Situational and Behavioral Interview Questions

More and more, employers are shifting from the traditional interview to a more behavioral-based format.  Today I’ll explore behavioral and situational questions.  I’ll define them, let you know why they’re being asked, list several examples, and finally offer some tips for handling them effectively.

People often confuse these two types of questions, but they actually have different definitions.

With behavioral questions, the interviewer is asking you to share a time when something happened and how you dealt with it.  This makes sense, since how you behaved in the past is a pretty fair indicator of how you’d handle the situation in the future.  If employers have already identified the types of behavior they seek in a future employee, why not get right to the point of understanding your past behavior?

With situational questions, the interviewer provides a hypothetical scenario, then asks what you’d do in that situation.  They want to understand your problem solving thought process.

The reason candidates often use the two terms interchangeably lies in the fact that we try to answer them in the same way – ideally by sharing our past experiences (behavioral) even if the question posed was a hypothetical one (situational).

Some examples of behavioral questions might include:

Tell me about time when you overcame a challenge… about a time you reached a goal… about how you worked as part of a team… about how you’ve handled conflict.

So how should you answer behavioral questions?  Remember, they’re asking you to recall a time when…

Think of S.A.R. – scenario/situation, actions, results.  Briefly describe the problem or challenge.  Outline the steps you undertook to address the problem.  Lastly, let them know how things turned out, ideally quantifying your answer with dollar amounts, percentages, etc.

Some examples of situational questions might include:

What would you do if you were given an assignment and you knew there’d be no way you could get it done on time?  What would you do if you saw another employee stealing or otherwise violating company policy?  How would you respond to criticism you felt was unwarranted?

How should you answer situational questions?  Remember, they’re providing a hypothetical and asking how you’d deal with it.

If you’ve actually encountered their hypothetical scenario in your past, then answer the same as you would when addressing a behavioral question.  If you haven’t encountered their scenario, then let them know you don’t recall having dealt with that exact situation, but relay a S.A.R. from something similar.  If you have nothing similar with which to compare it, then talk about how you’d envision addressing the issue.

Many employers still conduct traditional interviews where the focus in on standard questions like your strengths/weaknesses, goals, describing your past jobs and why you left.

Yet for those behavioral interviews, you’ll also need to be prepared.  I hope today has given you a bit of a game plan on how to handle them with more confidence.  Good luck!

Our Job Centers are a great free resource to use for interview preparation. We have 4 Job Center locations in Sioux City, IA, Storm Lake, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, and Rapid City, SD. Our Job Center hours are Monday-Thursday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am-noon.

Encouragement Found in Goodwill Pre-Vocational Program

Joey has witnessed crime first hand. She worked in the court system and has had to deal with people coming in and out of the court system. Joey knew that her life was not going to get any better living around this crime, so she made a decision. A decision that she knew would be hard but had to be done for the good of her son.  With her son she moved to Spearfish in search of a better life.

About a year and a half ago Joey tragically suffered from a head injury that caused short-term memory damage. Joey knew that during this difficult time she needed help and support. She moved to Sioux Falls where a friend helped her adjust back to normal life.

Joey was referred to Goodwill’s Pre-Vocational Program to learn how to get back into the job setting. It has been hard for Joey to learn how to do her job and McKenna, Program Manager in Sioux Falls, encouraged Joey to keep trying and learning even when it is difficult. Joey said, “I have had a hard time getting adjusted, but I know who to go to for help. The physical part of the job has been difficult for me, but I am thankful for the encouraging words from Goodwill staff.”

Our Pre-Vocational Program at Goodwill helps train individuals with disabilities and mental illness. Pre-Vocational services are available for up to two years to support additional soft skill development with a goal to become work ready. When you make a monetary donation, donate your goods, or shop in our retail stores you are helping people like Joey work towards becoming work ready.

Goodwill® Date Night Scavenger Hunt



A few years ago, my other-half and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a #GoodwillDateNight! It was so fun for us to pick outfits for one another and find inexpensive, surprising activities for us to do after we shopped. This year, we thought we’d try another Goodwill date, but shake it up by adding a scavenger hunt! So, I whipped up a quick list of things for us to look for (download the checklist here!) and we headed out to our local Goodwill.

When you shop at one of the more than 3,300 Goodwill stores, you help Goodwill create employment placement and job training programs as well as other community-based services, so we’d love for you and your partner to give our scavenger hunt a try this Valentine’s Day, too! But, before you step into the store, make a plan with your honey about the rules, time limit, and prize for the winner. That way, as soon as you get inside, you can jump right into the game! A few things to consider:




How long do you two want to hunt around for? The longer you’re there, of course, the more likely it is you’ll both find everything on the list. Plus, you won’t feel rushed to focus on the list and you can do a bit of browsing, too. But at the same time, some people do well under pressure and if you have plans for dinner or a movie after your scavenger hunt, then you’ll need to keep that in mind. Whatever you decide, make sure you’re both on the same page and that you set timers if necessary!



Are you a viciously competitive team? If so, maybe make sure you’re not being spied on! Should one person start at the back of the store and work their way forward while the other starts on the right and works their way left to minimize the chances of running into each other? Or, do you welcome the idea of bumping into one another? You are doing this to spend time together, after all. And how will you keep track of the items you’ve found—is it just enough to check them off of your lists or do you require photographic evidence?

We know how hard our Goodwill associates work hard to keep stores tidy, so we wanted to make sure we weren’t putting everything on our checklists into a cart for them to have to put back. (Although, if we did find something we loved, then obviously it would be a fun memory of our Goodwill date and have a welcomed place in our home.) So we decided to text each other a photo of each item on the list as we found them. It was kind of exciting to see the progress the other person was making. Sort of like the feeling of watching a sports game and seeing the other team score—makes you want to up your game, right? And we decided that the first person to find an item gets the point for it. I can’t just walk over to something he’s already counted and use that, too. I’ve got to find something different for my list. Tricky!

Another thing to decide ahead of time; if you find an item that actually meets two of the conditions on the list, does that one thing qualify for both or do you have to find a different item for everything on the list? It’s up to you!

Now, what determines the winner? Is it the first person to find everything on the list? The person with the most items checked when your time limit is up? And what happens if there’s a tie? All are important things which you can discuss and decide upon on your way over to your local Goodwill.



You could go a few different ways with a prize for the winner. One of the items on the list is to find a clothing piece for your Valentine. If you’re going by the traditional idea of a Goodwill Date Night (where you choose a statement outfit—sometimes they can be pretty wild—for your partner to wear on the rest of the date), the reward for the winner might play into that. But you could also say that the loser buys dinner or the winner picks what movie you see that night. Whatever works for you! Just make sure you decide beforehand so you know what’s at stake.



Okay, ready to check in and see how we did? We printed off our checklists, swung by our favorite coffee shop for game fuel, and headed out to Goodwill. I found almost everything on the list (and even a few things that weren’t!). Here’s how mine came out…


Something heart shaped

  •   A pink candle or candlestick

Red roses

A Valentine’s Date clothing item for your partner to wear

A movie with “Love” in the title

A romance novel

A product or item designed specifically for a wedding

A vinyl record made with crooner-style songs

A red dress

A red necktie

A flower vase

  •    Something with the word “Valentine” on it
  •    A picture frame with a photo/painting of a couple in it

A piece of diamond jewelry (faux is okay)

  •      A chocolate or candy tin
  •      A china set suitable for newlyweds

Cupid’s arrow

A board game that only works with two people (Examples: Battleship, Guess Who?)

  •    Something that says “Dear,” “Darling,” or another term of endearment

Two matching champagne flutes or wine glasses


I can’t decide on my favorite find of the date. It was either this heart-shaped baking pan or the adorable cream and sugar containers on the shelf behind it (even though they’re not Valentine’s Day related, they may or may not have ended up in my cart…). I also have to admit that I cheated a little when I texted the dress below to my husband and just mentioned how well it would work as a Valentine’s Date clothing item for me to wear—ha! I mean, it does have little hearts on the label and the faux-leather detailing coupled with the silky bodice is just perfect! It also has a statement zipper in the back which is pretty much my style weakness. I didn’t mind helping his chances of winning if it meant that maybe I’d get to take the dress home!


All in all, it was a really fun and different way to spend time together for Valentine’s Day. As adults, we rush around between work and our other life responsibilities without much time to play games. It was a nice return to our dating years for us to just set some time aside for the scavenger hunt. I’d rate the date: 10/10 would play again! I hope that whatever you do to celebrate the your loved one this Valentine’s Day, you have just as much fun.

Job Center Spotlight-Sioux Falls

Each week we are going to spotlight one of our job centers. This week we are spotlighting our Job Center at 3400 S. Norton Ave. Sioux Falls, SD.  Our Job Centers are a great free employment resource for our community to use to search and apply for jobs, improve computer skills and access community resources. Our Job Center Representatives, Eduardo and Taylor are willing to help you reach your employment goals. Let’s learn more about Eduardo and Taylor!


  • Are you a dog or cat person (or both or neither)?
    • Cat
  • What is the best vacation you ever had?
    • Orlando Universal Studios with my family
  • What fictional place would you like to visit?
    • Singing Towers of Darillium (Doctor Who)


  • Are you a dog or cat person (or both or neither)?
    • I am most definitely a cat person! I love them.
  • What is the best vacation you ever had?
    • Best vacation I ever took would be the Black Hills every summer of my life with my family. The Black Hills are the BEST!!!
  • What fictional place would you like to visit?
    • A fictional place I would like to visit would be Hogwarts and Hogsmeade Village from the Harry Potter series.

Come visit Eduardo and Taylor and our Job Center in Sioux Falls, SD. The Job Center hours are Monday-Thursday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am-noon.

Deana’s Journey to Reaching Her Dreams

Social anxiety is a condition where an individual has difficulty feeling comfortable interacting with people. Deana had been dealing with social anxiety for years and she didn’t feel comfortable leaving the comforts of her house. Unfortunately, her husband lost his job due to the plant shutting down. There was no income coming in, so they had to do something to put food on the table and a safe home for their goddaughter who they just received guardianship for.

Deana and her husband went to the Department of Human Services to receive assistance during this difficult time. They applied for Food Stamps and they helped her husband get a job. However, to receive this assistance Deana had to enter a Goodwill program. Deana started the Employment Skills Training Program through the South Dakota Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Deana’s work site was provided through Goodwill.

Deana was nervous about working at Goodwill and didn’t know what to expect. “My first day in the door I didn’t know what to think of these people. I was shy and quiet,” Deana said. After about 3 days into this 6-week program Deana fell in love with Goodwill and the culture. She knew that this was where she was meant to be. After the 6-week period, Deana and the staff knew that she still had areas to improve upon. The program was extended to 12 weeks. Deana didn’t have a problem with this though. She said with positive attitude, “I had nowhere to go but up.”

Family is an important part of her life both at home and at work. “We are a strong family at Goodwill,” Deana said.  Deana believes that coming to work with a great team is everything to her. Deana’s family extends to her customers also. “We laugh and pray together,” Deana stated with joy.

Deana is now in the LEAP UP program working towards receiving her High School Diploma. The LEAP UP program has been a challenge for Deana because she has a learning disability, but Deana is determined to work towards her goals. Deana said gratefully, “I have great plans for my life that I never would have achieved had it not been for Goodwill.”

A chance to succeed is a crucial part of the Goodwill mission. At Goodwill, we give people the resources to create a better life for themselves and their families. Our philosophy at Goodwill is we give people “a hand up not a handout.”  We believe that if people are given the resources to succeed they will be able to become self-sufficient.  We serve many people like Deana who need some assistance with developing job skills. Making a monetary donation is a vital role that you can play in supporting Goodwill programs. These donations are not only tax deductible, but you are helping individuals find employment to reach their goals.