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Situational Interviews and Stress Interviews


Situational Interviews and Stress InterviewsWhat to Make of Them and How to Succeed in Them
The best job-seekers not only prepare answers to typical interview questions, but also prepare for the type of interview expected. There are all sorts of job interviews: screening, traditional, behavioral, telephone, case, and panel. And two of the trends in interviewing are the use of situational interviewing and stress interviewing.

Situational Job Interviews
In situational interviewing, job-seekers are asked to respond to a specific situation they may face on the job, and some aspects of it are similar to behavioral interviews. These types of questions are designed to draw out more of your analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as how you handle problems with short notice and minimal preparation.

Situational interviews are similar to behavioral interviews, except while behavioral focus on a past experience, situational interviews focus on a hypothetical situation. For example, in a behavioral interview, the interviewer might start a question with, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with…” In a situational interview, the interviewer asks, “How would you handle…”

The key to preparation and success in situational interviews is simply to review your past work experiences and review the steps you took to resolve problems and make corrections. You should also have short stories of some of these past experiences so you can also incorporate them into your answers to show that you have experience handling similar situations.

Here’s one way an interviewer might ask an applicant for a customer service manager position: “How would you handle an angry customer who was promised delivery of the product on a certain date, but because of manufacturing delays, the company was not able to deliver on a timely basis? The customer is demanding some kind of compensation for the unexpected delay.”

Or, for a management position, a job-seeker might be asked: “How do you handle a disgruntled employee in your department who has made a habit of arriving late to work and causing minor disruptions during the day, as well as a declining morale among the rest of the staff?”

Stress Job Interviews
The stress interviewing technique is typically used only for positions in which the job-seeker will be facing stress on the job, and the interviewer wants to see how well you can handle the pressure. The key to surviving stress interviews is to remain calm, keep a sense of humor, and avoid getting angry or defensive.
The interviewer may try to stress you in one of several ways, such as asking four or five questions in a row, acting rude or sarcastic, disagreeing with you, or simply keeping you waiting for a long period.

Don’t take any of these actions personally. Simply stick to your agenda and showcase your skills and accomplishments calmly. Better, try taking back control of the interview by ignoring the stress. Some experts suggest even getting up and walking around the room so that you take control by being the only person standing. And if there is a board or flip chart in the room, another option is to get up and draw or diagram parts of your answers.
Most job-seekers will not encounter such interviews, but it is important to know they exist, and know how to handle yourself if you are faced with such an interview style.

Final Thoughts
Remember that the most important thing job-seekers can do to succeed in job interviews is prepare. And preparation begins with conducting research so that you know what type(s) of interview styles you will be facing. Preparation also includes reviewing common questions you may face as a job-seeker and preparing narratives that illustrate a key point that each question is seeking.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Dr. Randall Hansen is currently Webmaster of Quintessential Careers, as well as publisher of its electronic newsletter, QuintZine. He writes a biweekly career advice column under the name, The Career Doctor. He is also a tenured, associate professor of marketing in the School of Business Administration at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. He is a published career expert — and has been for the last ten years. He is co-author, with Katharine Hansen, of Dynamic Cover Letters. And he has been an employer and consultant dealing with hiring and firing decisions for the past fifteen years. He can be reached at

Copyright by Quintessential Careers. The original article can be found at: Reprinted with permission.

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