Situational Job Interview Questions: How To Answer

During an interview you will normally be asked two different types of interview questions. The first set of questions are called motivational type interview questions whilst the second set are called situational job interview questions. So, what is the difference between these types of question? Well, motivational job interview questions assess your enthusiasm and motivation for the job that you are applying for, whereas situational job interview questions assess your previous experiences in relation to specific qualities and attributes that are relevant to the role. In this blog, we’ll show you how to go about answering situational job interview questions.

Situational Job Interview Questions

Situational job interview questions can be really difficult harder to answer, simply because you have to provide EVIDENCE of where you have previously demonstrated the quality that is being assessed. In order to answer situational job interview questions effectively you first of all have to research the job description and person specification for the role you are being interviewed for. Let’s assume that you are applying for a customer services assistant role. These are the types of qualities you will need to have in order to carry out this role competently:

  • Excellent customer care skills
  • Effective communication skills
  • An ability to listen to the customer’s needs
  • Be capable of dealing with customers complaints


Example Situational Interview Questions

In order to assess these qualities, the interviewer will ask you situational interview questions. Here are some examples of situational job interview questions that could be used to assess the above qualities:

  • Give us an example of when you have demonstrated excellent customer service in a previous role?
  • Can you provide us with an example of when you have worked hard to listen to a customers concerns or feedback?
  • Please provide an example of when you have resolved a customers complaint?

situational job interview questions

The STAR Method

If I was answering the final sample question above, I would construct it using the STAR technique for responding to interview questions. This is where you formulate your response in a logical sequence and provide the interview panel with clear facts and evidence of where you have previously had experience in the question being asked. So, what is the STAR method? In order to demonstrate, here is a sample response to the following question.

Please provide an example of when you have resolved a customers complaint?

S– Start off by explaining what the SITUATION was that you were involved in:

“Whilst working as a customer retail assistant in a High Street store a man approached the customer desk to make a formal complaint about some goods he had purchased which were faulty. as he approached the desk I could immediately sense that he was very dissatisfied.”

T – Now move and explain to the panel the TASK that you had to undertake.

“It was my job to listen to the customers complaint carefully, apologise if appropriate and then come up with a suitable resolution.”

A – Now it is time to tell the panel the ACTION you took when trying to resolve the complaint. This will be the main bulk of your response.

“I started off by adopting an open body stance so as to not aggravate the situation. I listened carefully to his complaint and what he had to say. I utilised effective listening skills and showed empathy when appropriate. I did not say anything until the customer had finished speaking. Once he had finished communicating his complaint he had calmed down slightly  I asked if I could take him to a quieter place in the building so as to not distract our other customers. I then sat him down and apologised unreservedly for the mistake that had been made. I then proceeded to tell him what I was going to do in order to resolve his complaint. This involved replacing the good immediately in store and also refunding the initial payment; something which is company policy in these circumstances.”

R – Finally, tell the interview panel what the RESULT was following your actions. You should always try and make the result positive.

“After I had explained what I intended to do the customer thanked me for my professionalism and he also stated that he would still be using the shop in the future. Overall, it was a successful outcome.”

You can see that by using the STAR method above I have answered the questions logically and concisely, whilst proving plenty of EVIDENCE that relates to the question being asked.


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