations and roles. If you have an interview coming up, we recommend that you study up on these questions — regardless of whether you’re a hiring manager or a candidate interviewing for a job.

With that being said, here’s our list of 20 situational interview questions:

  1. How would you handle a disagreement with a coworker?
  2. You’re working on a collaborative project with your team members. What do you do to ensure that you and your team communicate seamlessly during the project?
  3. You and your coworker have different opinions on which direction your strategy should take. How do you persuade them to see your side of things?
  4. What would you do if you saw a coworker do something unsafe at work?
  5. You overhear a colleague say something inappropriate to another coworker — what action do you take?
  6. What would you do if your manager asked you to perform a task you’ve never done before?
  7. Imagine that you’ve been asked to create a presentation to explain an upcoming project to other team members. What strategies would you employ to make the presentation engaging?
  8. What would you do if your manager asked you to follow a course of action that you disagreed with?
  9. What would you do if you were put into a situation where you were required to put in additional effort to complete a task?
  10. The task you’ve been asked to perform isn’t going well. How do you respond to failure?
  11. You’re halfway through a project. You just realized you’ve made a big mistake that will impact the project — what do you do?
  12. What would you do if you realized you weren’t able to meet the deadline for the project you’re working on?
  13. You need approval from a manager to continue to the next step of the project you’re working on, but the manager is taking too long to respond. What do you do?
  14. You’re meeting an important client for the first time. What steps do you take to ensure that you make a good first impression?
  15. What would you do if a customer insisted on speaking to a manager, but you’re the only person available?
  16. A frustrated client demands an impossible request. What do you do to appease them?
  17. What would you do if you were asked to work with a very difficult client?
  18. Imagine a situation where you have to deliver bad news to someone. What steps do you take to prepare? What do you do to soften the blow?
  19. What would you do if you were asked to perform a task or lead an initiative that went against your values?
  20. Your workplace is switching to a new online management system on short notice. What steps do you take to ensure that you’re qualified to use the new system?

The ORG helps
you hire great

Free to use – try today