Whether you are changing your career or switching jobs, scoring an interview is always exciting and nerve-wracking. Feel free to celebrate first, since getting an interview is the first step to achieving your goals. The next action to take now is to show the potential employer that you are as fit and qualified for the job as your application portrayed. To do so, preparation is key–especially for the really tough interview questions.
In an interview, regardless of the job or field, predicting the questions you might receive is definitely a gamble. Every employer differs in their hiring process and the information they think would best encapsulate how fit you are for the company. Some interview questions may be general and common across most interviews. For example, you might hear: “Tell me a little about yourself,” or “What did you learn from previous jobs that are relevant to this job?” Other questions might pop up that throw you for a loop. Tough interview questions, albeit rare, may impact the chance of you getting hired.
Tough interview questions appear when you least expect them. Most people find this to be the source of their anticipation. Fortunately, this guide can provide some universally tough interview questions, how to answer them, and how to reply when in doubt.
Look Out for These Tough Interview Questions
Certain questions are tough because they tend to be more direct and personal. Employers want to understand who you are on a deeper level, in order to estimate how you would react in certain situations. Many of these questions may be about specific experiences or difficult hypothetical situations. Here’s a list of difficult questions and how to go about answering them:
Introduce yourself or Describe who you are as a person
Don’t mistake this question as an invitation to talk about your life story. The perfect answer will be a concise description of how you want to portray yourself. Approach this prompt as it is without reading too much into—it isn’t rocket science. Who are you? What main parts about you or your life do you want the employer to know?
As scary as this question may seem, it’s actually a wonderful chance to control the tides of the rest of the interview. Dish out some relevant points, interests, or skills you have that you want the employer to focus on. The keyword here is relevance. Adding some tidbits about your hobbies or personality is fine as long as you don’t go on about them. It would be even better if you can somehow incorporate them into the position you’re applying for.
For example, speaking extensively about your gardening hobby isn’t the best move if you’re applying for an accounting job. However, if you sell any plants or produce from your garden as a side hustle, mention how you enjoy keeping your transactions organized in a record along with your other finances.
Why did you leave your last job?
Answering this question depends on your personal experience. If you simply decided to leave your job, try to explain why you left your job honestly. Was the work environment not for you? Did you have a difficult boss or manager that made work more stressful than productive?
If you were fired from your last job, then this question may be challenging to traverse. Don’t freak out! Try not to focus on the negative aspects of your experience or bring up the reasons behind your dismissal (unless asked directly). Keep your answer short and bring attention to how you reacted to the circumstances. What did you learn from it? What did you do during unemployment that shows you tried to take the reigns back and prepare for getting back to work? Essentially, a great answer will put on a positive twist that shows how you dealt with the curveball.
These tips can also apply if you have gaps in your resume.
What did you like and/or dislike about your last job?
A common theme with answering a lot of these tough interview questions is staying positive. The same applies to your reply to what you liked and didn’t like about your last job. It should be easy enough to highlight what you enjoyed, which will depend on the person. The employer does not care as much about the details as they do about the way you reply. Make sure you don’t go over-the-top about how amazing the past job was—otherwise, why are you applying to a new one?
On the same token, don’t take this as a vent session to unload all your grievances about your last job. Instead of talking about a laundry list of problems, it’s always helpful to be specific. Briefly include how you responded to such things at your last job. Reactions tell a lot more about a person than workplace preferences do.
How much do you expect your salary to be?
Many people stumble in answering the question about salary expectations, which is completely understandable. Usually, the hourly salary is included in the job posting, so when this question appears, it might feel like a trap. Should you report a salary less than or more than the average?
Just take a deep breath and give an objective answer. Include the reported average salary for the position based on sources, usually in an estimated range. For example: “The salary range for this profession is $17-$25, which sounds good to me. I am, however, am willing to negotiate.” Adding the part about negotiating is key in portraying yourself as flexible. However, if you are not flexible, be clear in your stance respectfully, and be ready to explain why.
What is your greatest weakness?
This question is quite high on its anxiety-inducing factor. If you get questions asking about your strengths, chances are it will be followed up by this tough question about your weaknesses. A big red flag in answering this question is replying with a strength disguised as a weakness—for example, saying you are a workaholic or a perfectionist. All you need to do is be honest. It would be difficult to mess up a truthful answer. Obviously, it’s best to talk about a weakness that is work-specific and not too personal. End on a hopeful note by including how you’re trying to work on this weakness.
Why should we hire you?
When employers ask this, they really want to know what it is about you that makes you special. This question digs deep into what you could contribute to the company. What differentiates you from other potential candidates? Answering it is not as simple as listing off skills you are confident in. You also cannot say, “Well, I need a job.” So how can you answer this question in a way that communicates to employers that you have what it take to work there?
Look at this tough interview question through a problem-solving perspective. Many people think this question is another way of saying, “why do you want this job?” In reality, the question wants to know what you can provide to meet the company-specific needs. So in order to answer this completely, you need to do some research. Find out what the company goals or struggles are and see where you can fit in. How can you be the puzzle pieces necessary to fill the gaps? Be specific in the company’s needs and in what skills you can provide. Explain how the abilities you offer will embellish the company’s aims.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
The purpose of this question is to assess your commitment to the job. That does not necessarily mean that the employer wants to make sure you will sign your life away to this one job. Rather, they want to figure out how relevant it is to your future career goals. The greater the relevance, the more likely you will be to work diligently in the company. Even if your vision isn’t exactly relevant, you can be honest as long as you connect the experience at this company to your goals. Many skills are transferable regardless of the subject matter.
Hopefully, this list of commonly asked tough interview questions helps you prepare for your interview. It would be fantastic to make it through an interview without any of these questions, but be ready for anything. If you take anything from these interview tips, stay as honest as possible, keep things positive, and always connect what you say back to the job you’re applying for.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.