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What are strategies for answering hypothetical or situational interview questions?


Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

My strategy is to assume that I am already working at the company and answering the question as a live issue.

You should be interviewing for a position you are qualified for, and therefore, able to consider the question and repond with an answer you would put forth if you were already employed. They are asking for a reason, and it is good to know if you think the same way, or a way that will work with the culture of the organization before you accept a new position. This might also tell you something about the issues you could be running into. Sound reasonable for the company and industry, no problem. If the question raises red flags, think hard before accepting an offer.

Topic Expert
Moshe Kravitz
Title: Director of Finance
Company: IDT Telecom
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, IDT Telecom) |

Give actual examples of how you have dealt with similar situations, or what you have done proactively to prevent such situations from arising.

Ask what has been done at this company when such situations arose, was that successful, why or why not.

Keep in mind that the interview is to give & get information. They want to learn about you - can you do what they need done and would you fit in. You want to learn about them - what do they need, can you provide it, do you want to work with these people, in this company's culture, etc.

Relax (a little) and enjoy the discussion. That itself makes you more confident and spontaneous and contributes to the success of the interview.

Topic Expert
Linda Wright
Title: Consultant
Company: Wright Consulting
(Consultant, Wright Consulting) |

I like Sara's approach and try to ask a few, quick, clarifying questions, before fully answering.

ArLyne Diamond
Title: Owner - President
Company: Diamond Associates
LinkedIn Profile
(Owner - President, Diamond Associates) |

Answering interview questions reminds me of the skill of answering questions under cross-examination in court. You must answer the question being asked, whether you like it or not - but you often have the opportunity to expand on your answer and if you are skilled at it - you can re-direct the information so that you are offering what you think needs to be said, within the general frame of the question.

You must be honest, clear, and understandable. If the question isn't clear you can ask for clarification, but don't do this too often or you will either look dumb, or sound as though you think the interviewer is unclear.

Be prepared. Know what you know and practice answering questions about it. It really helps if you have a friend or colleague that understands your field and with whom you can practice.

Have examples - real examples of what you have accomplished and don't be shy. You have to convince your interviewer that you are the right person for this CFO position. Don't be a wimp - but be careful not to look too arrogant. It's a fine line - but an important one to walk.

I also recommend to my clients that they behave as though they will be getting the job and talk in present tense without hesitation or qualifiers.

Think about this as you would a date - it's a two-way street. You are not only teaching them about you, you need to learn about them - both sides of this equation want to be sure it is a good fit. Your personality, your style, your candor, all count.

Good Luck.


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