Job Interview Question

Situational Response Question:  An airplane landed in the parking lot. What would you do?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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Most situational interview questions are like behavioral interview questions.  They have some direct relation to the job…like, “You are introducing a new policy to the group and facing opposition.  How would you handle it?”  Or, “How would you handle a situation in which a subordinate was not performing to expectations?”

Others seem like ridiculous, oddball questions that don’t have any relevance to the job at all…but what they do for employers is give them a window into how you think.  How do you approach a challenging situation?  That’s why they ask these kinds of questions.

You never know what they might ask, and there’s really no way to prepare for them.  I’ve seen some crazy questions like:

  • How would you move Mount Fuji?
  • How many light bulbs are in this building?
  • What are 5 uncommon uses of a brick, not including building, layering, or a paper-weight?
  • Suppose you had eight identical balls. One of them is slightly heavier and you are given a balance scale. What’s the fewest number of times you have to use the scale to find the heavier ball?

If you get asked one of these, just take a deep breath and roll with it.  The key is to walk them through your thought process.  Talk your way through it, showing how you would approach, think about, or strategize about whatever situation they throw at you.

So if I were asked what I would do if an airplane landed in the parking lot, I would say something like:

“I’m not sure I would do anything.  If there are a lot of other people around and they look like they know what they’re doing, I think I would stay back and let them handle it.  If no one’s hurt, I don’t see that I have to get involved in that at all, except for maybe calling 911.

If someone’s hurt, or there’s the possibility that someone will be hurt, then I would have to execute something very quickly.  But what that would be exactly depends on a lot of things:  How big is the plane?  Where is it?  What do I have access to?  There would be a lot of questions that would have to be answered before I decided which action would be the most effective to take.”

What I’m doing with this answer is demonstrating that I could evaluate, analyze, and sum up a situation before I decided on which action to take.  Immediate, ‘charge in on a white horse’ action is not always the best move.  Sometimes it’s more important to stop and create a strategy first.

There’s no really wrong answer to these questions.  (Well, maybe to the math-based ones…but I’m assuming that if you get asked a math-based question, you’re in a math-based field, which means you’re equipped to work out the answer to it.)  Just take them through your thought process and reason it out.  It will be OK.


Got a big interview coming up? Let’s make sure you’re ready to ace it with 1:1 coaching or group coaching classes!



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