After submitting your résumé and cover letter, your next step is to prepare for the job interview. But landing an interview is just the beginning of your journey.
If it’s your first time or are reentering the job landscape looking for a new opportunity, going through a job interview can be nerve-wracking. After all, an interview is never easy, especially since some questions may take you by surprise.
Preparing ahead of time can help increase your chances of acing the interview and scoring a job offer.This article will discuss how to answer tough questions in a job interview and why recruiters are fond of asking tricky questions.
Why Do Recruiters Love to Ask Tough Interview Questions?
Before we start, we need to understand why recruiters make applicants feel like they’re on a hot seat during an interview. Generally, recruiters want a complete view of candidates. After all, it is always better to pass a candidate with a difficult interview than on an easy or minimum requirement interview and end up disappointed a few months later.
Below we’ve listed are a few other reasons HR asks tough interview questions:
- They want to know more about you. Questions like “Tell me about yourself” give recruiters a closer look at who you are and if you’re qualified for the role.
- They want to understand how you think. When interviewers ask abstract questions, they aren’t necessarily looking for correct answers. Instead, they want to see how your mind works, identify thought patterns, and assess your ability to think out of the box.
- They want to measure your skills. Interviewers ask questions to gauge your experience with different tasks and evaluate how you deal with difficult situations.
- They want to see if you’re a good fit for the role. These questions inform the recruiters how well you can perform the duties and responsibilities.
- They want to see your capacity for growth. Going through an interview will tell recruiters if you can take on leadership or specialist roles. It also shows your level of commitment and if you can stay in the organization in the long term.
8 Tough Interview Questions to Prepare For
Now that we know why recruiters ask challenging questions during interviews, we can discuss how to answer tough interview questions.
- Tell me about yourself.
This question is a classic opening line for most job interviews. If you don't have an answer in mind, you might freeze up. After all, how are you supposed to summarize who you are in a few sentences?
What NOT to say: Avoid saying what’s already written in your résumé or CV. It’s also not advisable to share random trivia about yourself.
What to say instead: During virtual interviews, highlighting relevant experience, skills, and milestones is key. Let the interviewer probe you for experience instead of volunteering all the info yourself.
Say you have ten years of work experience in different industries. Choose what’s most relevant to the business and position you’re applying for and share what you can bring to the table. In other words, think of this question as an elevator pitch: in two minutes or less, tell a story of why you’d be the perfect fit for the role.
- Why do you want this job?
This question is one of the most common tough interview questions to prepare for, especially if you’re starting out or a fresh grad. But just relax because your interviewer wants to learn your motivations for applying and check if it aligns with the company’s values.
What NOT to say: Avoid giving answers such as “I need a paycheck” or “The workplace is close to my home.”
What to say instead: HR teams want to know if you’re motivated by your values, passions, and the work you’re applying for. In other words, they’re looking for rockstars who align their career trajectory with what’s best for the business.
That said, consider these talking points before you answer:
- How your skills and experience match the job
- Why you’re eager to join the team and how you can contribute
- How you and your values fit into the company culture
- Why should we hire you?
Recruiters ask this question to determine what sets you apart from other applicants. It’s a great opportunity to prove that you’re the best person for the position!
What NOT to say: Try not to give too general or empty answers such as “I am the best.”
What to say instead: Connect your strengths to the job requirements. For example, if you’re applying for a sales position, show your outstanding performance by discussing the results you drove and citing relevant stats or figures. Demonstrate your history of excellence and reinforce why you’re the best fit for the role.
- What’s your greatest weakness?
There’s a misconception that you should only show off your best side during job interviews. But remember: nobody is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Admitting that you have a few weaknesses demonstrates your self-awareness and willingness to learn.
What NOT to say: Move away from generic answers like “I work too hard” or “I tend to be a perfectionist.”
What to say instead: Be honest. Talk about a genuine flaw (like harsh self-criticism or weak data analysis skills) and discuss the proactive steps you’ve been taking to improve.
- What’s your biggest achievement?
Now’s the time to let your achievements shine! The way you answer this question will reflect your mindset about success and if it aligns with the company’s values.
What NOT to say: Try not to brag or exaggerate your achievements. After all, the recruiter could end up feeling more disappointed than impressed.
What to say instead: Set the tone by explaining the context. Share what your goal was and explain the steps you took to get there. Beef up your answer with statistics, benchmarks, and metrics. More importantly, make sure you qualify these achievements within the context of the organization.
- How do you handle conflict?
Conflicts are inevitable in any workplace, whether in a physical office or virtual space. Your answer will show how you handle disputes and demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
What NOT to say: Avoid mentioning conflicts that ended up incurring significant costs. In a similar vein, refrain from citing examples of conflict that could make a recruiter question your ability to do your job.
What to say instead: To break the ice, you can talk about a time when you provided honest feedback to a manager. Use these talking points as a guide when answering the question:
- How did the conflict start?
- What was the root cause?
- How did you resolve the issue?
End on a positive note and mention key takeaways from the situation.
- Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge.
This question is somewhat similar to the previous one because it shows how you deal with difficult situations or tasks. It’s the perfect time to showcase your problem- and decision-making skills when in a pinch.
What NOT to say: Avoid boasting or giving a fake answer, as it could make a bad first impression.
What to say instead: If you’re an experienced employee, we recommend the STAR method where you can discuss the Situation, Role, Action, and Resolution. However, the STAR method works on the assumption that what you’ve done in the past is most likely what you'll do in your new assignment.
If you’ve had little experience or no success so far, use this opportunity to highlight what you’ve learned in your experience and how you got there. Provide a sense of reassurance and self-awareness and share what you plan to do to improve your chances of success.
- Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?
The future is unpredictable, especially during this pandemic. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have a general plan for your career.
What NOT to say: If you plan to move to a different place or change your career trajectory, it’s best not to hold your tongue and stay silent about them during the interview. After all, it could affect your chances of landing the job, especially if they’re looking for someone they can work with in the long term.
What to say instead: Be concrete. Paint a picture of where you'd like to be so the recruiter can see where you fit in the organizational development of their company.
Ace Your Next Job Interview
Answering tricky interview questions is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging parts of the job-hunting process. The best way to ease your worries is to think smart and stay prepared! Now that you know how to answer tough questions in a job interview, you can improve your chances of landing your dream job.
If you’re from HR and need a streamlined applicant tracking system to make recruitment easier, use Sprout Manatal. Our cloud-based recruitment software is designed to help you save time when choosing the right candidates, managing your talent pool, strengthening team collaboration, and hiring top talent. To learn more, book a consultation with us or check out our comprehensive product suite.
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