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Prepare for upcoming job interviews with this list of 25 scenario-based interview questions and example answers!
Got a job interview coming up? Make sure you’re ready to answer scenario-based interview questions - i.e. when hiring managers ask how you’d deal with certain workplace challenges. If you’re not familiar with scenario-based interview questions, keep reading to learn what scenario-based interview questions are, why hiring managers ask them, and how to answer 25 different example questions with clarity and confidence!
This article covers the following topics:
The basics of scenario-based interview questions
What hiring managers can learn from scenario-based interviews
25 example scenario-based interview questions (and sample answers for each)
Some job interviewers will ask how you dealt with significant events at your previous jobs (disagreements, projects, triumphs, setbacks, etc.). Other interviewers might describe hypothetical workplace problems and ask how you’d try to resolve them. Both types of interviewers are asking scenario-based interview questions — that is, questions about how you’d handle challenges that will be a core part of the job you’re applying to.
Most hiring managers ask scenario-based interview questions to test a job applicant’s skills — how they’d solve certain problems, organize certain projects, etc. If you’re asked questions like these during a job interview, give answers that show hiring managers your knowledge, eagerness to learn, and ability to keep cool under pressure.
If you’re nervous about your interview and what scenario-based interview questions you might by asked, study the sample questions/answers below and use them to inspire your own replies.
To answer this, think back to a time in your past when you had to handle stressful workloads or people. If you handled the stress well, describe how. If you didn’t handle the stress well, talk about how this event taught you to manage stress better (through breathing exercises, better task organization, and so on).
Hiring managers ask this when they want to learn about your communication skills and how good you are at de-escalating tense situations. Answer this question by describing moments in your past careers where you talked to rude or hostile customers. Talk about the body language, tone of voice, and phrases that you use to show customers you’re taking their concerns seriously.
When an interviewer asks how you resolve disagreements with your work colleagues, try to cite real-life examples from your past. Describe the ways you express sympathy and respect for the person you disagreed with. If possible, talk about times when you worked out a fair compromise with a colleague.
When you’re asked this, tell your interviewers about a moment at one of your old jobs where you exceeded expectations. This could be a time when you lowered company expenses, a time you completed a project ahead of schedule, a strategy you devised that increased revenue, commendations from managers, etc.
Hiring managers won’t believe you if you say you’ve never made a mistake at work, so try to answer this question with a real error from your past. Be honest about what the fallout from the mistake was, but put a positive spin on it. Talk about what you learned from the mistake, and how you changed your routine to keep it from happening again.
One way to answer this question is talking about procedures — i.e. the questions you’d ask and the research you’d do to make sure you understand your new assignment. Also talk about moments in your past careers where you asked supervisors for extra training, guidance, and feedback. Show hiring managers that you “know what you don’t know” and never stop trying to learn.
Your answer to this question should show interviewers that you can be honest and diplomatic. Talk about how you’ve used carefully worded questions and observations to point out a supervisor’s mistake without undermining their authority. For example,
“Is that how you’re supposed to do this?”
“I thought you were supposed to do it this differently. Was I mistaken?”
“I’m worried this approach might lead to [bad outcome here].”
This scenario-based interview question is broad in scope, so it’s a good idea to write up an answer to this before showing up for your job interview. Focus on describing how you’d plan out the hypothetical project. Mention a list of steps along these lines:
Identify tasks that must be done to complete the project.
Sort the tasks into important/not important categories.
Estimate how long each task will take.
Create a timetable with milestones and deadlines for each task.
If you did get promoted at a prior job of yours, this scenario-based interview is easy enough to answer: describe the position you were promoted to and cite a quality that helped you get it (hard work, creativity, leadership skills, etc.).
If you’ve never been promoted while working at a specific business, try to describe moments from your career history that are promotion-adjacent: getting a higher-ranking job at a new company after leaving your old workplace, for example.
When you’re answering this question, emphasize your thoughtfulness and good manners. Talk about how you let customers or colleagues down gently, explaining why you can’t fulfill their request, but never implying they were wrong to make it. Also, mention times when you turned down someone’s request at work, but suggested an alternative solution that satisfied them.
As with other situational/behavioral interview questions, hiring managers ask this when they want to test your interpersonal skills. Answer by citing past experiences - for instance, reaching out to a manager with text messages or phone calls when they didn’t reply to emails. The most important thing is showing interviewers that you can grab a coworker’s attention without bothering them.
This is a popular question at job interviews for management or project team leadership positions. When you answer it, show interviewers that you’re a supportive colleague with solid leadership skills. Talk about how you’d describe a team’s goals to the newcomer, explain the tasks they’ll need to master, and encourage them to ask questions or ask for help if needed.
To answer this, tell hiring managers about the questions you’d ask members of a project team you recently joined - questions such as:
What will my starting responsibilities be?
Are there any common beginner mistakes I should watch out for?
Who should I talk to if I need to ask questions?
How should we communicate outside of work?
When you answer this scenario-based interview question, make it clear you’d never ignore or cover for a colleague who isn’t doing their job. Describe how you’d talk to the colleague, gently point out ways they’re falling short, and suggest ways for them to improve without sounding judgemental. Next, talk about what you’d do in worst-case scenarios where a teammate refuses to pull their weight (assigning them extra training, for example).
Hiring managers ask this question to test your organizational skills and ability to know your limits. To answer it, describe strategies that you’ve used in the past to identify your priority tasks, improve your work efficiency, and focus on one task at a time. Next, talk about times when you asked a supervisor for project deadline extensions or delegated less urgent tasks to others.
If you’ve given clients or coworkers presentations in the past, this question won’t be hard to answer. Tell interviewers about a successful presentation you made, the key topics you presented, and how you won the interest and support of listeners (through logical arguments, emotional appeals, useful graphics, etc.). If you’ve never presented anything at prior jobs, describe related activities such as drafting reports or one-on-one chats.
Hiring managers might ask this scenario-based interview question if they’re working for a new company or startup that’s still figuring out their business model or style of management. Answer it by describing the steps you take to learn new guidelines and double-check your understanding (carefully reading style guides and employee handbooks, reaching out to supervisors for help when you’re confused, etc.).
Answer interview questions like these decisively and show interviewers you’re committed to stopping abuse at work. If you’re applying to an entry-level job, talk about how you’d firmly tell colleagues to stop their harassment, then report them to management if they refused to stop.
If you’re applying to a management position, answer this question by describing the grievance process you’d set up and the penalties for bad conduct you’d apply. Emphasize your commitment to creating a workspace where employees are treated fairly and are free to call out harassment.
This scenario-based interview question is similar to the “What’s your proudest achievement” question, but also different in subtle ways. Interviewers typically ask this question to learn about your creativity, ambitions, and drive. To that end, answer this question by citing moments from past careers such as:
Taking over a project and successfully expanding its scope.
Strengthening client relations by engaging with them outside work.
Helping a colleague by working extra hours or taking on extra assignments.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.”
Hiring managers who ask about the hard choices you’ve made are looking for employees who live and breathe this principle. To show hiring managers that you can be decisive and take necessary risks, tell them about a time when you considered several courses of action, weighed their benefits/costs, asked colleagues for advice, and then “pulled the trigger” when the time was right.
This scenario-based question shows up a lot in job interviews for leadership positions. If you did train new employees in a prior job, tell interviewers about the skills you taught, your favorite teaching methods (repetition, demonstration, immersion, etc.), and the learning tools you wielded (textbooks, virtual quizzes, etc.). If you’ve never done orientations or onboarding activities before, talk about a time when you informally mentored or gave advice to a new co-worker.
When hiring managers ask you this scenario-based question, talk about really formative moments in your careers — lessons about organization, time management, personal growth, or interaction that still serve you well to this day. Mention critiques, feedback requests, and one-on-one talks from early on in your career and emphasize what you learned from them.
Hiring managers who ask this question want to know if you can tell fair and unfair criticism apart. They might also be testing your ability to stay calm and polite when faced with negativity from coworkers. Answer this question by citing a past disagreement between you and another employee, colleague, or supervisor. Talk about why you disagreed and how you expressed your dissent respectfully.
Answer this scenario-based interview question by focusing on your verbal communication skills, written communication skills, or a mix of both. Talk about writing skills such as clear language, straightforward prose, or solid formatting, then describe how these qualities helped when you wrote reports, emails, or presentations. Mention conversational tools such as active listening and conflict de-escalation, and talk about how these skills settled disputes and helped you explain complex topics.
Prepare answers to this scenario-based question before your next interview. Put together a list of your most noteworthy general and technical skills for interviews, plus a list of skills you struggle with. Be ready to tell interviewers why you think these skills are important and cite learning resources that you could use or have used to study on your own time.
Learn more about how to ace job interviews with Career.io’s Interview Prep service.
Scenario-based interview questions might ask about work events in your past or potentially work events in your future job.
Recruiters ask scenario-based interview questions to learn how you’d deal with challenges, stress, heavy workloads, and non-cooperative associates in their workplace.
As you answer a scenario-based interview question, work in remarks about your skills in organization, time management, interpersonal communication, focusing under pressure, and self-improvement.