Glenford Smith | The scenario interview
QUESTION: Good day, Mr Smith. How do you prepare for scenario interviews, for example, a case study?
CAREERS: Thank you for your question. I am interpreting it to mean a situational interview scenario where the scenario given is a case study. It would have helped if you had sent a practical situation, whether hypothetical or real. But we'll make one up.
Before we do, however, we want to define what you mean by 'scenario interview' for the general reader. It is an interview situation where the interviewer gives a job candidate a circumstance in which he or she could find themselves, and ask what they would do if they found themselves having to deal with it. Think of it as a hypothetical situation where you're asked: 'What if ...?' or 'How would you handle ... ?'
This is a very common technique employed by interviewers, because it works. It works to get interview candidates out of their comfort zone; they have to think on their feet and have to analyse and solve a problem all in one shot. The interviewer gets a good idea how you would deal with a specific problem, your thinking and decision-making process.
Many job candidates get bummed out by this process and they start to sweat, and try to wing it. Unfortunately, they find themselves going around in circles, dealing with things that bear little semblance to what they were asked. They make a mess of that question and the job interview, and most candidates never recover.
Some job candidates seem to thrive on this type of question. It's as if they were waiting for it. And in a sense they were. They have gone the route of having a friend or colleague give them scenario after scenario until they are not just comfortable they are hoping that they get them in job interviews. They practise until they become comfortable. We want you to be one of these candidates.
As practice, go back into your experiences and mine them for likely scenarios. Bear in mind that scenarios that you will be given have an element of teamwork or leadership to them. Here's one scenario:
You are due to go on vacation today; your husband is waiting for you downstairs with the children all excited. You just called them to say you'll be down in five minutes, because you are making an unscheduled stop at the office to explain something to the boss. Two minutes later, the managing director calls, urgently wanting a rush report, like yesterday. What would you do?
There are a few ways not to answer. Don't go on about how it is your vacation time and nobody's going to ruin it; and you can't have your family waiting.
Answer like this: "Is it really a rush, or can it wait until Maxine in your department can happily undertake it? It may take her a couple minutes more. I'd call my family and explain I'll be a few minutes late and get Maxine to start working on it right away".
Bear in mind, you do not have a right and a wrong answer for scenario questions like this, but the interviewer would like to see how you go about it.
- Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. firstname.lastname@example.org.