More by this Author

Q. I am preparing for the final leg of a job interview and for that, we were told to expect a situational interview. In such an interview, what is the best way to respond? For instance, am I expected to come up with hypothetical scenarios and use them to respond or should I weave cases out of my real life experiences and use those to respond? What if I don’t have such real life experiences to use as reference?

It is positive that you have been invited to the last stages of candidate assessment as that signals a match between your profile and the requirements of the role you have applied for. By inviting you to a situational interview, the recruiting organisation might wish to ascertain whether you match their requirements closely enough to be their most suitable candidate.

Situational interviews, which could range from case studies to practical workplace set-ups, typically assess candidate suitability in a simulated setting created to match the circumstances of the role in question. A fitting candidate would be expected to think and act in a manner that demonstrates the competencies and cultural sensibilities required of the role.


Situational assessments focus on the application, rather than mere presence of knowledge, experience and skills. For instance, analysts could be provided with a database from which to make certain deductions, chefs could be provided with ingredients with which to devise a new recipe or dancers might be asked to move to a novel beat. It is not about the ability to recite a memorised script.

Consider the depth of your understanding of the role in question including its key purpose. Do you have the competencies that are critical to the job? How well do you know the organisation and its culture? Do you have the mettle to improvise with what is in your hands in the face of an unfamiliar set of circumstances or company? If so, you already have a ticket to the game. Consider too your interpersonal effectiveness as few jobs require you to contribute independently without interacting with stakeholders.

Do not focus on impressing the panellists, instead, train your eyes on how well you can resolve the challenge that will be set before you, taking courage that you have already progressed to this last stage of the assessment. As with a conversation to which you enter without advance knowledge about how all the words will be woven together, be prepared to fly by the seat of your pants.