Situational interviews or Behavioral interviews are the vague, mysterious and confusing interview questions that get thrown at you when you are trying to get the best management consulting (including the top tier strategy consulting firms) and investment banking jobs. Or for that matter MBA interviews as well. They make you feel that the tough technical questions you got for your first few jobs were so much easier in comparison. At least there was a right or wrong answer to them, and after the interview you’d know if you fared well or not. With situational interviews, most candidates are unsure of how their performance will be judged by their future boss.
What are Situational / Behavioral interview questions?
These are questions designed to probe into your behavioral / thought process. These questions allow the interviewer to find out how you have dealt with (or would deal with) certain situations at work or outside. It gives the recruiter an insight into your personality and your working style. The questions could be in the area of inter-personal skills, analytical ability, capacity to work under stress, problem solving, multi-tasking skills or cover many other facets.
Why do companies ask situational / behavioral interview questions?
Your resume contains a listing of all the important milestones and achievements that you’d like your future employer to know. But that little document does not allow the recruiter to judge what challenges you faced while working towards those milestones. They can also extrapolate these inputs to get a feel for how you would perform when you are faced with new challenges that your previous job hasn’t allowed you to tackle.
How to answer situational / Behavioral interview questions?
For each question that you encounter, before impatiently jumping into an answer, ask yourself these additional questions:
– What is the interviewer really trying to get out of this question?
– What kind of skills would I need to talk about to convince the recruiter that I have what it takes to be successful in the new role (just like I was in the previous ones)?
– How can I answer this question with concrete evidence, rather than offering vague and diplomatic responses?
Sample situational interview questions
Here’s are some examples of behavioral interview questions. Think about how you would structure your answer to each of these using the 3 sub-question approach.
– Can you think of a situation where you had a conflict with a difficult colleague? How did you deal with the situation?
– Did you ever face a situation where you had to motivate yourself to accomplish something?
– Were you criticised at work? Why? How did you react?
– Describe a situation where you failed to deliver. How did you deal with it?
– Have you faced a situation where the majority was in favour of a certain decision and you were not convinced about it? What did you do in that situation?
– Give us an example of a situation where you had to take a decision based on very little (or too much) data.
– How did you manage to achieve work-life balance in your previous jobs?
– Have there been situations where you had to come up with an unconventional approach to solve a problem?
– Was there a time when you were faced with too many tasks with stringent deadlines, where each was as important as the other?
– Can you think of examples where you used non-technical skills to make an impact on your organisation?
Any other tricky ones you can think of? If you have doubts about tackling any of these, post a comment and we’ll share our thoughts.