How to Answer 10 Tough Interview Questions

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The job interview. It’s kind of like meeting your future in-laws for the first time. You’re nervous, excited, and wondering if you’ll make a good impression. But unlike meeting the parents, meeting a potential employer is something you can easily prepare for. And good preparation is vital to doing well in a face-to-face job interview.

Many interview questions will be straightforward. But what makes or breaks candidates is those tough interview questions that make us want to bolt from the room. There are no perfect answers for the tougher questions. Preparation is what will keep you relaxed and set you apart from other candidates.

To learn more about how you can prepare, check out our job success packages for resume writing, mock interviews, career coaching, and more.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is one of those tough interview questions that can elicit too much or too little information. The challenge is finding a middle ground. The question is an icebreaker, but the interviewer is also starting the process of seeing if you’re a good fit for the position. In two to three minutes, give a little personal information, but focus on things that make you the best candidate for the position.

2. Tell me about a weakness you have.

Rather than treat this interview question like a trap, turn it to your advantage. We don’t mean saying something like, “My problem is I work too hard, and I’m so dedicated it hurts.” Talk about a shortcoming that you’ve improved upon and that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. You might say, “I see the job requires experience with Microsoft Office Suite. I’ve struggled a bit with Excel because I haven’t used it consistently. But I’m taking an online class to get me up to speed.”

3. Do you work most effectively on a team or on your own?

In your answer, you want to demonstrate that you work well on a team but can also work independently. Talk about your experience working effectively as a member of a team, and provide an example of a particular instance where you made a significant difference. You could also talk about a time you took on a task by yourself and saw it through from start to finish.

4. Why do you want to leave your present position?

This could be one of the tougher interview questions you’ll face because you can’t be sure what insight the interviewer is searching for. Prepare well for this question and be honest and positive. Don’t be critical even if you feel it’s warranted. Be positive about your current employer, and add something like, “I’ve outgrown my current position, and I’m looking to take the next step. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of opportunities there.”

5. How do you deal with conflict on the job?

You’ll want to prepare carefully for this tough interview question. Conflict is inevitable, but you want to demonstrate how you resolve those situations. If possible, talk about a difficult coworker and the steps you took to understand that person’s perspective. Show how you’re willing to take time to listen and show empathy.

6. What are your long-range career goals?

Show the interviewer you have lasting value by talking about your plan to achieve your goals. Be realistic and, of course, don’t say, “I eventually want your job.” You might still be working on an educational goal that will boost your career. Whatever your career path is at the moment, be as specific as possible in your objectives, and include how you plan to reach them.

7. What qualities do you think are important to this position?

This is a tough interview question, but there are good ways to respond without skirting the issue. To prepare a response ahead of time, you must study the job description and research the company you’re interviewing with. If, for example, it’s a human services organization, talk about the qualities of caring and compassion. A good reply might be, “From what I’ve learned, I feel one has to be non-judgmental and logical, but also caring for those in need.”

8. How might your supervisor or coworkers describe you?

You could be asked this question in advance of the employer checking your references. In preparing to answer this, make sure your response is close to what you believe a coworker or former boss would actually say about you.

9. Okay, so why should I hire you over someone else?

Because you’re the best, right? If only it was that easy. You probably talked about your strengths during the interview, so bring those back into focus with a more practical application to the position: “I believe my strong knowledge of systems development will be a great asset to this company when you open your new branch in Milwaukee.” Show passion for the work you do. Reiterate your skills and experience. Provide examples of how you will be the best person for the job.

10. If you could start your education and career over again, what would you change?

This is a tough interview question that’s not commonly asked. But you should be ready for it or some form of an “If I could change…” question. You might not change anything, and that’s fine. On the other hand, you might say, “In college, I wish I had taken more higher math classes.” But then add something like, “The community college does offer those types of night classes, so I hope to be able to take advantage of them in the future.”

You’re not likely to run into all of these tough interview questions during one meeting with a potential employer. But it pays off in the long run to prepare for these and other questions about yourself, your qualifications, and the company inviting you to an interview. For an extra edge that could help you land that dream job, you can practice with a mock interview and get constructive feedback from the employment specialists. Good luck!

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