Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How to Handle Hypothetical Interviews

An interviewer may ask you hypothetical questions designed to find out how you would handle a work situation. For example:

"Suppose I asked you to put together a customer focus group relating to a new fashion item we might be introducing next fall. How would you go about it?"

"Suppose I asked you to design a management information system for our regional sales managers. What would your approach be?"

"Suppose you and a coworker had a strong disagreement about the qualifications of a friend who she had recommended as a new hire in the department? How would you handle the situation?"

Questions that start with "what if", "assume that", or "how would you handle", " Supposed" put you in the hotseat. Here's how to handle the questions.

In a real on-the-job situation, you would obviously have more information at hand before you would be asking more questions. In this situation, you might ask a few questions, then set forth a few reasonable assumptions, which the interviewer may then tailor to what he or she had in mind. This way, you won't find yourself in the deep end of the pool, burdened with a conception that's very different from what the manager had in mind.

By asking questions and having a dialogue about the assignment, you are also showing the interviewer that you think before you jump into an assignment.Your next task is to describe, step-by-step, what approach you might take. Then you can add that in a real-life situation you would, of course, look into previous efforts to deal with the same issue, consult with others, and consider other approaches, as appropriate.

One way to prepare for hypothetical questions is to pretend that you are the interviewer. What hypothetical questions would you ask? And what would you be looking for in an answer? What the interviewer is seeking in an answer is usually not the conclusion someone else might have come to after a month's analysis and contemplation, but a clear and sensible thought process


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