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Top 36 situational interview questions and answers for effective hiring


Situational interview questions determine how candidates react to specific problems in the workplace. Their responses can help you better understand their personality traits, mindset, and moral beliefs. Hiring a candidate who can solve problems and communicate with others is essential. 

Before conducting your interviews, send candidates a personality assessment to evaluate their behavior. You can use a DISC test to understand the type of behavior a candidate is most likely to engage in, such as: 

  • Dominance

  • Influence

  • Steadiness

  • Conscientiousness

But before you move on to the next hiring stage, choosing relevant questions for your interview is essential. Discover the top 36 situational interview questions and answers to help you hire the right candidate for your open position.

Top 36 situational interview questions and answers to use in your hiring process

Finding relevant questions for your interviews can help you learn more about candidates’ knowledge, skills, and work experience.  Check out our list of situational interview questions and answers to identify talented professionals. 

Each candidate should refer to their expertise when answering – if you need to assess their responses, see our sample answers below.

1. Describe a situation where you saw a problem and took steps to resolve it.

Candidates should give an example of a common problem at work and explain how they resolved it. For instance, they may have had insufficient training to complete a specific task, which hindered their productivity. To fix this problem, maybe they arranged training sessions with the manager to improve their skills and knowledge. 

Send candidates a Problem-Solving test to determine how they respond to complex situations in the workplace. This test assesses their analytical thinking and ability to overcome challenges. 

2. Tell me about a time you had to collaborate with a team member who was tough to please.

Research suggests that collaboration makes employees much more effective at completing tasks. Companies where team cohesion is lacking may suffer from low employee morale and poor productivity. Therefore, it’s essential to hire a candidate who can collaborate with any team member, even if they don’t share the same views. 

The candidate may have arranged a meeting with the team member to discuss their ideas and actively listen to suggestions. This way, all parties could express themselves when navigating a new project. 

3. What would you do if you made a mistake that no one knew about in your team?

This question determines whether candidates are honest. It may be tempting to ignore mistakes, but this can prevent team members from learning and honing their skills. The ideal candidate will talk with team members about the mistake and ask them for suggestions on how to resolve it. 

4. What would you do if a manager asked you to perform a task you’ve never done before?

Candidates should be motivated and confident to try new things in their jobs. The willingness to face new challenges shows their determination to improve. They might explain how they approach unfamiliar tasks or focus on their thought processes. 

For example, the candidate may request a meeting with the manager to discuss anything they’re unsure about. This method is ideal because questioning is the key to learning in a new position. 

5. Tell me about a time when you failed at a task. How did you learn from this experience?

Learning more about a candidate’s mindset can give you insight into their behavior, thought processes, and unique workplace habits. 

In response to this question, candidates should discuss a past mistake and focus on what they learned from it to prevent it from happening again. For instance, they might have sent an email to the wrong client or got an upcoming deadline wrong. 

How did they recover and what strategies did they implement to prevent errors of this type? For example, they might be double-checking deadlines or project details before sending emails.

You can also use a Big 5 (OCEAN) personality test to assess candidates’ openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability when they learn from failures. 

6. What would you do if an angry customer confronted you?

Problems arise in many jobs, so candidates must know how to resolve conflict and manage their emotions. Angry customers can be challenging, because they may only focus on the problem rather than offer constructive feedback. 

A skilled candidate would be able to remain calm and use positive language to diffuse the situation. They would also provide suggestions to resolve the issue. 

Consider using a Communication test to evaluate the candidate’s ability to use professional etiquette and stay open-minded. 

7. How do you plan your days to meet project deadlines?

Hiring candidates with excellent time management helps increase productivity and even employee engagement. Time management is vital for meeting deadlines and meeting deadlines is essential for building professional relationships with clients, so candidates should have a step-by-step process for planning projects. They might create a simple to-do list or use daily goals. 

To check if candidates have the right skills to meet deadlines consistently, consider our Time Management test. The test determines whether candidates can prioritize, plan, and manage their projects efficiently.  

8. What’s been the most challenging obstacle in your career? How did you overcome it?

With this situational interview question, you can learn more about what motivates your applicants to improve and develop their skills. Candidates should be honest about challenges they’ve faced. 

For example, applicants might have found it difficult to gain specific work experience or they may have struggled to find relevant jobs that fostered professional development. A way to overcome this obstacle is by seeking career advice or applying for volunteering roles. 

9. Consider a situation where you need approval from a manager to change something in a project but they don’t respond quickly enough. How would you approach this issue?

Candidates can answer this question in a few ways, depending on their behavior and mindset. For example, they might decide to: 

  • Wait for the manager to reply 

  • Talk with a colleague instead

  • Make the change regardless 

These answers may not be the best when hiring a candidate. Managers are usually busy, so waiting for them may not be an option. Proceeding with the change can also be a bad choice if the project is for a demanding client. Colleagues might not have enough experience to offer expert advice. 

Instead, candidates should aim to speak to another manager or a team lead – or contact the manager through another channel of communication. 

10. How do you handle pressure in the workplace?

Research shows that 94% of employees feel stressed at work. This stress may derive from a poor work-life balance or demanding deadlines. Therefore, it’s vital to hire a candidate who can manage their stress and deal with pressure in the workplace efficiently. 

For example, they might arrange meetings with their manager to evaluate priorities or make sure they set personal boundaries to avoid burnout. 

11. How do you explain complex topics to team members or clients who aren’t tech-savvy?

Candidates might talk about the four main communication types when answering this question. Some naturally gravitate toward verbal communication, while others might use pictures or diagrams to explain their thoughts. 

The four communication types are:

  • Verbal: The candidate might decide to communicate challenging concepts with clients or team members by talking to them. Many people use this form because it gets the point across quickly and reduces the risk of miscommunication, which is present when using text or images. 

  • Non-verbal: Candidates might not use their body language to convey a message, but it’s still key to remember the importance of non-verbal communication when explaining a point. If their body language shows that they’re open and confident in what they’re explaining, this helps make the listener more comfortable. 

  • Written: Some candidates might prefer explaining difficult concepts in writing. This form of communication may help them express their thoughts without sounding incoherent. Even though using written communication takes longer, the client may understand it better. 

  • Visual: Drawings, photographs, videos, and infographics are suitable forms of visual communication. Visual communication might be ideal when striving to present information to clients or team members in an accessible, easily digestible way.

Use a Verbal Reasoning test to evaluate the candidate’s ability to draw accurate conclusions and explain complex statements. 

12. You notice a team member is acting inappropriately toward another. What action do you take to prevent conflict?

This question is suitable for HR roles because it focuses on conflict between employees and potential failures to follow company policy. 

Candidates should remain professional when it comes to confrontation. If they notice another team member being inappropriate, they must take the issue to higher management. Dealing with the problem alone could damage team dynamics, cause other employees to complain, and reduce the company’s productivity.

Send candidates an HR Fundamentals test to better understand their approach to solving conflict and fostering productive relationships.  

13. A team member tries to blame you for a mistake during a work meeting. How do you react?

Employees can’t prevent all work conflicts. Sometimes, they stem from personality clashes and mismatched ideas and some team members might blame others for their mistakes because of their fear of being reprimanded. 

However, in this scenario, candidates must stay professional when correcting the other person and discussing the issue with their manager. Respecting and listening to other opinions in the workplace is crucial to maintaining peace, so consider whether candidates know how to use active listening to help diffuse tension. 

14. How do you prevent burnout during demanding projects?

Studies show that 75% of employees have experienced burnout in their jobs. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental fatigue that stressful environments cause. Employees who feel overwhelmed and unable to meet demands at their company are at risk for burnout. 

Candidates should be aware of different strategies to prevent burnout when working on large projects. For example, some might take regular breaks or discuss task prioritization with managers. Others may focus on work-life balance to ensure they have enough free time to relax. 

15. What would you do if you received harsh feedback on your work on a key assignment?

Receiving harsh feedback is never easy, but how candidates deal with it is crucial. They should have an open mindset when receiving criticism and look for ways to improve. 

For example, if the client left negative and personal comments on a specific project, the candidate should talk with their manager about the best way to approach the situation. Look for applicants who know how to strike the right balance between listening to the client and explaining their professional choices.

16. An employee has joined your team. How do you make them feel welcome?

This question can give you more insight into the candidate’s personality and how they interact with others in the workplace. Starting a new job can feel daunting for many. New employees may not feel comfortable enough to approach the team or ask questions. 

Therefore, it’s essential to hire candidates who can welcome team members and provide easy tasks based on their skills. 

Use an Enneagram personality test to understand how a candidate’s core beliefs and mindset help them build professional relationships. 

17. What would you do if you knew that your manager was wrong about something that could damage the company?

Even though managers have more control over projects, they might still make incorrect decisions. Candidates should have the confidence to approach them in such situations. 

Let’s say a manager wants to concentrate on creating and publishing new content on Facebook for their new product launch. The candidate knows, however, that this social media platform isn’t the most engaging option for their target audience, so they suggest using Instagram or TikTok instead. As a result, more potential customers engage with the brand and discover its new products, which makes the launch a success.

18. Describe what you would do if you disagree with a team member about how to complete a specific task. How would you resolve the problem without causing conflict?

According to research, more than 36% of employees face conflict regularly. Dealing with conflict can be challenging and mentally draining, so candidates must know how to solve disagreements without causing a dispute. 

In this scenario, the candidate should express their reasons for disagreeing without making any harsh statements and seek to understand the other party. They might decide to sit down with the other team member and negotiate ways to complete the task until all parties are satisfied with the outcome.

19. If you were struggling with a deadline, what would you do to get back on track?

Demanding deadlines is one of the key causes of stress at the workplace. Some employees may struggle to get back on track with tasks, especially if they feel overwhelmed. 

Candidates should talk through each step of managing tasks and meeting tight deadlines. They may also work on improving their attention to detail skills to ensure they don’t miss key information or make mistakes that would slow the project down. 

Consider sending candidates an Attention to Detail (Textual) test to see whether they’re able to notice finer details and correct errors to stay on track. 

20. Let’s say that you finish a project and are unhappy with your results and overall progress. What would you do?

There is always room for improvement and growth. The ideal candidate will talk about their personal development goals and explain how they see such situations as learning opportunities. 

For this question, applicants should provide an example of a project and explain how they would develop their skills to better manage future tasks. 

For example, if you’re hiring a content writer, they might talk about an article they wrote in the past, which didn’t contain accurate information. To improve, the candidate might explain how they’ve sourced better research data to make the article more impactful. 

21. How would you react if you proposed a strong idea for fixing a problem in a project, and your team members ignored your input?

Coming up with a good idea is exciting, but not when team members ignore it. Large teams usually miscommunicate or simply don’t have the time to hear every idea. Therefore, some team members might find it difficult to express their thoughts and offer unique suggestions. 

Suitable candidates will have the confidence to step up. They could arrange a meeting with the team lead to discuss their idea in more detail and talk about ways to present it to the team. 

22. What do you do when you have completed all your tasks at work and have free time? What do you do with that extra time?

A candidate who isn’t motivated to do more if they have free time at work may not be suitable for your company. This lack of aspiration is a key sign that they don’t have the right motivation to succeed. 

Look for candidates who focus on spending their time wisely. They might ask for more tasks, help other team members with theirs, or look to improve their skills. 

Recent statistics show that more than 20% of employees take longer to complete tasks. Despite this, hiring candidates with more self-discipline is crucial, so ask follow-up questions to determine if applicants are driven and productive even when they aren’t working under pressure. 

23. Tell me how you establish career goals and work towards achieving them. 

You can learn more about a candidate’s personality by asking about their goals. Candidates should give examples of a few short- and long-term goals and explain how they plan to achieve them. Everyone has unique ambitions, so note down their responses to determine who best aligns with your company’s expectations. 

24. How would you adapt if your company goes through a major change that affects all employees?

Candidates should have the right skills to adapt to changes. Many industries are constantly evolving, meaning they incorporate new technologies or ways of working (such as hybrid work). Therefore, it’s crucial to seek candidates with strong adaptability skills who will be able to adapt to change quickly and efficiently. 

When answering this question, candidates should talk you through their thought processes and how they would adapt to major changes. They may also discuss the positive outcomes of the change, such as increased profits or better team productivity. 

25. Can you tell me how you would define personal success in this job?

This question gives you insight into the candidate’s personality and how they define their own career goals. Success means different things to each candidate –  some applicants may focus on personal development while others might prioritize completing large projects. 

To hire the ideal candidate, ensure your candidates’ idea of success matches your company’s mission and vision. You could ask for examples showing their achievements to learn more about their values.

26. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond what was expected of you to complete a project. 

Candidates with the attitude and determination to succeed are some of the most hard-working people. You can identify these positive characteristics by asking this question in the interview. Each candidate should give an example of when they put in the extra effort to improve a project’s outcome. 

For instance, a company that plans to release a new product might need more in-depth research. To solve this issue,  the candidate may travel to several department stores throughout the day to gain relevant information, which enables the company to position their product better. 

Send candidates a Motivation test to check whether their aspirations match what your company has to offer. 

27. Tell me about a time you had to make a great first impression on a customer. What did you do?

Making a good first impression is critical to attracting clients. The ideal candidate will have the confidence and experience to gain clients’ trust. 

For example, some could create a presentation about the company and how it can meet the client’s requirements. Others may prefer to talk about successful past projects when negotiating a long-term contract. 

28. Describe a time you needed to use strong communication skills to successfully navigate a project with other team members. 

Research suggests that for 49% of employees, poor communication affects their productivity. Additionally, team members who don’t communicate effectively are more prone to making mistakes. Therefore, look for candidates who can lead conversations and guide others through demanding tasks. 

You can use communication assessment tools, such as skill tests to better understand the candidate’s skills. 

29. What would you do if you had to plan a presentation in one hour?

In some jobs, employees need to work on demanding tasks under tight deadlines. Candidates should have an effective strategy for tackling such tasks, especially the ones due on the same day. 

In this case, the ideal candidate will plan their time to make the most of the hour they have. They may spend 15 minutes researching, 10 minutes planning, and the remaining 35 minutes creating and practicing the presentation. 

You could give candidates a time management assessment to see how they manage their time under stress. 

30. Share your biggest professional accomplishment and how you achieved it. 

You can learn more about a candidate’s personality traits with this question, which invites them to discuss their achievements and proudest career moments. Use the opportunity to better understand their mindset, especially when working on specific goals. Do they focus on improving their skills? Are they proud of connecting with professionals in the industry? 

31. Describe a situation where you needed to use your leadership skills to guide others. How did you approach this?

Here, candidates may discuss their leadership style and experience, which can help you determine whether they have the skills to become a leader at your company. 

For example, some applicants may talk about a situation where they used a coaching style and focused on nurturing team members’ strengths, while others might discuss a situation where they needed to use visionary leadership and strategic thinking.

32. How would you persuade someone to do things your way?

Sometimes, team members may want to lead with their idea or ignore other suggestions. The ideal candidate would be capable of listening to others while confidently expressing their thoughts. Persuasion is key to standing out and assuming leadership in the workplace. 

Send candidates a Negotiation test to determine whether they’re capable of influencing others and have a productive discussion without provoking frustration or stress. 

33. Picture a situation where a manager gives you two high-priority tasks. How would you determine which one to do first?

There may be times candidates have to complete various tasks in parallel. This situation can be overwhelming to some, but hiring candidates who know how to prioritize and plan their time efficiently is important. 

In this example, if the two tasks require a different amount of time to complete, some candidates may finish the short one first to get it out of the way. However, other candidates could decide to work on the longer task first, as it requires extra dedication and motivation. 

34. You’re unhappy with an aspect of your role. How do you handle it?

A global survey by Gallup demonstrated that only 21% of employees feel engaged at work. This feeling can come from poor working conditions, low salaries, or a lack of enjoyment. 

To ensure your employees are content in their roles, it’s essential to hear their concerns – but also to hire employees who are willing to proactively discuss this with you. In this case, the candidates may talk about ways in which they would approach the situation and express their dissatisfaction. 

35. You’re a team leader and you notice that a member of your team is underperforming. What would you do? 

Not having strong leaders can make productivity and employee engagement plummet. Therefore, if you’re hiring for a management position, it’s essential to hire a candidate with strong leadership skills.

Potential leaders know how to collaborate with team members to improve the quality of their work. If a team member isn’t performing optimally, the leader can arrange a meeting to get to the root of the problem. Together, they can find ways to address the underlying issues and boost productivity. 

Send your candidates a Leadership and People Management test to better understand their managerial experience. The test requires them to answer questions that focus on delegation, authority, and enforcing actionable directives.

36. You have a choice when completing a project. You can do something fairly well and fast or exceptionally well and slow. Which do you choose?

Completing work quickly may seem like a good option, especially when dealing with tight deadlines. However, the speed of completing specific tasks can affect the quality of the output. In some cases, rushed work won’t meet the project requirements.

Candidates should give an honest answer about their approach to completing work. Do they prefer to extend deadlines to ensure the quality is excellent? Or do they care more about meeting the deadline without adding extra hours or days? 

When should you use these situational interview questions in your hiring process?

We recommend you use these situational interview questions after sending candidates a few relevant skills tests. Tests can help you easily identify talented professionals with the right knowledge and skills for your open position. 

Choose tests that relate to the job’s primary responsibilities.

For example, sales assistant roles may require a Customer Service test, while an Account Management test might be ideal for your future account managers. Other tests, such as the 16 Types test, focus on the candidate’s personality. 

Once candidates have completed the tests, you can download and compare the results to see whom to invite to an interview. Test results will enable you to determine applicants’ skills and level of expertise. 

Hire talented professionals using our skill tests and situational interview questions

Are you looking to hire talented professionals for your team but don’t know where to start? 

In our test library, you’ll find the right tests to suit all your hiring needs. You can use them to assess anything, from cognitive ability to personality and role-specific skills. To make a selection (of up to five tests), you can preview the questions in each test to ensure they are relevant to the role. 

Then, you can simply invite the best candidates to an interview and ask them some of the situational questions above, combined with other interview questions relevant to the role.  

Create a free account with TestGorilla to find relevant skill tests or sign up for a 30-minute live demo for professional guidance and learn more about the tests that suit your open position.


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