So you’ve nailed your phone interview after perusing 10 Tips for Nailing the Phone Interview, and you’re preparing for your 10 AM in-person interview next Wednesday with 12 Tips for Acing Your Next Job Interview. By now you’ve started Googling the dozens of potential interview questions that may be thrown your way and the possibilities are piling up.
As you go through your interview prep checklist, mentally preparing yourself for the interview can be one of the most challenging boxes to check off. You must consider your skills, accomplishments, and largely, how you will confidently answer an inevitable round of difficult interview questions. Although preparing to present the best version of yourself can seem like a daunting task, planning for an upcoming interview is the perfect opportunity for reflection upon your strengths, weaknesses, and career goals.
While your goal is inevitably to ace the interview and land the job, seeking out meaningful, thoughtful answers to tough interview questions will differentiate yourself as a candidate and distinguish what you are truly looking for in your next opportunity. Throughout the process of examining your strengths and weaknesses, you will naturally begin to paint a picture of exactly why you are a great fit for the role and set a foundation for navigating any curveball or difficult question you may face. Before heading to your next in-person interview, be sure to prepare for these five commonly asked difficult interview questions:
1. What motivates you?
The answer to this frequently asked interview question should be as dynamic as it is genuine — but also be tailored to the role. For example, if you are applying for an operations-focused role, highlighting your money-motivated mindset may not demonstrate that you would be a logical fit for the role. While there is no right or wrong answer to what motivates you, ensure your motivations are harmonious with the responsibilities of the job description, as this will reflect your work style. Your answer to this question will act as an indicator if you will enjoy and succeed in the role. Use examples from past work experiences that will enrich your answer with enthusiasm and prove that you can thrive and grow within the role.
“Not only do I work well under pressure, but I am motivated by meeting deadlines. The process of setting deadlines and exceeding those benchmarks gives me a sense of accomplishment throughout the duration of a long project. I recently spearheaded a six-week project and set up many small milestones to keep me accountable and on track. Completing each checkpoint not only kept me organized, but also motivated and excited about my progress.”
2. Why are you leaving your current role?
Whether or not your reasons for leaving your current role are personal or professional, you should always remain as professional as possible when answering this question. As with every interview question, be honest, but avoid tangents or using your response as an opportunity to speak negatively about your company or boss. Your response should be clear and concise, as your interviewer should readily understand your reasoning without extensive explanation. Despite your decision to leave your current role, remain positive throughout your response, focus on your growth, and redirect the conversation by outlining why you think the company you are interviewing with will be a good fit for you moving forward.
“In my current role, I am largely responsible for marketing and administrative tasks, but I feel my personality and skillset is truly suited for a client-facing role in sales. With the current infrastructure of my company, there are no opportunities for me to take on this type of role. Ultimately, I am seeking an opportunity to hone my selling and relationship management skills, and the Account Executive role I am applying for is the ideal role for me to leverage my current skills and flourish as a sales professional.”
3. What is your biggest weakness?
Answering this often-dreaded question truthfully doesn’t mean you are headed down a road of self-sabotage. The key to nailing this question is to be authentic, tactful and demonstrate self-awareness. Avoid common clichés such as “I work too hard,” “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or even “my strength is my weakness.” Everybody has weaknesses, and by avoiding trite buzzwords, you will demonstrate that you have thoughtfully reflected on how you can overcome your own obstacles. Gather additional insight by recalling a time that you received feedback that may have initially been difficult to hear. Illustrate what feedback you received, how you received it, and what game plan you put into action in order to improve.
“One of my weaknesses is time management, and I have struggled with feeling overwhelmed as deadlines would loom. I consider myself an ambitious person, so I am quick to accept any project or responsibility but have seen this conflict with the amount of time I have to complete certain tasks. To avoid missing deadlines, before I dive into any project, I set a schedule with deadlines to keep me on track. By practicing this type of proactivity and keeping a neat and organized calendar, I have been successful in staying on track and making time for new ventures.”
4. Tell me about a time when…
Often an interview question may not be a question at all, and any time you hear your interviewer starts their sentence with “Discuss a time when…” or “Tell me about a time when…” prepare to use the STAR method. The STAR method is a popular interviewing technique that helps interviewees succeed when answering behavioral interview questions. By hitting all angles of the STAR method, you will impress your interviewer by providing comprehensive insight into how you handled a difficult situation and what the outcome was while avoiding telling a generic, vague story. Be sure to demonstrate you are a team-player and avoid discussing interpersonal dynamics if your situation involves a specific coworker or your manager.
Situation – Paint a brief picture of the situation.
Task – Define your responsibility and/or goal in this scenario.
Action – Detail the actions you took to accomplish this task.
Result – Describe the outcome.
“My colleague and I were working together on a time-sensitive assignment, and I had noticed he had missed an important deadline. When I approached him about the progress of the assignment, he became very upset and stormed off. I scheduled some time for us to meet, and he explained that he was overwhelmed with competing deadlines he was also working on. I offered to assist with any additional projects, and together we successfully divided the tasks to get back on track. I scheduled check-in meetings in the remaining days before the final deadline so we were always on the same page, and we ended up finishing the project early.”
5. Why do you want to work here?
Nailing this question is particularly important, as this question is aimed to determine if you are right for the position and the company culture. There are many elements to assemble when responding to this question, as you must touch on how you will contribute to the company, why you would be an outstanding fit for the role, and why you and the company would be a harmonious match. Tie up any loose ends and really sell yourself and your motivations. Consider how the role fits within your career goals and mention the aspects of the company that are appealing to you. Be specific, enthusiastic, and thoroughly informed by researching the company’s website and social media outlets to get a complete idea of their company culture.
“I would be proud to work for a company that has such an excellent reputation in this industry and that places such importance on both innovation and bettering the world we live in. I am enthusiastic about the mission and overwhelmingly positive feedback of the company’s technology and would be thrilled to use my 10 years in product development to further the goals and success of the company.”
While there is no right or wrong answer to these difficult interview questions, they serve as some of the strongest opportunities for you to demonstrate why you are an excellent candidate. These types of questions are designed to determine how you think, perceive yourself in a work environment, and overcome obstacles.
Prepare for your interview by compiling a list of difficult questions you are anticipating and thoughtfully consider your answers and how to weave your positive attributes into your responses. By nailing the toughest of interview questions, you will make a powerful impression and set a positive tone for your new role.
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