One of the most difficult questions to prepare for in a job interview is when you are given an imaginary/hypothetical situation and you are asked what you would in that situation.

Unlike with most other job interview questions, you don't know what they'll ask you about. So it be impossible to prepare an answer before the interview.

Actually, it isn't. Although you won't know for certain what hypothetical situation they'll ask you about, it will be always about resolving a work related problem. Once you are aware of this, you can think of likely situations and plan how you would answer a question about them well.

To help you answer this type of question in a job interview, I have created the below exercise. Through reading an example of a person answering a question about a hypothetical situation in a job interview and doing the test at the end, you'll learn:

  • What type of things to talk about when answering this.
  • How to structure your answer.
  • Professional vocabulary to use.

Because this is a difficult question to answer well, I recommend that before you do this exercise that you read my article on 'answering hypothetical questions in job interviews'. Reading this article will help you know how to plan for this answer and do this exercise more quickly.


Exercise: What would you do if...?

Read the following answer given by a candidate in a job interview about how they would resolve a hypothetical work related problem.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning and purpose of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Interviewer:'Imagine that you had a problem with a member of your team. A customer has accused the person of insulting them. What would you do to resolve the problem?'

Candidate:'That's a very interesting situation. Unfortunately, it happens all too often in customer facing roles. In fact, I faced a similar situation at where I'm currently working about 3 months ago. A member of my team wrote something in a email to a client, which the client took offense to.

When dealing with any situation of unprofessional or inappropriate behaviour, you should already have processes and procedures in place. It not only ensures that you can quickly resolve the issue, but it also minimizes the impact on the business.

As I just mentioned, you need to ensure that the issue is dealt with promptly. This is not only for the reputation of the company, but for the morale of the staff member involved.

In a situation where a customer had accused a member of my team of insulting them, first of all I would speak to the two parties involved to fully understand what happened. I personally would first speak with the customer and after that with the member of staff. It's very important to make sure that you don't jump to any conclusions before you do any of this. If you do, it will make you less objective. And this is what you need to be in resolving these situations.

Although it is important to find out what was actually said in the conversation, you must take into consideration the context in which it was said. Was something meant as a joke which the other person didn't understand for example.

After I have done that, I would document what each party has said in a report and consider the evidence. I always find it useful before I reach a conclusion about how I should proceed to go through what I've got with either my manager or one of the other managers. In serious cases like these, I always find that the opinions and input of others is invaluable to making the right decision.

If I found that the customer's accusation was valid, I would escalate it to the manager of human resources and let her deal with it from there. Of course, I would inform my staff member of the situation before I did so and contact the customer to apologise and to offer them some form of compensation.

If I found the customer's accusation was not valid; after informing the member of my team, I would contact the customer and delicately explain that there was a misunderstanding. But at no point would I accept that we were at fault. Because by doing so, you run the risk of not only damaging the relationship you have with the member of your team who was accused, but with that of your whole team.

Being a manager is not only about giving orders and controlling your staff, but also on them knowing they can trust and depend on you.'



After you do the quiz below, learn how to answer other job interview questions by doing our below exercises:



Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrase in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.


1. A phrase which means that you would pass the responsibility over to somebody more important, is
         

I would escalate it to:
(phrase) This phrase means to give (or in some cases notify/inform) the responsibility for doing something (e.g. making a decision, doing a process/action etc...) to somebody else. Normally, only serious or important issues/problems are 'escalated' (e.g. a serious complaint, a major IT/computer outage etc...).

When you 'escalate' things, it will be either to a more senior person in the organisation (e.g. your manager or somebody higher) or to a team/department who are responsible for dealing with serious issues (e.g. the human resources department for staff related issues).

If you are giving somebody the responsibility to do something which isn't important/serious, you would use 'pass over' instead of 'escalate' in this phrase.

For example:

'Once I have finished the report, I would pass it over to my manager to check.'

Close

I would escalate it to:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

2. A phrase which means you have to think about something before you reach a decision or conclusion, is
         

You must take into consideration:
(phrase) One of the purposes of being asked this question in a job interview is to see how your problem solving skills are. If you can demonstrate that you are methodical in how you approach problems (i.e. you evaluate information, options or evidence thoroughly), it will show that you are less likely to reach the wrong conclusion or make the wrong decision.

This is what the phrase 'you must take into consideration' is used to show you do. It shows that you are careful and thorough when making decisions or conclusions.

For example:

'When you are building a new website for a customer, you must take into consideration the needs of the people who will be using it. Whether it be customers or staff. Although a beautiful website is important, if it's difficult to use, the website is not doing what it should be doing.'

Close

You must take into consideration:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

3. When you want to tell the interviewer(s) about an action you would never do, you would start by saying
         

But at no point would I:
(phrase) When you explain what you would do in a hypothetical situation, it's important to not only say what you would do, but also what you wouldn't. By doing so, it shows that you have experience of dealing with these types of situations. And this is what is what the phrase 'but at no point would I' is used to do.

This phrase is followed by the the thing you wouldn't do (e.g. 'criticise the person'). After saying what you wouldn't do, it is recommended that you explain why you wouldn't do it. You can then follow this explanation by what you would do instead.

For example:

'But at no point would I tell the person what they have done wrong. In my experience, some people regard this as criticism and it makes an already difficult situation worse. Instead, I would try to get the person to identify what they've done wrong themselves.'

Close

But at no point would I:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

4. A phrase where you tell the interviewer(s) that you have experienced a situation very much like the one they are asking you about, is
         

I faced a similar situation:
(phrase) One of the purposes of asking hypothetical questions in interviews is to see what an interviewee's work experience is. If you have had to deal with a situation which is similar to the one they are asking you about, tell them this in your answer. If you haven't, then invent one.

The phrase 'I faced a similar situation' is used to do this.

When you use this phrase, you should follow it with some details about the situation. First say where it happened and what the situation was. Keep what you say brief/short and don't explain what you did (that's not the question they are asking you to answer). For example:

'I faced a similar situation when I was working at Microsoft. A member of my team sent out an internal email to over 2 million business customers by mistake.'

You should try to talk about the similar situation you have faced at the beginning of your answer.

Close

I faced a similar situation:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

5. A phrase which contains 'it' which is used to give reasons why you would do something, is
         

It not only ensures:
(phrase) Just saying what actions you would do in an hypothetical situation is not enough. You need to back them up by giving reasons why you would do them. Although not always necessary to do, you should always give reasons if the action is an important one. This is what the phrase 'it not only ensures' is used to introduce.

The phrase 'it (or you can use 'this' instead) not only ensures' is used when you want to give two (or more) reasons why you'd do it. When using this phrase, you should always use 'that' after the phrase (and before the first reason). Also, you need to introduce the second reason you give with the word 'but'.

For example:

'First of all, I would organise a meeting with the potential client. This not only ensures that we start to build up a relationship (which is important for selling), but that I can start to subtly promote the products my company sold.'

A similar phrase which you can use instead of 'it/this not only ensures' is 'this is not only for'.

If you just want to give one reason, you should say 'it/this ensures' instead.

Close

It not only ensures:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

6. A phrase which is used to say the action you would start with when dealing with a hypothetical situation, is
         

First of all I would:
(phrase) One of the purposes of asking hypothetical questions in interviews is to see how well you can express yourself. To demonstrate this, you need to explain the actions you would do in the order that you would do them in them. To ensure that the interviewers don't get lost in your explanation, you need to introduce each action you would do with a 'step/order' phrase.

'First of all I would' is an example of a 'step/order' phrase. This phrase (obviously) is used to introduce what you'd do first. When you want to introduce subsequent actions, you would use other 'step/order' phrases. For example, 'then', 'after that', 'next', 'once I have done that', 'finally' etc...

Close

First of all I would:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

7. When you want an opinion you give about a subject or situation to sound like it comes from a lot of experience, you would start by saying
         

I always find:
(verb/phrase) When you give your opinion about something you would do in an hypothetical situation, it is better that the opinion sounds like it comes from experience.

One of the purposes of asking hypothetical questions in interviews is to see if the interviewee has had experience of dealing with similar situations in their working career. If it sounds like they do, the interviewee will seem less of a risk to employ.

So, when you are giving an opinion in such a question, instead of using 'I think' or 'I believe', use 'I always find' (or 'I find'). 'I always find' gives the impression that the opinion you are giving is based on personal experience.

For example:

'I always find that people react better when you ask for their input on how to solve a problem rather than just telling them what to do.'

Close

I always find:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

8. A phrase used to say that an action needs to have been done before another one can happen, is
         

Should already have:
(phrase) This phrase is simply used to say that an action (or actions) needs to have been done before another can take place. When using 'should already have' in your answer, it is common to say 'before' and the name of the action which follows these earlier actions being done.

For example:

'Before the meeting, you should already have spoken to the people attending about what topics will and won't be discussed.'

'Should already have' is commonly used when people talk about actions which they do, which they see as obvious or not very important.

For example:

'Before sending the report, you should already have checked it for any spelling mistakes.'

Close

Should already have:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

9. A phrase used to emphasis that an action is 'essential' to do, is
         

It's very important to:
(phrase) Not every action you do will have the same importance when you are explaining what you would do in a hypothetical situation. Some are more important than others. With these important actions, you should highlight/emphasise them in the answer you give.

In order to do this, you should use the phrase 'It's very important to' in front of the action You would follow this with details of the action that you need to do (e.g. 'make sure...', 'organise...', 'contact...' etc...).

For example:

'It's very important to organise a meeting as quickly as you can between the parties involved.'

And because the action is very important, you have to follow this by an explanation why (i.e. give reasons).

Close

It's very important to:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

10. A phrase which contains 'for' which is used to give reasons why you would do something, is
         

This is not only for:
(phrase) Just saying what actions you would do in an hypothetical situation is not enough. You need to back them up by giving reasons why you would do them. Although not always necessary to do, you should always give reasons if the action is important. This is what the phrase 'this is not only for' is used to introduce.

The phrase 'this is not only for' is used when you want to give two (or more) reasons why you'd do it. When using this phrase, you need to always introduce the second reason you give with 'but for' or 'but also for'.

For example:

'First of all, I would organise a meeting with potential client. This is not only for building up a relationship, but also for subtly promoting the products my company sold.'

A similar phrase which you can use instead of 'this is not only for' is 'it/this not only ensures'.

Close

This is not only for:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

11. A phrase which is a more formal way of saying 'you must', is
         

You need to ensure that:
(phrase) This is basically a more formal way of saying 'you have to' or 'you must'. It is often used when you want to explain that an action has to be done in specific way. You then refer to something you or somebody has to do.

For example:

'Once you have been made aware of a fire in the factory, you would start evacuation procedures. Once these are started, you have to ensure that staff don't panic and start running to the fire exits.'

Close

You need to ensure that:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

12. A reason why an action should be done, is
         

Is invaluable to making the right decision:
(phrase) Just saying what actions you would do in an hypothetical situation is not enough. You need to back them up by giving reasons why you would do them. Although not always necessary to do, you should always give a reason (if not more) if the action is important.

The phrase 'is invaluable to making the right decision' is an example of such a reason. But it can be anything (e.g. 'it builds up trust', 'are more likely to buy from you in the future' etc...).

In the phrase 'is invaluable to making the right decision', 'invaluable' means that something is very helpful.

Close

Is invaluable to making the right decision:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close






Practice

Now that you understand the structure and the vocabulary used for answering type of question, practise it by creating your own answer for this interview question.

Blair English online classes