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Answering “The Hypothetical Question” | No BS Job Search Advice Radio

EP 808  Hypothetical questions are a rat hole leading you into a trap. Here, I explain how to handle them.


Imagine that you are on an interview, you are talking with someone who is there to evaluate you, and they say to you those magic words, "What would you do if . . . "Then they paint some sort of scenario.

You and I both know that there was a lot more that they haven't told you that they can drop in your head like a bomb later once you've answered the question based upon what limited information they have given you. How do you not feel at this question?

I think the answer comes down to talking about the process. Start by saying, "I'm sure there is a lot more texture than what you have told me so far. As a result, I think what might be most effective is how it might go about evaluating how to figure out the solution rather than offer you an actual solution. As a result, what I want to talk with you about is (1) identifying the constituencies will be affected by this; (2) then go through the process of evaluation.

They may say, "No, it is as simple as what we've asked." Okay, and as you start to answer, and they start throwing in more grenades into the situation, you pause for a second and say, "This is why it is so important to engage in the process because I would need to flush up additional things that can surface in the course of discovery. "

"I know I've had people come to me who are on my staff and were complaining about someone else and they wanted me to resolve it. Or, I have a user that I support who is having a problem with someone on my staff and they want me to fix them because they are not doing their job. But what I have to do is understand what it is that is wrong and go into some detail and speak with that person and going to some detail and, then, from there, your perspective on from everyone side, including some of the ones who have been affected by the blows who are affected by the different parties involved so that in this way I can actually solve it."

"Answering 2 lines of 'what would you do if' doesn't really give me any texture; talking to everyone does. Talking to not just simply the ones that they recommend but some of the others will."

So that's how I would go about answering it. That's how I recommend you do it.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. He is the host of “Job Search Radio” and “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” both available through iTunes and Stitcher.

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