Hypothetical interview questions (with examples and answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An interviewer might use a set of hypothetical questions to better understand how you behave within the workplace. When asked these questions, it's an opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills to provide solutions to these hypothetical scenarios. How you answer might determine whether the hiring manager considers you a suitable candidate. In this article, we cover the definition of hypothetical interview questions, including general questions and queries about your experience and background, and examples of common hypothetical questions with sample answers.

General hypothetical interview questions

In your meeting, an interviewer could ask a number of hypothetical interview questions. This helps them get a better idea of you as an individual. Find below a few examples of general questions:

  1. How would you keep a positive mindset working in this role?

  2. How would you deal with a particularly stressful situation?

  3. How would you execute a successful conflict resolution?

  4. How would you keep up a good work/life balance when working with us?

  5. How would you react if you didn't understand a work instruction?

  6. How do you tend to work in large groups of people?

Related: QA interview questions and how to answer them

Questions about your experience and background

After asking a number of broad, general interview questions, the hiring manager is likely to niche down their questioning. This means they could ask questions regarding your specific experiences and background. Find below examples of hypothetical interview questions about your experience and background an interviewer could ask:

  1. How would your previous job roles make you a good fit with this company?

  2. Your previous role was in a much smaller team, how would you cope working with a larger team?

  3. How have you learned to deal with failure, and what could that bring to this role?

  4. What was your biggest working achievement and how would you look to build upon that working with us?

  5. Do you have a history of managing multiple workloads, how would you cope with our fast-paced environment?

  6. What would you say is your strongest attribute, and how could it make a difference to this company?

Related: Values-based interview questions and sample answers

In-depth questions

To find out more about you as a potential candidate, an interview could also prompt you with in-depth questions. These queries suggest the interviewer is looking for you to give a full and rounded answer. Find some examples of in-depth interview questions below:

  1. How have you ever dealt with conflict in the workplace, and how did it affect the employee you are today?

  2. If I have you a choice of working style, what would you pick and why?

  3. What steps would you take to build rapport with clients at our company?

  4. How would you approach the new tasks in this role that you haven't completed before?

  5. How would you respond if you disagreed with a choice I made as your line manager?

  6. Tell me about the steps you would take to make a new member of the team feel welcome and comfortable?

Related: Interview question: 'How do you make effective decisions?'

Examples of hypothetical questions and answers

Prior to attending an interview, it's a good idea to study a range of common interview questions the hiring manager could pose to you. This allows you to feel fully prepared and less nervous when the day comes. Consider the hypothetical questions below with sample answers for you to familiarise yourself with:

How would you react if you had to complete a task that made you feel dissatisfied in your role?

When asking this question, an interviewer is trying to gain insight into how you deal with dissatisfaction within your role. A potential employer is looking for employees who are proactive in dealing with and solving issues that arise. Discuss how you would go about resolving this dissatisfaction and the steps you would take.

Example: 'If I were ever at a point of feeling dissatisfied with a task I was completing in my role, my first steps would be to assess the situation. Firstly, I would look at myself and consider if there's anything I can change to feel more satisfied. For example, my way of thinking or my work environment. If I still feel dissatisfaction after this, I would look to communicate my feelings with my line manager to see how they can help support me either make the task more enjoyable or seek other tasks I would feel more enthusiastic about.'

Related: 6 brain teaser interview questions and how to answer them

How would you make a good first impression on a new client?

When asking this question, a hiring manager is looking to gain insight into the steps you take to make great first impressions. It often puts new employers at ease when they're able to see a candidate would be able to perform well with clients and help to maintain and garner new business. Make sure to mention all the steps you take to ensure you make a good impression.

Example: 'I consider myself a people person, and one of my favourite parts of the job is meeting and building rapport with new clients. I always make sure to introduce myself ahead of our initial meeting, be that a quick email or phone call. When it comes to the meeting, I always make sure to be friendly and approachable, coming fully prepared with information and documents on hand to make sure the conversation runs smoothly.

I always seek common ground on a personal and professional level with a new client, which I find further helps to build rapport. After the meeting, I make sure to follow up with a message to make sure our meeting ends on a good note, leaving a lasting impression.'

Related: What are open-ended interview questions?

What if you had to work with a difficult colleague on a project?

It's important for a hiring manager to know a new employee can work well with a range of people, even some difficult employees. When answering a question like this, remember to affirm that being professional is always your main concern and discuss how you place personal feelings to the side. Also, mention the steps you could take if you couldn't find a resolution with this difficult colleague.

Example: 'As much as I love being part of a team, in every workplace and every role there are always colleagues who are more challenging to work with than others. My approach to this is remaining professional and making sure to cast my personal feelings aside to get a project or task completed to a high standard. If I found I was having conflict with this colleague I was not able to resolve, I would reach out to my manager to discuss the best steps forward.'

Related: Smart answers to interview questions (with examples)

If I told you that you had failed on a task, what would your reaction be?

When asking this question, a hiring manager is trying to understand how you deal with criticism. It's important to show you're a candidate who takes on negative feedback well and uses it constructively. Be honest and realistic but positive about ways forward.

Example: 'It's never easy to take negative feedback, but I believe it's necessary to grow and develop. When being told I had failed, I would first look within myself to identify what I would do differently next time. I would then gain full clarity from you about the areas I had failed and ways I could improve.'

Tips for answering hypothetical questions

Hypothetical questions are typically open-ended and require you to give information-filled responses. This can make them trickier to answer than closed questions, as they require more thought to go into the response. Use the tips below when preparing to answer hypothetical questions:

Tell a full story with your answer

The main benefit of hypothetical questions is the longer and more expansive answers they allow you to give. Use these opportunities wisely to give considered answers that demonstrate your attributes and core skills. Do this by providing full examples and telling a complete story as part of your response. For example, address the problem at hand and then explain how you dealt with it to ensure swift resolution, covering every step you took.

Link your experiences

Make sure each stage of your answer to a hypothetical question links well. This allows you to paint a complete and clear story for a hiring manager. Link each point to another seamlessly, from the initial problem stage to resolution.

Ask for clarity

If you're confused by the interviewer's question, always gain clarity rather than attempting to answer a question you don't fully understand. Ask your interviewer to repeat the question or ask them to phrase it in a way that's easier for you to understand. After gaining clarification, you're in a much better position to give an impressive and considered response to the hiring manager.

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