How to answer the 6 toughest job interview questions

Have you ever struggled to answer questions for a job interview? Do not worry, we have too! 

We have all been asked difficult questions in a job interview where the answer simply is not forthcoming. Our mind goes blank as we try to articulate the perfect answer to impress the interviewer.
To help you to avoid this situation again, we asked our consultants for the most popular questions they ask to create this helpful guide for all job seekers to use to increase their chances of landing the next job.

1) What would your past/current employer say about you?

It can be difficult to answer this job interview question based on how and why you decided to leave your previous job. You can easily trip up and end up slating your past or current employers which may negatively portray you. Make sure to answer this question with respect to the past companies you have worked for, regardless of the reason why you decided to leave.
So how should you go about answering this tough interview question?
If you are still on good personal terms with your current or previous manager, you should ask them for a reference that you can directly quote or make some minor changes to. This will be the most authentic answer that you can give in a job interview. You can also offer to provide the interviewer with contact details if they wish to clarify the information.
If you left your previous job on bad terms or simply aren’t comfortable with asking for a reference, use this as a chance to demonstrate your strengths. Remember to show respect to your previous employer but make sure to be honest and make it clear how you would like to be treated and that you are not afraid to voice your opinion.
What to avoid saying at all costs.
This is not an opportunity for you to vent to the interviewer about your past experiences. The interviewer is just interested to see if you either want a career change or if you do not enjoy working for the same company for a long period of time. There may also have been a disagreement in your past jobs so they would be interested in why this happened. If you just insult your previous company, you will most likely give the impression that you may be in the wrong and the interviewer may be discouraged from employing you based on your past problems with your work colleagues.

2) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question does not seem too difficult if you have a plan for your career and a path in your head with milestones you would like to achieve by a certain age. However, when answering this question, it is likely that your goals and aspirations might be unrealistic or do not align with how the company sees your progression. You must remember that this question is asked by the interviewer to evaluate how motivated you are.
So, how do you achieve a good answer to this tough interview question?
The most important thing you can do is, to be honest. If there is a goal that you have in your mind, say it! Think about where the position could take you; Is there a promotion or a role that you would like to achieve in five years? Or do you just want to improve your knowledge or skills in the industry? At the end of the day, you need to know if the goal is achievable and the interviewer needs to see if your goals align with the company’s aspirations.

If you are unsure and don’t know where you will be in five years, explain how the experience of the job will help you plan your future. This will tell the employers that you know you want to work in the industry but you are just focusing on the present which is understandable. Mention that you want to be working for a company where you can make a difference by doing work that you are challenged by.

What not to talk about when asked this question?

Do not share an unrealistic aspiration or vision that you will not achieve. This will give the impression that you either see yourself as someone who is not suitable for the role or you see the job as a stepping stone, and you are likely to move on. Do some research before your job interview to make sure that your aspirations are achievable in the timeline you want to hit them by to avoid making yourself look over-enthusiastic.
You should not speak about any aspirations that directly relate to the interviewer’s job role as that might come across as a threat. This is not a good impression to have, especially on someone who has direct input in the decision of hiring you.
Try to find out who is going to interview you beforehand. If you haven’t been given names, contact whoever set up the interview and if you get the names, have a quick search, either on LinkedIn or the company’s website, to see who they are, their position in the company, and even some hobbies they have.

3) Why should we hire you?

This may seem simple at first glance but this is one of the easiest interview questions to answer inefficiently. Ultimately, the entirety of this interview process is to find out who is the best candidate to hire. Most of the candidates that progress to the job interview stage have all the necessary qualifications, but the successful candidate will be the one that stands out so you need to show this.

So, how do you make yourself stand out against all the other qualified candidates?

You don’t need a long list of reasons that make you a good fit for the role, but you need to summarise the best three strong reasons that make you stand out from the crowd. You should only make points that relate to the job and will help you in the role because any irrelevant mentions might work against you.
Include reasons related to your experience of working in the industry, any technical skills that you have, or any accomplishments that you have achieved in your professional career. This can be anything that springs to mind but it needs to be relevant. A good place to start is to talk about your educational history. It is worth focusing on your highest qualification level, this could be a degree (state which University you attended), A-Level’s, or BTEC’s (relevant to the job). It is also beneficial to talk about soft skills that will help you in the job such as being a good communicator, having good time management and problem-solving skills.

Things you should avoid saying when answering this question.

This is not a time to be modest so you must sell yourself to prove why you are better than any other candidate. Being modest will make it seem like you don’t fully believe in your skills and ability to be the perfect fit for the job role. You need to speak with confidence when answering this because if you answer this question with any uncertainty, the employer will doubt if you’re the right person for the job.

4) Do you have any questions for me?

This question is asked at the end of every single job interview. This is a great chance for you to show your interests in the job whilst also being able to clear any confusions you have with the role. Do some research beforehand to make sure you have 3-5 questions ready for the interview. Showing that you have taken the time out of your day to find more information about the company will only work to your benefit. Check out the social media post about the types of things you should be researching before every job interview.

What questions should you ask to show your interest in the job?

Your questions must impress the interviewer. Any questions relating to the company’s values will give you information on company culture and team dynamic which you can compare with yourself to see if you will be a good fit for the team. Asking about how the job will help you grow is a good way for you to show that you want to improve your skills and contribute to the company’s success.

Ask about recent events and how they may have affected the business such as the recent January lockdown. This allows the interviewer to give you an idea of how the company has adapted to these difficult times. Industry-specific questions will always impress the interviewer as it shows that you are either knowledgeable or you have taken some time to do some research before the interview.

What should you avoid saying to decrease your chances of landing the job?

We all know that the easiest answer to this question is to say no, shake the interviewer’s hand and move on with your day. This is the worst thing that you can say. Saying no shows a lack of interest and shows that you are not prepared for the interview at all. If you really cannot think of anything to ask, the simplest question to ask is about the next stage of the hiring process.

At this stage, you shouldn’t ask any questions about salary, benefits, pay rises, or when you might get your first promotion. It gives the impression that you are only interested in things that benefit you, not the company. Try to avoid asking finance-related questions.

5) What are your weaknesses?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions in a job interview, so you must have a well-prepared answer. We suggest pointing out a weakness that is not going to be a problem in the workplace. This is better than something that is usually said such as the ‘’I am a perfectionist’’ or ‘‘I don’t have one’’. You might already have an answer imprinted in your mind which turns a negative into a positive. This is fine, but the interviewer may have heard this many times before.

How do you answer this question to impress the interviewer?

There is no shame in showing that you are not perfect. It is fine to share your weaknesses as long as you can support them with an implemented solution and show how you have taken steps to overcome them. This will leave an impression of a person that is not only self-aware but can work around their weak points to learn and grow.

A good example of a positive answer would be saying that you can be a bit reserved when it comes to giving some constructive criticism because you don’t want to upset someone’s feelings. This shows that you do have a legitimate weakness but it is something that you can work with and it gives the employer a chance to see that you are a genuinely self-aware individual that is looking to improve.

What should you avoid saying?

One of the most clichéd things to say is that you are a perfectionist. It is extremely overused, and it’s not giving the interviewer any information about yourself. To interviewers, who have heard a variety of responses, saying that you are a perfectionist will be seen as a stock answer and will indicate your lack of preparation, time, and interest in the job.

Another inappropriate answer is ‘I do not have any weaknesses’. This shows a lack of self-awareness and may make you seen arrogant as the interviewer wants to know what you find difficult.

6) Tell me about yourself?

This sounds simple however, this question can be answered inefficiently by many people. Essentially, you want to sell yourself as the best possible match, to show that you are the ideal candidate for the role by highlighting your achievements and sharing some hobbies.
If you say something that you feel very comfortable talking about, you can expect your discussion to sway your way. For example, if you say you like to watch sports in your free time, the interviewer can follow up with a question such as ‘’Do you play any sports?’’ or ‘’Did you watch the match last night?’. Apart from being an icebreaker and transition, this question allows the recruiters to get to know you better and show that you have other interests.

So, how should you describe yourself?

The interviewer wants to know more about your professional life, so it’s good to mention why you got into the working field, what is your current role, and what you want to do next.

• Do you want a new challenge?
• Move into a different field?
• Want to use your skills in a different working atmosphere?

All these things will contribute to a good answer.

Besides, this is a great question for you to show off your personality. The interviewer will want to see how you would fit in their team dynamic, so remember to always be yourself. You also need to tailor your answer back to the role and the company so that the information you are saying is relatable to the job as well. The best way to do this is to plan some bullet points. By doing this, you will have an answer that will satisfy the interviewer instead of one that will leave them a bit underwhelmed.

Things you should not say when answering this tough job interview question.

We recommend that you do not recite your CV because the interviewer would have already read it. You may come across as nervous if you are trying to remember the exact words you practiced before the interview. You can take some points from your CV, but make sure to talk in your normal tone, using words that you would use in any professional conversation rather than what you have written.

To give an answer that is going to impress the interviewer, we suggest you prepare your response. Putting an answer together before the interview will allow you to have a structure in your mind. It may be useful to write down all the key topics you want to cover such as your background, hobbies, or some interesting facts about yourself. You should prepare other responses to some of the interview questions listed in this blog.

Have we missed anything?

Were you previously asked a question that you struggled to answer?
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