How to Answer the Toughest Interview Questions

two women looking at person across the table
two women looking at person across the table

When you’re faced with a tough interview question, you may feel uncomfortable answering it. These types of questions often relate to your personal life, your weaknesses, or mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

However, no matter what type of interview question you’re asked, it’s important to never get flustered or appear nervous. Remember that the interviewer is simply trying to learn more about you and your work experience.

When you answer tough interview questions, take a moment to think about your response before you say something. Be honest with your answers, but don’t share anything that you wouldn’t want your boss to know.

When answering tough interview questions, it’s also important to remember that most interviewers aren’t trying to catch you off guard or trick you. They want to see how well you can handle difficult situations and think on your feet.

Most people face at least one or two tough interview questions during their career. Here are several common types of interview questions and how to answer them.

Examples of Tough Interview Questions

Question: Why are you leaving your current job?

How to answer it: Never criticize a former employer or co-worker. If you have had a conflict with a boss or coworker, be careful not to blame them for the problems. Instead, try to focus on underlying issues that might be causing the conflict, and show how you can resolve them in your new position. If you were laid off, don’t make it sound like you quit – instead, emphasize your commitment to finding a new job quickly.

Question: What is your greatest strength?

How to answer it: You want to name a strength that directly relates to the job you are interviewing for and that shows the interviewer that you will be able to contribute positively to the company, such as “I’m very detail-oriented” or “I’m a great multi-tasker.”

Question: What do you know about our company?

How to answer it: This is the ultimate situational interview question. Your best bet is to prepare ahead of time by researching the company online. When doing so, look for articles on its website, blogs, and other information that might give you an idea of what is happening at the company. The more up-to-date and specific your knowledge is, the better.

When you interview in-person, do your research beforehand and jot down a few notes as to what you want to say about each of these points in order to make the most of your time during this interview question.

Question: What are your salary requirements?

How to answer it: You should never talk about salary until an offer has been made. Before that time frame, try to focus on what the job will entail and how it will fit in with your career goals. If pressed for a number, pick a vague range. Once an offer has been made, or they let you know a range you can expect to be offered, then you can talk about salary expectations. Make sure that they are realistic based on both what the company offers and what other people in similar positions earn at that company.

Question: What type of salary range are you looking for?

How to answer it: When answering this question, don’t be too specific about a number unless asked for one by the interviewer directly. Instead, try saying something like “Well, I know that comparable jobs in this field pay between $x and $y per year.” This way, if the interviewer asks for a more specific number or range later on during the interview process, you’re prepared with numbers in mind without having already given them away. If they offer a lower salary than what was mentioned earlier in the interview process (particularly if they offer significantly less), it might mean they’re not as interested in hiring you or might have another candidate in mind already but want to see if you would work for less money than they budgeted for the position. No matter what happens, try not to focus too much on money during this part of the process; instead, focus on how perfect the position seems for you and why it’s so important for your career development. Remember that money isn’t everything! Consider working at a place that’s not as high paying as long as it offers ample opportunity for growth!

Question: What would your previous employer say about your work performance?

How to answer it: Be careful when responding to this question, especially if you’re currently employed. Even if your work performance was stellar, don’t say anything negative about your current employer or anything positive about your previous employer. This response could be considered slander and could get you into big trouble if either party finds out what was said during this interview. If you want to be honest without getting yourself into trouble, choose something positive but generic instead of something negative or specific. For example, “My last employer would probably say that I was hard-working and dedicated.”

Question: What is your biggest weakness?

How to answer it: This question can be tricky to answer. You don’t want to come off as rude or arrogant by claiming to have no weaknesses. You should generally avoid directly answering the question, opting instead to discuss an area of improvement that you’re actively working on. This will show your interviewer that you’re committed to self-improvement and professional growth. For example, “I’m always looking for ways to improve my attention to detail, so I’ve been trying to work more on double-checking my work before submitting it.”

Question: What is your greatest accomplishment?

How to answer it: Try to find an accomplishment that showcases a skill or trait that you’ll need for the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a salesperson, you could mention a time when you sold over 50 units in one month. If you’re applying for a job working with children, you could mention that you volunteered at the local children’s hospital.

Question: Why do you want to work here?

How to answer it: Take the time to research the company prior to the interview. You should be prepared with specific examples of why you want to work there and how their mission statement or values align with your own personal goals and ambitions. For example, if they have a focus on community service, you can explain how you’ve also developed a passion for volunteerism and are seeking a position that will allow you to continue volunteering.

Question: How would your previous employer describe your work ethic?

How to answer it: When answering this question, it’s important that you choose your words carefully. You don’t want to come off as lazy or overconfident. Focus on tangible results instead of intangible traits. For example, “My boss would probably say that I’m very dependable and hard-working.”

Question: Why were you fired from your last job?

How to answer it: Even if you weren’t fired, this question can be tricky to answer. One way to handle it is by focusing on what would have happened if you hadn’t left. For example, “I left my previous job because I was offered an opportunity with another company that was exciting and that I felt would help me advance my career.” Another way to answer this question is by talking about how your skills have improved since then. For example, “Since then, I’ve learned many new skills that have helped me become even more productive and efficient in my work.”

Question: What is the most difficult situation you have faced at work?

How to answer it: The best way to respond to this question is by providing an example of when you had a difficult situation at work and how you handled it. This will demonstrate your ability to handle difficult situations and show that you can problem-solve effectively when under pressure. For example, “I started working with a new team member who wasn’t very receptive towards me. Instead of getting discouraged and giving up on her, I put in the extra effort and time needed until she began opening up towards me.”

Question: What motivates you in your job?

How to answer it: Try not to focus on money or material things when answering this question. Instead, choose something more intrinsic such as a desire for personal accomplishment or professional growth. For example, “I’m motivated by the challenge of learning new things and becoming more efficient at my job each day.”

Question: What’s your dream job?

How to answer it: There are two major things you should keep in mind when answering this question. The first is that you should incorporate some aspect of the job for which you’re interviewing into your response. For example, if you’re interviewing for a job with the Red Cross, you could say, “My dream job would be to travel around the country helping those in need.” The second thing you should keep in mind is to avoid being too specific. You want your dream job to be something attainable so that you can work toward it. For example, “My dream job would be becoming a computer technician.”

Question: If I called your current/previous employer, what would they say about you?

How to answer it: This question can be difficult to answer because it is asking for a specific hypothetical response. When answering this question, it’s important that you choose your words carefully and focus on what your previous manager would say about you. For example, “My previous manager would most likely say that I’m a hard-working employee who always goes above and beyond.”

Question: How do you motivate yourself?

How to answer it: When answering this question, focus on aspects of your life outside of work that motivate you. For example, “Working at my current company has motivated me to learn more about business so that I can advance my career.” Another option is to talk about how you’ve been able to overcome an obstacle by motivating yourself. For example, “I’ve been motivated by challenges throughout my life.”



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