Tips & Advice

How to answer 'hypothetical' questions

How to answer situational judgement questions in applications.

While many firms are known for asking ‘hypothetical’, ‘situational judgment‘-type questions at Assessment Centre stage, some firms may also ask these questions during the written application stage. For those unfamiliar, here is an example of this question type:

You are a trainee in STRIVE LLP’s Corporate Department. Your supervisor has been working on a piece of research for a prospective client with the matter partner (and you have had minimal involvement in the matter so far), but your supervisor called you this morning to let you know that she is ill and therefore will take leave today. She will not be contactable for the rest of the day. The matter partner calls you and asks for a summary note of the research your supervisor has done by COB today, which is intended to be sent to the prospective client. The partner stresses that this is urgent as STRIVE LLP would like to be retained by the prospective client for future work. In the meantime, you have received emails from two other associates who have asked you for updates on matters you have not yet started. How would you react?

From our experience, we see that students struggle with these questions for four main reasons:

  1. They are lulled into a false sense of security that these questions are more ‘freehand’, and therefore they throw structure out of the window;
  2. They do not effectively use the facts provided by the question. For example, the question specifically mentioned Corporate, COB today, the fact that your supervisor has already previously worked on the deal (which means you rather than redoing the research on your own you should look on file to see what has already been done, rather than duplicating work), the fact that the research note is ultimately meant to be sent to the client etc for a reason.