What are some of the hardest interview questions, and how can you prepare for them? Before an interview, you should go over the most common questions and prepare your answers. But if you skip over some of the most difficult interview questions, you could be killing your chances of success. The following questions are trickier than most, so let’s look at how to answer them so that you impress the interviewer and land the job.
Hardest interview questions and how to answer them
Table of contents
- 1. What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
- 2. Why should I hire you?
- 3. Tell me about yourself
- 4. How do you handle conflict?
- 5. What is your biggest failure?
- 6. Describe yourself in 3 words.
- 7. What’s your greatest weakness?
- How do you work under pressure?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Do you have any questions for me?
1. What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
Although it may seem that way, this question is not an invitation to put other candidates down. Instead, it’s your chance to acknowledge what sets you apart from a sea of similarly qualified applicants. To do this, it’s best to prepare a list of your unique strengths and skills. When preparing them, don’t be too generic. Instead of saying “I’m good with people,” focus on why you are good with people. Is it because of natural leadership abilities? Or maybe your time spent traveling the world?
Once you know your unique qualities, try to apply them to the job and company. Research any current challenges the company is facing or ask the interviewer what the top priorities are in the position. Then, demonstrate how your skills and strengths could help you achieve those and propel the company forward.
2. Why should I hire you?
This is your opportunity to pitch yourself and your experience to the interviewer. Usually, the interviewer will want to hear why you are the best fit for the role out of all the other applicants. The correct answer is one that aligns with the company’s goals and needs.
Firstly, read through the requirements for the position. Then, identify 5-10 of your skills and strengths that align with the requirements. Finally, think of the times you have demonstrated these characteristics in your work. Prepare a short story to show what you did and what the outcomes of your actions were.
For example, you may answer like this:
3. Tell me about yourself
When answering this question, aim for a short answer that summarises your personal and professional qualities. To get started, think about the traits that are valuable for the position you are applying for. Always have a story that depicts that quality ready. Then, think about why you are interested in the industry, the company, and the particular role. Finally, think about the qualities that would help you the most in this role.
An excellent way to answer this question is by following this structure:
- Present your past achievements and how they relate to the role.
- Discuss how your current position relates to the one you are applying for.
- Highlight the strengths that you can support with examples from your life.
- Show off your personality by mentioning hobbies or volunteer experience.
4. How do you handle conflict?
The key to an assuring answer is demonstrating that you can listen and accept the views of others, even if they’re different from your own. Also, prove that you’re able to solve conflict privately and effectively with examples from the past. Most often, employers want to learn more about your personality through this question, so focus on the result rather than dwelling on the conflict itself.
To create an impressive answer, use the STAR method:
- (S) Situation – Explain the circumstances of the conflict.
- (T) Task – Discuss what part you played in the conflict.
- (A) Action – Describe what steps you took to resolve the problem.
- (R) Result – Elaborate on the positive outcome of your action and explain what you have learned.
5. What is your biggest failure?
This might seem like one of the most difficult interview questions to answer. After all, you want to be honest but don’t want to reveal mistakes that could cost you the job. Worry not – interviewers mostly ask this to find out whether you’re able to take responsibility for your actions. That’s why you should focus more on what you have learned from your failure and what changes you have made to prevent such situations from occurring again.
This question directly demands an example from the past, so prepare a story you can use in your answer. This can be from your past jobs, or even from school or your personal life. Start with explaining the situation and where you went wrong. Then, focus on how you have improved and what action you took to become better at handling similar situations. Most importantly, try to keep your answer positive and don’t dwell on the past too much.
6. Describe yourself in 3 words.
When describing yourself, think of your best personality and professional traits. Also, check what the company is looking for and make sure your characteristics align. Finally, use easy-to-understand but original adjectives that will make you stand out.
- For sales jobs: Proactive, Motivated, Positive, Independent, Determined
- For analyst jobs: Analytical, Methodical, Focused, Trustworthy, Patient
- For corporate jobs: Professional, Diplomatic, Team player, Confident, Collaborative
7. What’s your greatest weakness?
Interviewers usually ask this question to see if you are self-aware. Don’t try to answer by turning a positive into a negative – the interviewer will see right through it. On the other hand, don’t be too harsh in your answer. Overall, you should try to stay positive and focus on how you are improving on your greatest weakness.
First, present your weakness. Then, elaborate and explain why you are trying to overcome it. Finally, discuss how you are working towards improving yourself. For example, you could answer like this:
Additional hardest interview questions and tips for answers
How do you work under pressure?
At some point, you will likely experience stressful situations in any position. That’s why interviewers want to learn more about your techniques for managing stress and pressure. This question is your opportunity to show that you can still get your work done even under tight deadlines or stressful circumstances. To assure the hiring manager that you can handle pressure, follow these steps:
- Think about what you usually do to avoid or handle stress.
- Use an example of when you excelled in your work even under pressure.
- Share whether stress ever motivates you and pushes you to do a great job.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Interviewers mostly ask this question to determine how the job you’re applying to fits in with your career goals. After all, every employer wants to find employees excited to grow within the company instead of leaving as soon as new opportunities arise. And even if you don’t have a specific 5-year plan for your career, you can prepare an answer that will prove you’re in for the long run. To do that, follow these steps:
- Think about your career goals and the steps that could take you there.
- Research growth opportunities within the company you’re applying to.
- Find out if your goals align with the company’s vision.
- Demonstrate why you are worth the time and investment as a new employee.
Why are you leaving your current job?
This is one of the hardest interview questions. Essentially, it reveals your real priorities and how you can handle conflict or discomfort. When answering, remember to be truthful but stay positive, polite, and professional. Some of the best examples of reasons for leaving a job include:
- Looking for career growth
- Seeking new challenges
- Looking to change career paths
- Relocation to a new city
- The company going out of business
- Being laid off or let go
What are your salary expectations?
Salary expectations are one of the hardest interview questions. On the one hand, you don’t want to give a number too low and feel undervalued. On the other hand, if you aim too high, the employer might turn you down because of the potentially high expense. The best way to tackle this question is through adequate research and flexibility.
First, research the usual salary for the role you are applying for. Then, offer a range as your answer. Giving only one number might make it seem like you are not adaptable. Finally, don’t forget to mention that you are flexible and the number is negotiable.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving a specific number or want to elaborate on your expectations, consider an answer like this:
Do you have any questions for me?
Although this question is common, it remains one of the hardest interview questions. The key to answering is to prepare your questions beforehand. In general, think of open-ended questions that require a long answer rather than a simple “yes” or “no”. Depending on your interviewer and the topics you have discussed, you might ask one of these questions:
- What does a typical day in this role look like?
- Can you tell me more about the company culture?
- How is success measured in this role?
- What are some challenges the company is facing?
- What are the current goals I would be working to achieve?
- Do you have any concerns about my experience and qualifications?
These are only some of the hardest interview questions. Most importantly, remember that even the most qualified candidates can be taken aback by a question sometimes. Interviewers understand this, and will not reject you based on your answers. When in doubt, ask for a moment to think rather than stuttering or giving an incomplete answer. To avoid stress during the interview, always try to research as much as you can beforehand. For example, you may ask your friends and colleagues about the hardest interview questions they have been asked. Then, think about how you would answer them.