Would You Ask Hypothetical Questions in an Interview?

When interviewing a candidate for a job, you need to ask good questions. The challenge with asking a hypothetical question is that you aren’t going to get the most accurate response. In this video, learn why you shouldn’t be asking hypothetical questions and how to ask in a more effective way.

Where Do You Look for Interview Questions?

What would you do if you’re trying to figure out the very best questions to ask a candidate during the hiring process? Well, you might google ‘best questions to ask,’ you might leaf through a few books you have on your bookshelf, you might talk to a few people, either in HR or who have a lot of experience with interviewing to get your answer.

Or you might just wing it!

That’s why asking hypothetical questions will not give you the best answers during an interview. In this video, I’m going to be talking about why that’s a problem and what kind of questions you should be asking instead.

Hypothetical Questions Don’t Get The Most Accurate Responses

The challenge with asking a hypothetical question is that you aren’t going to get the most accurate response. If you pose the question in the manner of “what would you do in this situation?” or “how would you handle this event?” you are asking for their best-case scenarios, their best intentions. Their response is going to be based on what they think they should do, what they would like to do, or perhaps what they think you want them to do.

Ask Questions About Past Behavior

Instead we want their response to be based on past behavior. That’s because it’s the best indicator for future behavior. Let’s ask them about a situation they have been in. What did they do? What steps did they take? That will give us a much better and more accurate idea of how they will handle a similar situation in the future.

A Hypothetical Scenario about Hypotheticals

So let’s look at a fun example. Let’s say I’m trying to lose a few pounds. And someone asks me: “Robin, I understand you are on a diet and we’re going to be serving chocolate cake following dinner tonight. How are you going to handle that?” My response is going to be something along these lines: “This is a very important goal to me. I’m very self-disciplined and I have a lot of will power so I would have no trouble turning away that chocolate cake because the long run is more important to me.”

So that may or may not be what I do. But what if I’m with a lot of friends and we’re having a lot of fun, some wine, the chocolate cake arrives and everyone starts raving that it’s the best chocolate cake they’ve ever had. They say, ‘come on, Robin, one bite is not going to hurt you!’ Well, my long-term goals might be thrown out the window in that instant.

That’s what happens when an interview situation is very different than a work situation with a lot of other factors as to how someone makes a decision or moves forward.

Rephrasing the Question to Get Better Answers

A better way to ask that question is: “Robin, tell us about how you moved through some key obstacles when you were working towards an important objective.” Then just sit down and listen. Observe and dig deeper through some of the pieces that they highlight. That will give you a much better understanding of what you’re after.

Some Examples of Great Questions

To help you stay away from those hypothetical questions, I’ve put together a one page document that highlights some of my favorite interview questions. Hit the Download button and you can access it now. It also has a few other tips such as focusing on past behavior and bring out your best listening skills.


Check out other videos in the Learning Resource Center, available to you as a member. Here’s to your Graceful Leadership!

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