If you want to be well prepared for a job interview, learning how to answer the toughest interview questions is crucial.
Let’s admit it – interviewing for a job is a nerve-racking procedure. You feel extremely anxious, your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and mouth is dry, but you struggle to stay calm and smile big to make a good impression on hiring managers.
When you are interviewing it’s difficult to concentrate on answering the tough questions but you can be sure that hiring managers will ask them and you have to be prepared.
Your potential employers want to know how you behave in a stressful situation – whether you can think on the fly and how you can handle an unexpected things. In most cases it’s not even your answer that matters, it’s how you compose yourself while answering. And how you respond to these questions can elevate or kill your chances of landing the job offer.
The good news is that most of the toughest interview questions are quite common. We have rounded up the 5 most popular queries with suggestions on how you could answer them to help you feel confident and prepared going into your interview.
In most cases, this is the first question you will be asked during the interview. It might seem pretty simple on the surface, as talking about yourself is easy. However, this query is more complex and game-changing than some give it credit for.
Employers ask this question to determine who you are as a person and whether you can fit this position and the company culture.
For a job seeker, this query is a unique opportunity to emphasize relevant experience and position himself/herself as the best candidate for this job opening.
How to Nail the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
Here is the deal – this is not the time to recite your resume or tell the story of your life. Think of “Tell me about yourself” query as the elevator pitch – concise overview of your professional knowledge and accomplishments that relate to the position. Try your best to give a comprehensive answer within two minutes at the most.
Pamela Skillings, one of the country’s top interview coaches, offers a simple yet effective formula of responding to the “Tell me about yourself” question in three consecutive steps. Every step is coupled with great examples of good and bad answers.
1. Tell them who you are from a professional standpoint rather than personal.
Demonstrate your strengths and give a little sense of your personality.
“I’m a reliable marketing manager with six years of experience handling all aspects of marketing for some well known brands. I’ve covered everything from paid search, social, email marketing and content for Fortune 500 companies.”
“I was born and grew up in Cincinnati. As a child, I originally wanted to be a fireman, then later became interested in dinosaurs. I excelled in the sciences from early on, placing first in my fourth-grade science fair”.
2. Emphasize your knowledge and experience.
Briefly highlight 2-4 unique points that you think make you stand out. Make sure you tie them to the skills and qualities that are required for this job.
“I have spent the last six years developing my skills as a customer service manager for Megacompany Inc., where I have won several performance awards and been promoted twice. I love managing teams and solving customer problems.”
“My first job was as an administrative assistant for Macy’s in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I learned a great deal in that role that served me well over the next 12 years. At the time, I wasn’t sure about my career path, so I next took a position selling real estate. It only lasted for six months, but I sure enjoyed it.”
3. Let them know why you are here.
Finish your narrative by telling them you want the position and why. Be positive and concise.
“Although I love my current role, I feel I’m now ready for a more challenging assignment and this position really excites me.”
“Because of the company’s financial problems and my boss’s issues, I’m worried about my job’s stability and decided to start looking for new opportunities.”
Most job seekers consider this question ridiculous. Duh, nobody is willing to tell the interviewer that he or she is bad at something. However, hiring managers keep asking this question even realizing that the chances to get an honest answer are extremely low.
So, what’s the point then?
Employers ask this question not to disclose your weaknesses, but to see if you have a sense of self-awareness and how you’re working to improve.
How to answer the “What is your greatest weakness” question
First things first – avoid cliché or illusory answers. Don’t say you are a workaholic or perfectionist who works too hard and too much – this is the old and boring reply that doesn’t say much about you. And no, you cannot state you don’t have any weaknesses – it’s just not true, and the last thing you want to do at the job interview is lie to your potential employers.
Instead, mention your real weakness, but not severe enough to affect your ability to do the job and eliminate you as a candidate. And then explain what you do to overcome this weakness.
“I’m not that good as I’d like to be at giving speeches in public, so last year I enrolled into public speaking club where we work on honing presentation skills, developing communication skills and practicing impromptu speaking. I’ve already learnt some valuable things I can bring and apply here”.
Employers ask this question to understand what makes you different from other highly-qualified candidates. In fact, your interviewer gives you a chance to sell yourself as the best fit for this position.
To close the deal on a job offer you should be well prepared to tackle this question in a confident and thoughtful way.
How to answer the “Why should we hire you” question.
The first thing you should do is go back to the job listing and analyze the specific qualifications, skills and experience the employer is looking for. Then, connect the dots between your skills and the employer’s requirements – create a list of the preferred qualifications for the ideal candidate for your target job and think of how you might prove that you possess that asset.
As a result, you should come up with 3-5 best reasons to hire you, adjusted to align with top requirements in the job listing.
For example, the employer might want someone with proven people management experience, so you could respond in the following way:
“You have explained that you are looking for a sales executive who is able to effectively manage over a dozen employees. In my 15 years of experience as a sales manager, I have developed strong motivational and team-building skills. I was twice awarded manager-of-the-year for my innovative strategies for motivating employees to meet and surpass quarterly deadlines. If hired, I will apply my leadership abilities and strategies to achieve profit gains in this position”.
Read more great sample answers here.
When hiring managers ask this question, they don’t expect you to speak poorly about your company, colleagues or job. They rather attempt to find out whether or not you are leaving for a good reason and on your own initiative. The way you reply to the question also reveals a lot about your work ethic and what’s important to you in a role.
How to answer the “Why do you want to leave your current job” question.
Never, I repeat NEVER, badmouth your pesky boss, uncomfortable work environment or the lack of company perks, as this will cast you in a negative light. The best course of action is to be honest, respectful and positive in your response. When answering this question, focus on what you have to look forward and how you want to better yourself and your next company:
“It’s been a great experience, but I realize that I’ve learned everything I can in my current job. I can’t see any place to advance within the company, and I love to be challenged, so I think it’s a good time to move on”.
Questions about your long-term plans can be daunting, as you don’t really know what the future holds and where you will be in five years. However, you do want to provide a proper answer to secure your spot in the top list of candidates.
Employers ask this question for two reasons. First of all, they want to understand if your career goals align with the job they’re offering, so you can be at the company long term. Second, they attempt to understand whether you possess ambitions, drive and a clear sense of how you want to grow and progress.
How to answer the “Where do you see yourself in five years” question.
Again, the first thing to do is reviewing the job posting. Consider how your goals fit with the job description, which skills and knowledge you already have and want to get more experience in.
When answering this question at the interview, tie your personal career plans with your perspective position in the company. Then explain how you want to be achieving your own goals and the company’s.
“I’m eager to continue developing my analytical skills as a member of your Business Analysis department. In five years, I plan to strengthen my expertise as an associate so that I have a solid base for becoming an analytics manager and leading a team of my own”.
Best of luck in your job search!