Even if you prepare well, there are always certain job interview questions that catch you off guard. “Employers are aware of these tricky interview questions,” notes Jae Pak, Founder of Jae Pak MD Medical. “In fact, they often ask them specifically in job interviews to gauge your ability to react effectively under pressure or when taken by surprise.” Being able to answer these difficult interview questions well can help you stand out from the crowd as an interviewee. While job interviews can be challenging, nerve-wracking experiences, preparation is the key. Here’s advice on handling six tough interview questions.
The Six Top Difficult Interview Questions
1. What Do You See Yourself Doing in Five Years?
During an interview, interviewers ask this question to understand your career ambitions, long-term commitment in your field, and whether this specific job aligns with your career goals. “Employers want to know that you won’t be looking for another job in 12 months if they hire you,” explains John Berry, CEO and Managing Partner at Berry Law. “Additionally, they are looking to see if you’re realistic, which is why answers like “running this company” or “in your position” are not what employers are looking for.”
Most people have an idea of the direction they’d like to take in their career. Regardless of how definitive or tentative your career plan is, you most likely know what you’d like to do. It would be best if you also understood how this particular job would evolve for a successful professional through your pre-interview research and discussions with your recruiter.
Connecting the two is the key to answering this question. Eric Elggren, Co-Founder of Andar says, “Finding the commonalities between your career goals and the job will show the interviewer that you’re dedicated to your field and have goals that are compatible with the job.”
For example, “Among my goals over the next five years are obtaining certificates related to my position and improving my skills. I am excited about the opportunities this company would provide me, as I know you offer various educational development programs. I can see myself progressing within this company and utilizing my existing and new skills.”
2. What Are Your Weaknesses?
This tricky interview question is intended to determine your self-awareness and whether you take the initiative to overcome technical or soft skill shortcomings. Prepare an example of a real-life weakness that you are working on overcoming before your interview. Michael Van, CEO of Furnishr suggests, “You should choose a weakness that is a nice-to-have skill, not a requirement for the job. Explain how you are addressing this weakness during the interview.” Employers appreciate lifelong learners, so give an example and then describe the improvements you are making to demonstrate your solution-oriented approach. “Your interviewer knows that everyone has strengths and weaknesses – and that you’re not going to be perfect in everything you do,” explains Rym Selmi, Founder of MiiRo. “Recruiters are seeking someone who will be honest when they make mistakes or need help.” Instead of saying you have no weaknesses or exaggerating your flaws, give an honest answer and focus on what motivates you to improve. Describe how your experience with your weaknesses has helped you improve yourself.
For example, you could say something like, “I sometimes have trouble delegating tasks to others, but I’ve realized that it’s vital for growing a company or team. At my previous company, we hired so many new employees that I quickly became overwhelmed managing everyone’s schedules, projects, etc. This made it difficult for me to manage the team and complete new projects on time. Since then, I have implemented many steps to improve my leadership skills. I created scheduling tools with different team members, allowing everyone to see what they were working on and when. Additionally, I asked everyone for their ideas about how we can improve our workflow, which helped them feel more included in the company’s decisions.”
3. Tell Me About Yourself
Some people say this is an easy interview question to answer, but many others say it’s so vague they’re not sure where to begin or what details to share. “This is often one of the first questions an interviewer will ask, and it helps shape their first impression of you. Therefore, it’s very important that you provide a good answer.” states Monte Deere, CEO of Kizik.
An interviewer asks this question to find out three things:
- Your educational background and professional experience.
- Your key skills and expertise that are relevant to this position.
- Why this role appealed to you, and what you are looking for in your next role.
To answer this question, discuss each of these three points. “Begin with providing a brief overview of your educational and professional background, ensuring you only include those that are relevant to the position,” explains Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce. “Mention the relevant qualifications and expertise that make you a good fit for this particular job and provide a measurable example to support your claims. Finally, briefly explain why you want this role at this organization.”
For example, your answer might sound something like, “I have a Master’s Degree in Business Management and six years of experience as a business and data analyst, my last two companies being Google and Hewlett Packard. In addition to my specific duties, I have taken additional training courses to improve my business skills and maintain my excellent software skills. My other strengths include attention to detail, excellent communication skills, effective leadership, and consistently meeting deadlines. With all this experience, I am more than prepared to take the next step in my career: to fill your company’s current opening for a Director of Business Development.”
4. Why Are You the Best Person for the Job?
There is a good possibility you are not the only candidate interviewing for this job. The other candidates are likely qualified and possess the required competencies, just like you. This question is your chance to show the interviewer why you stand out from the rest. It allows you to show the interviewer what makes you unique. “When answering this question, focus on your unique selling points,” advises Lina Miranda, VP Marketing at AdQuick. “Your unique selling points should include your top three or four strengths, with an example or details to support each. They can include technical and soft skills, key experience, or top achievements.” The only constraint is that they must be linked to the competencies required in the job so that they paint a picture in the interviewer’s mind of you excelling in the role.
Here’s an example, “I have acquired relevant skills and experience over the years, which I will contribute to your organization. I have also worked hard to improve my communication and teamwork skills, which I will put to use in my future career, and that would be in your organization if I am selected. In my past companies, I have given my 100% effort, enabling me to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. By channeling them further, I will be able to bring positive results to myself and also to your highly respected organization.”
5. Why Do You Want the Job?
Initially, this interview question may seem similar to “Why are you the best candidate for this job?” However, the interviewer wants to know why you want this specific job in this specific organization at this particular time. The interviewer wants to know how this job fits your motivations for seeking a new position.
“Answering this question correctly requires avoiding focusing on financial or non-financial gains,” explains Rachel Reid, CEO of Subtl Beauty. “For instance, if you say you want to boost your salary, improve your benefits, or use this role as an opportunity to upgrade your skills, you’ll fail to impress. As an alternative, frame your answer by describing your enthusiasm for the organization and job responsibilities, how this role aligns with your career goals, and why you are excited to be interviewing for the position.”
6. What Is Your Salary Expectation?
In answering this question, you should not undersell yourself or price yourself out of consideration. Your best strategy is to be open, honest, and provide evidence to support your position. “You should research typical salaries for your job in a current salary guide and speak with a recruiter to find out what the average salary is for the role you are applying for.” Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce at Maxine of Hollywood advises, “Ultimately, be realistic. Don’t think about how much money you need, but rather how much the role is expected to offer. Additionally, consider how flexible you are and if certain benefits could offset some of your salary.” In this way, you can confidently tell your interviewer your salary expectations, backed up by evidence. This allows you to answer this question confidently and puts you in a strong position if you need to negotiate.
For example, “While I would like to learn more about the duties required in this position during the interview, I understand that similar positions to the one I am applying for offer salaries between $60,000 and $70,000.”short url: