Do job interviewers ask tough interview questions to trip up applicants on purpose? It might seem like it sometimes, but thankfully it’s not true – not in the malicious sense, at least. Interviews are carefully planned, though, to get beyond canned responses and discern how prepared, truthful, and motivated candidates are.
Even some questions that seem innocuous can turn out to be killers if they’re not answered with care, but with some insight into what the interviewers are seeking to learn and with preparation, you’ll shine.
How to answer 8 tough interview questions
How did you prepare for this interview?
The interviewer may lead with this question. “This question is intended to find out whether or not you really care about this job or if you’re just going through the motions,” says John Rampton writing for Entrepreneur. They want to know whether you’ve researched who they are, thought through your unique fit for them, and prepared questions to ask them. Win points by looking beyond the company to the industry, as well as the trends affecting it. This will communicate your interest in their success, as well as in being hired.
What are your weaknesses?
As far as tough interview questions go, this is one of the most frustrating for candidates.
How do you answer this without undercutting the image of yourself you’ve so carefully crafted in your resume and in person? Hint: The employer does not want to hear, “I’m a perfectionist,” or “I try too hard.” What they do want is candidates who are clear-eyed about themselves, recognizing where they have room for improvement and seeking to grow. To prepare your answer, pick an actual weakness that is fairly common among humans and ensure the answer that follows specifically how you are positively addressing the weakness.
Tell us about one time you succeeded, and one time you failed.
What they want to know is how you handle success, as well as failure. Think in advance about what you can share that clearly taught you something valuable that you continue to use. If you turned the failure into a success, that’s a bonus. Lead with the failure and then pivot to the success.
Why are you looking for a new job?
Candidates who answer by badmouthing their current or former employer will be perceived as likely to be negative and hard to work with, and likely to bring drama into a new place of work. Prepare your reason in a way that is about you, not them. Did you need room for growth or new challenges? Did you learn something about yourself and your priorities that told you it was time to move on? Go with that, and tie it to how you see the job you’re applying for as a better fit – assuming you’ve done your homework and have reason to think so. Don’t just blow smoke — they’ll sniff that out in two seconds.
What is your dream job?
The interviewer wants to know if you’ll stick around, so don’t tell them your dream job is something completely unrelated to the one they have open. If you’re interviewing for a construction estimator position but you say your dream job is to be a pediatrician, they’ll be inclined not to invest in your onboarding. Answer with an upward or sideways move in their industry or a closely related one.
Do you work best alone or in a team?
If you say alone, they’ll wonder if you’re a good collaborator. If you say a team, they’ll wonder if you can work independently. You’ll be wise to prepare an answer that is less binary. Cite examples of when you have done both, with honest pros and cons each way.
Have you ever been asked to compromise integrity?
Take this question as a sign that ethics are important to this employer. If you have experienced such a situation, it can be difficult to answer without being critical of a former employer. “Even worse, you could accidentally share sensitive information, such as the internal practices of your former company or parts of a private investigation,” warns Rampton. Don’t name names. You don’t have to tell the story, just how you handled the challenge.
What are your salary requirements?
This is often the toughest of tough interview questions — and timing is everything. What they want to know is whether your needs and their budget are in the same ballpark. Prepare by researching salaries in the industry and your geographic market (Denver, Seattle, Houston, New York). Then answer by suggesting you need more information about the expectations of the job before you can answer accurately. When you do name a figure, make it a range you can live with.
Beyond the tough interview questions — let our team help you land your next opportunity!
We hope these tips are helpful. Planning ahead to answer tough interview questions is key to confidently selling yourself to a potential employer. Let Bradsby Group help you find interview opportunities with companies that are looking for talent like yours where you can thrive. Check out the current listings for our recruiting partners, then send us your resume.