10 Hard Interview Questions & Answers [With Helpful Tips]
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Preparing for a job interview can be nerve-wracking, especially when you know you’ll be asked difficult questions, but with the right mindset and preparation, you can answer them like a pro. And don't forget that interviews are two-way conversations, so make sure you prepare some questions of your own.
In this post, we list some of the most common questions that may be tough to answer and give you some sample answers that will help you navigate them. Take these questions and answers as a starting point, and fine-tune them with your own experience and nuance, to ensure you are always at ease when answering tough interview questions.
1. What is your biggest weakness?
Recruiters often ask about your greatest weakness during job interviews to gain insight into your self-awareness and willingness to improve. They want to see if you can recognize your weaknesses and take steps to overcome them.
Honesty is essential when answering questions like this. However, avoid highlighting a weakness that could hinder your job performance. Instead, focus on a minor weakness and explain how you are working to improve it.
Avoid the “humblebrag” by mentioning a weakness such as “perfectionism.” These weaknesses are overdone and cliche without revealing valuable insight into your potential as an employee.
In the past, I’ve struggled to provide coworkers with constructive criticism out of fear of offending them. However, I understand the value of constructive criticism. I’m working on this weakness by leading with positive feedback, being specific about the outcome or behavior I hope to address, avoiding accusatory language, and offering suggestions for improvement.
2. Why are you leaving your current job?
Hiring managers may express interest in why you want to leave your last job. The answer may offer a glimpse into your motivations, work style, and attitude towards work. In many instances, they may want to assess if your reason for leaving your current job aligns with the values and goals of their organization.
While it may seem like there are no wrong answers during an interview, it’s essential to avoid certain mistakes when answering tough questions. Answer the question honestly, but avoid speaking negatively about your current or previous employer. Instead, focus on the opportunities you seek in your next role and how they align with your long-term career goals.
I am leaving my current job because I am looking for a new challenge and an opportunity to take on more responsibilities. While I have enjoyed my time at my current company and appreciate the experiences and skills I have gained, I feel that I have reached the limits of growth in my current role and am ready for a new challenge.
3. Tell me about yourself
A resume and cover letter only show one side of a candidate’s potential. When recruiters ask this question, it serves as an icebreaker to learn about your background, experiences, and interests. This can help assess whether you are a good fit for the role and the company culture.
When answering this question, strike a balance between being concise and comprehensive. Focus on your relevant experiences and skills, and avoid sharing too much personal information.
Begin with a summary of your professional background, highlight key accomplishments and experiences, and add some information that reveals insights into your personality and work ethic.
I have a Bachelor’s in Marketing and have spent the last five years working in digital marketing for various e-commerce companies. In my current role, I led a successful campaign that increased website traffic by 30% and boosted sales by 20%. As an avid runner, I’m particularly passionate about pushing sports brands and bringing this energy to all products.
4. What are your career goals?
It’s common for recruiters to ask about your career goals to understand your long-term career aspirations and how they align with the company’s goals. They want to see if you have a clear direction for your career and if the role you are applying for fits that plan.
Prepare to be honest, specific, and realistic when speaking about your goals. An excellent way to approach this question is to explain your short-term and long-term goals and then describe how the position you are applying for helps you along this path.
In the short term, my goal is to develop my skills in project management and gain experience working with cross-functional teams. In the long term, I see myself in a leadership role within the company, where I can use my skills and experience to drive growth and innovation. I believe the role I am applying for aligns well with my goals, and I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the company’s success.
5. What are your greatest strengths?
Recruiters are interested in both your strengths and weaknesses, and there’s a good chance this question will pop up. Asking this question helps recruiters assess your self-awareness and how your strengths can contribute to the company. It also provides the company with a helpful understanding of your strengths and how they align with the position’s requirements.
When answering, focus on your strengths relevant to the role and provide specific examples of how you’ve used this strength in a previous job. Avoid over-exaggerating, being too general, or listing irrelevant strengths. As a guideline, stick to two or three specific strengths (with examples).
My greatest strengths include my ability to work well in a team, my attention to detail, and my strong communication skills. In my previous role, I was part of a cross-functional team that successfully launched a new product. My attention to detail ensured that the product met all specifications, and my communication skills helped ensure everyone was on the same page throughout the project.
6. How do you handle stress and stressful situations?
Some jobs are more demanding than others, and your ability to handle stress will determine whether you can manage pressure and stay productive in a difficult situation. Recruiters want to see if you have effective coping mechanisms and if you can maintain a positive attitude in stressful environments.
Be honest and specific in your answer without resorting to generic or superficial answers. Explain your strategies for managing stress, and provide an example of when these techniques have benefited the team as a whole.
Responding this way is especially important in a remote role where employers trust you to take the initiative and communicate any issues.
When I encounter stressful situations, I try to step back and prioritize my tasks. I find that making a to-do list helps me to stay organized and focused. In my previous role, we had a tight project deadline, and I felt overwhelmed. I decided to take a break and walk to clear my mind. When I returned, I tackled the tasks with renewed energy, and we successfully met the deadline.
7. Where do you see yourself in x years?
Your career aspirations directly impact your work ethic, interests, and motivation. So, it should come as no surprise that recruiters want to know where you see yourself in five, ten, or twenty years. Your answer will indicate a clear direction for your career and if you are committed to growing with the company.
When answering, consider how your goals align with the company’s vision. Avoid being too vague or unrealistic, but approach the answer by explaining your short-term and long-term goals and how they fit in with the company.
In the next five years, I see myself in a leadership position with a strong track record of success in this company. I am excited about the opportunity to learn and grow within the company. I believe the position I am applying for is the perfect stepping stone toward achieving my goals. I am committed to developing my skills and contributing to the company’s growth and success as I pursue my professional goals.
8. Why are you the best person for the job?
Understanding why you should be hired is one of the most common interview questions recruiters ask to assess your confidence and how you can contribute to the company. They want to see if you understand the position and the skills and experience required to succeed.
When answering this question, it’s important to be confident but not arrogant and to provide specific examples of how your skills and experience make you a strong fit for the role. Avoid speaking negatively about other candidates or being too general in your response.
An excellent way to approach this question is to explain how your skills and experience align with the position’s requirements and how you can add value to the company.
I believe I am the best person for the job because of my experience in managing remote teams and my ability to develop and execute successful marketing strategies with a problem-solving mentality. In my previous role, I led a team that successfully launched a new online product, resulting in a 20% increase in sales month-on-month after the first year. I am confident that my skills and experience will enable me to contribute to this company’s success in the position of marketing lead and help drive growth in the long term.
9. What is your salary expectation?
The topic of money can be difficult to navigate, but it’s an important one to cover. Recruiters may introduce salary to understand your compensation expectations and to assess if they align with the company’s budget.
Before agreeing to an interview, it’s important to research industry standards and the specific position to provide a reasonable range. Avoid giving a specific number or being too rigid in your expectations.
A good way to approach the salary question is to provide a range based on your research and experience. Make sure to express interest in the position and not just the salary.
Based on my research and experience in similar roles, I’m looking for a salary range between X and Y. Of course, I’m open to discussing the specifics of the package, including benefits, bonuses, and other compensation. I’m more interested in finding a role where I can grow professionally and contribute meaningfully to the company.
10. What are you currently reading?
Some tricky interview questions may seem obscure, but they help recruiters understand your interests, hobbies, and learning style. By asking what you are currently reading, recruiters want to see if you are intellectually curious and have interests outside of work that may contribute to your professional development.
Be honest and provide specific examples of books or articles that interest you, especially those relevant to your career. Mention why you are interested in the reading material and whether you enjoy it.
I’m currently reading ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear, which is about creating positive habits that stick. I find it interesting because it’s applicable not just in my personal life but also in my professional life. I think it’s important to be intentional about building good habits that can help me to be more productive and successful in the long term.
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