How to structure the answers for situational based questions ?

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The real purpose of the interview is to get a better idea of you as a potential job candidate. During an interview, recruiters usually ask two types of questions:

  • Skill-based questions
  • Scenario-based questions (also called behavioral questions)

Skill-based questions mostly assess your experience and skills. Scenario-based questions ask you about your response to the real-world problem. In scenario-based questions, interviewers want to understand your thought process and assess your soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. Furthermore, the interviewer wants to know how it would be like to work with you.

Recruiter structures his or her question to understand how a candidate has handled the situation in the past or how he would react if he has to face some similar hypothetical situation.

Below are the examples of some scenario-based questions:

  1. Tell me about the time when you worked with a difficult person.
  2. Tell me about the time when you failed.
  3. Tell me about the time when you achieved a big goal at work.
  4. Tell me about the time when you had to finish the job under a tight deadline.
And so on…
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Although the scenario-based interview questions sound terrifying at first, it is a great opportunity to show your soft skills. By structuring your answer with the CAR Method, you can answer all the scenario-based interview questions quite well.

CAR Method:

CAR is a structured method to answer the situational based questions by discussing Context, Action, and Result of the specific situation that you are describing

Context:

Describe the context you were in or the task you needed to perform or the challenge you faced in detail and avoid generalized descriptions. You can describe context by answering simple questions like,

‘Where were you?’

‘’What were you doing?’’

‘’What was the challenge?’’

“What was the situation/problem?”

By answering these questions, it will help the recruiter to imagine the picture of what you are telling. Sample response for “Tell me about the time when you managed a difficult customer?” will be:

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“When I was working as a Sales Development Representative in XYZ company, I was dealing with both retail and business customers. Quite recently, I have dealt with a client who was facing a problem with our eCommerce software. The challenge was that our software was an integral part of his business. Due to poor software quality, he had not only received multiple complaints from his customers, but also lost few of his customers.

The problem was, he was promised that he would get the best customer service. So, he was very annoyed and threaten us to change the company software’’

Action:

Describe the step-by-step action you took to resolve the conflict or the challenge faced. The focus while answering situational-based questions should be you. Thus, always use ‘I’ not ‘We’ while describing actions.

The sample response for action would be:

“The action that I took was to invite the customer in and offer him a cup of coffee. The second thing I did was, I took a notepad and pen, asked him a series of questions to get all the information, and reached the bottom of his problem. I contacted the people responsible for his problem. I made sure that he will not leave the premises without any solution to his problems.”

Result:

Describe the outcome of your action. Describe, what was the result of your action? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? How much money did you save? Take credit for your actions and tell them about your skills or learning from this challenge.

“The result of listening to the customer and writing the notes was gaining the customer’s confidence and trust. He did not change our software, he bought another software and increased the licenses for existing software. The customer was so impressed by my service that he gave a 5-star rating to the company for best customer service.

This example shows that I have a strong commitment to provide excellent customer service and to solve the problem. This is my attitude to manage difficult customers”.

How to practice situational-based interview questions?

  • Create a small depository with anecdotes about different situations you have faced recently.
  • The most common topics to prepare are problems, collaboration, leadership, difficult co-workers or bosses, obstacles, and achievement.
  • Make a list of soft skills you want to show with your answers such as leadership, problem-solving, planning, customer service, etc.
  • Make sure that each story has Context, Action, and Result.
  • If you are a fresher, do not hesitate to give examples of your extra-curricular activity, games, and teamwork during the annual day function.

CAR is an excellent method to express your stories in a coherent manner that the recruiter will understand. Though this structure to answer situational-based questions is overwhelming, you must practice and be ready with common examples.

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