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    HR Resources | 8 min read

    How to Interview Someone Using Situational Questions

    Picture this: you have a list of criteria for the perfect candidate you’re looking to hire for that open position in your company. That’s a great start. But, how exactly do you then assess if an individual is indeed the person you are looking for? More specifically, what exactly are the right questions to ask in order to draw the right candidate? Well, let’s find out. 

    Why and How to Conduct a Situational Interview

    Interviews have always been the conventional way to hire someone, even hourly workers. And understandably so. It allows us to assess a candidate’s qualities, mannerism, and whether he/she will be the right fit for the company, all of which are essential aspects a hiring manager should know before getting a new employee onboard. Asking the right questions to draw out certain skills of the candidate are imperative to know if you’ve got the right person. Most managers use situational interviews/questions, among others, to determine whether an individual is a right fit for the position. These are different from behavioral interview questions as they focus mainly on future situations rather than what had happened in the past.

    A popular framework typically used to develop questions for this type of interview is the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. It is a valuable tool for an organization as it gives them insights on how an individual will solve problems in the future based on their past experiences. So how exactly should interviewers prepare for and conduct a situational interview for hourly employees? Here are some interview tips and tricks we have gathered for you. 

    Top Situational Interview Questions

    Let’s start with the interview questions. To reiterate, having the right questions is of the utmost importance when conducting an interview. Thus, we have rounded up some of the good questions to ask your prospective employee before you ponder on your hiring decision.

    1. “Describe a situation when you've come onto a new team or a new working environment.”

    This question gives you a chance to gauge how well a candidate adapts to change, especially when working with new people. Undeniably, this is important for all new hires as starting a new job means having a steep learning curve and a period of adjustment. But as hourly workers, this is an even more important trait to have considering the transient nature of the job. They might not necessarily be working with the same group of people all the time and as such, it is crucial for them to be able to adapt when their surroundings change.

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    Top candidates are sure to answer with responses that show they are adaptable and open to change. They will focus on building rapport in the company and know how to seek help should they need it. Additionally, look out for interviewees who are not quick to judge people or processes before learning all the relevant know-how. 

    2. “Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a difficult colleague.”

    Asking this question allows you to assess the candidates’ communication and conflict resolution skills, both of which are key in hourly workers. Tasks held by part-time employees are, most of the time, only one part of a much bigger process. Therefore, it is essential for the top candidate to be a team player so that the company’s operations are not affected.

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    The ideal candidate will exude a professional attitude when communicating with his/her co-workers. They do not have to like everyone, but it is important for them to be able to work with everyone. To determine how outstanding the applicant is, look out for those who are able to achieve a positive and feasible outcome despite the conflict.

    3. “What would you do if you had to work with a difficult manager?”

    The answer to this question says a lot about a person’s behavior towards authority, communication, and problem-solving. Needless to say, hourly workers are always interacting with their managers during their shifts. Thus, it is important for them to have the right attitude when dealing with potentially problematic situations in order to avoid ruining the workflow of their company.

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    A good answer here will showcase how the candidate is able to set personal feelings or disagreements aside so that they do not get in the way of working relationships during their period of employment. Keep in mind that a good candidate should be able to demonstrate emotional maturity and professionalism, above everything else.

    4. “Describe a difficult problem you faced and how you approached it.”

    As the question suggests, asking this lets you know more about your candidate’s problem-solving skills and their thought process behind their actions. In a fast-paced environment, efficient and good problem-solving skills are definitely required from hourly employees to ensure the utmost efficiency in completing the tasks at hand. It also gives you a chance to evaluate their methods to see if it is aligned with your company’s values. 

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    First and foremost, ensure that the interviewee’s answer has a favorable outcome due to his/her actions. A good answer will clearly lay out their thought process following the problem and how they approached it. Collaborative behavior is one strength you can look out for here. Did the candidate ask for feedback from his/her co-workers to understand the problem and come up with possible solutions before putting them into action?

    5. “Describe a situation when you had to face an aggressive customer.”

    Naturally, this question allows you to assess your candidate’s conflict resolution abilities as well as problem-solving skills when in a public space. Most hourly workers such as front-end staff in quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are in constant contact with customers. Hence, having an unpleasant incident occurring during a shift is more likely to happen than in any other job positions. As such, it is imperative for them to tackle the problem correctly in order to avoid ruining the reputation of the company.

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    Similar to question 3, a good candidate should be able to show emotional maturity and professionalism in his place of work. Ideally, you would want an answer which demonstrates patience and respect for the customer, even if the customer is at fault. The ideal candidate will be able to communicate his focus on turning the negative experience for the customer into a positive one.

    Bringing the manager in to resolve the issue after doing everything in his/her power to solve the issue is also a good way to know that the candidate is able to seek help when he needs it, instead of escalating the situation further.

    6. “Describe a situation when you received criticism.”

    Receiving and internalizing feedback is never easy as no one likes to admit their shortcomings. This question lets you judge the candidates’ growth potential and their ability to learn. The response given by the candidate will give you a gauge on how trainable he/ she is. After all, it is much easier to train an hourly employee when he/she is willing to learn than one who has no motivation to do so. 

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    As mentioned before, a good candidate will always show emotional maturity and adaptability. Therefore, they will never take criticisms personally. Look out for candidates who showcase how they take in, analyze, and possibly make changes based on the criticisms they received. This shows their willingness to grow and improve themselves for the better.

    7. “What would you do if you had to work under pressure?”

    For most part-time positions, time is of the essence especially because they are paid by the hour. And as one would expect, the tasks assigned to the job can be quite demanding when they are rushing to meet a quota or when serving customers during a peak period. This question will help in assessing the candidate’s ability to perform while under pressure, a very much sought after trait of an hourly worker.

    What to look out for in candidates’ response:

    A good candidate should be able to convey a positive outcome in his/her response. If it is not a positive one, look out for candidates who show that they are constantly improving themselves to manage stress better in the future. 

    A solid candidate will be able to convey his/her ability to prioritize and analyze many different tasks at the same time. They should be able to show that they can manage their time well and be able to keep a clear head during a crisis in order to come up with the most cost and time-effective solution. Look out for interviewees who are able to relate his past experience to the job he is interviewing for as well. It shows that they have the ability to adapt no matter what stressful situation they find themselves in.

    During the entire interview, you might want to take notes of key points mentioned by your candidates. This allows you to revisit and remember your candidates’ responses which are crucial when evaluating them for the position in your company. As some individuals may not have the STAR method in mind, their responses may not be as detailed as you would have hoped. Hence, it will be good to ask them follow-up questions based on the STAR approach to probe them further in giving more details in their answers. This will give you a clearer judgment of the candidate and whether he/she will be the right fit for your company.

    What to do After Conducting a Situational Interview

    Now that you’ve completed the main bulk of the hiring process, the next steps will pertain to the evaluation of your candidates. Humans are susceptible to bias and this bias is likely to be reflected in the ratings of the candidates for the open position. Thus, conduct a debriefing meeting with the hiring manager and all the interviewers involved to ensure that a consensus is reached with regards to the competency ratings of every candidate. After all, a fair selection process is important to ensure you hire the best person for the job. 

    During the debriefing meeting, we suggest interviewers discuss these three things - their first impression of the candidates, followed by a review of the responses and questions asked by them, and finally, voting for the top candidate based on the information shared by everyone. From here, you may want to choose the candidate for hire or select a few shortlisted applicants to move on to the next round, depending on your hiring process. 

    At Workstream, we can help you manage your backend hiring processes so you can focus on what matters. We provide smart screening of your applicants, among others, and our services include moving applicants down the pipeline easily, requiring little to no action from you. To date, we have helped over 5,000 hiring managers streamline their interview processes. 

    Summing Up

    Situational questions are, no doubt, a useful tool in assessing a candidate’s soft skills, which are important even for part-time positions. The questions we’ve gathered above are intended to help you evaluate different types of skills, from problem-solving, conflict resolution, and many more. However, this list is in no way exhaustive. Ultimately, the type of question you would want to choose depends on the traits you are looking for in the ideal candidate for your company’s job opening. Consider following our guide on what is deemed as a good response and you might just find your perfect candidate! 

    If you are looking for ways to streamline your hiring process, look no further. Book a free demo with our hiring specialists today.

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    Zakiyah Hanani

    Zakiyah is a freelance content writer. She’s a lifelong learner, looking for opportunities to expand her horizons whenever she can. She loves traveling, playing volleyball and reading up on general developments in the industry.

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