24 Difficult Interview Questions and How to Answer them

Having probably done hundreds of interviews in my lifetime, I can confidently say that you get better with experience and practice before reaching the point where you actually start enjoying interviews. You learn it's closer to a dance or a game you play with interviewers.  Not every interview will be successful and result in an offer and that's normal. Sometimes we are just not a good match for the role or the company. However, the reason should never be a lack of preparation for the interview.

Here are 24 difficult interview questions asked often and some guidance on how to answer them:

Tell me about yourself

Impossible to answer fully. Select strengths, skills, achievements and particularly benefits to other employers which your research shows will be of greatest interest to them. State very briefly your background and positions held. Do not speak for longer than a few minutes. Keep eye contact with your interviewer, and be sure that you have their interest.

What can you offer us?

Focus on what you think the company needs based on the Job Description. Be sure you know something about the situation you have in mind before you try to answer. Then you can relate some of your past experiences where you have succeeded in solving problems that appear similar to those of your prospective employer. You can also mention an achievement that you think will impress.

What are your strengths?

You should be able to list and concisely explain 3 or 4 essential strengths that are relevant to their needs. A couple of examples of benefits to previous employers will substantiate this.

What are your greatest achievements?

Try to pick accomplishments that ear on the challenge you may have been discussing. Stay away from ancient times. Again substantiate with examples of savings or improvements by past employers you have worked for.

What are your limitations?

Respond with a strength which, if over-done can get in your way and become a weakness. For example, you might say: "My ambition to get the job done sometimes causes me to press a little too hard on staff or my organisation, but I am aware of the problem and believe that I have it under control." Alternatively, deal with your need for further training in some new aspect. Do not claim to be faultless.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Indicate your desire to concentrate on doing the immediate role well - you are confident that the future will take care of itself. You do not want to convey the idea that you have no desire to progress, but you need to avoid statements which might indicate you put your personal career before doing a good job.

What do you know about our company?

If you have already done your homework, you can say that you have studied the published information and are thus aware of the basic facts. If the company has a set of values - feel free to list them. However, you might also want to state that you would like to know more - and then be prepared to ask some intelligent questions. Do not try to show off and recite all you have learned, but merely let your knowledge flow in a brief and concise manner.

Why do you think you should be selected for this role?

Indicate that from the study of their company, many activities and problems would give you a clear chance to contribute to the company - through experience and skills. If you can honestly say so, explain your admiration for the company and what it is that impresses you.

What do you look for from your employer?

Keep your answer opportunity orientated. Talk about the chance you would have to perform and get recognition. How your contribution in helping to solve problems is both rewarding and fulfilling to you.

Do you feel you might be over-qualified or too important for a small company like ours?

A good company needs good people with the appropriate experience. Explain that you are willing to bet that your accomplishments in other companies can be repeated here.

What is your management style?

The answer to this question depends on whether you have had management experience or not. If you haven't then talk about your expertise and experience. Say how you get the best result out of your team, say how you enjoy helping to ensure your manager achieves their objectives.

Why do you feel that you have a good potential to be picked for this role?

Keep your answer orientated towards your past achievements and the task to be done. Explain how you go about getting work done. Be proud of your own record. Be positive.

What do you see as the most difficult task in being successful?

Getting things done, and planned on time within budget. Ensuring the customer gets the best possible service. Stress how important customer satisfaction is to you. Find the reasons why and justify the answer.

In your last company what were the things that you liked most and least?

Be careful here. Emphasize the positive and do not carry on at length about the negatives. This is not the place to be critical about previous employers especially when the interviewers are not able to verify your claims.

Describe a situation in which your work was criticised

Be specific and brief - avoid getting emotional and defensive about it. Keep to criticism from your manager - never a customer.

How do you hold up under pressure of deadlines?

"I can handle it; it is a way of life in the business world".

What sort of reading do you do?

Be honest; mention some of the things you read in order to keep yourself up-to-date in your professional field. However, it is fitting to show balanced interests by your recreational reading too.

Do you consider yourself a creative person?

If you see creative people as the ones holding pencils and brushes than think: a resourceful person. If you are being asked this it is likely the company needs someone resourceful, so YES if you are. Be prepared to give a couple examples where you have solved problems, where solutions weren't readily available.

How would you describe your personality?

Balanced and human. Mention two or three useful traits i.e. self-motivation, honest, hard-working, totally reliable, integrity, etc. Avoid over-qualifications for yourself.

What are your strongest points?

Be ready to present at least 3 - preferably in a way that relates them to the potential employer's needs.

What sort of relationship do you have with your associates within your last company, both at the same level and above you?

This is a very important question, and you can afford to take your time and answer in steps. When talking about your relationships with associates, be prepared to state your philosophy of co-operation and particularly how specialists are available to help you with complex problems.

Concerning managers, indicate your keen interest in understanding the expectations of your manager, so that you and your organisation can build your goals in a way that will support their goals. You may also want to talk about how you keep your manager informed; how your manager was supportive and understanding which helped you to give ongoing support to him and the team.

What are you activies outside of work?

Your answer should show that you lead a balanced life. Avoid throwing in so many outside activities that it casts doubt on how much time you have left for your job. Remember that your hobbies and recreations can be quite revealing as to your own personality - not an issue, just something to keep in mind if you have not built rapport with the interviewer.

Are you continuing your professional training?

If you are not actually attending or planning to attend formal classes, be ready to explain what sort of outside reading (of books or magazines) or attendance at professional seminars you undertake in order to keep yourself up to date with developments in the industry you are applying to.

There are 5 other candidates waiting to be interviewed for this role. Why should I give it to you?

A good way to respond to this is to say very clearly that you are capable of doing the job well. You might like to add that your last employer thought highly of you. This is an ideal point at which to emphasize your strengths, skills and achievements while projecting confidence.
Think positive and do not lie! It is not what you have not got, but what you do have that the company will be interested in. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions. Share this article with a friend if they have an upcoming interview.
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