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  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing
  3. January 13, 2022

How to Answer 10 Tough Interview Questions + Example Answers

How many pounds does a tough interview question weigh?

Woman smiling
Photo courtesy of Sigmund

Answering tough interview questions is one aspect of job searching that we all fear. Interview and career coach Tazeen Raza says, “The idea behind some of these tough interview questions is to understand how you think, and how you overcome challenges when you are in the hot seat.” To quell your anxiety, we’ve compiled a list of common tough interview questions with sample responses that you can practice in advance. 

Raza says that in order to prepare yourself for tough interview questions, read the job description and draw parallels between the description and your previous work. “Come up with some specific examples that demonstrate that you have experience doing some of the things outlined in the job description,” she says. “The best way to stand out is to be honest and clear with your answers.”

Read more: 36 Tips to Make Interview Prep Impactful

10 tough interview questions and example answers

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is one of the most common opening interview questions, but it can still be tough if you don’t know how much to reveal about yourself. “The interviewer wants to make sure you would be a good fit for the role,” Raza says. “This is also a chance for them to make sure you read the job description and aren’t blindly applying to multiple roles.”

Bad answers:

  • “I love being a recruitment coordinator, but I also love traveling, cooking, and spending time with my new puppy.”

  • “I’ve mastered the craft of business development. I’ve seen it all, and I’ve done every kind of deal in the books.”

Good answers:

  • “I’d love to walk you through my background and experience as it relates to this role. I’ve been a UX designer for six years at [company name], and I taught an entire junior team how to analyze data to drive engagement and increase user satisfaction. Now, I want to focus more on the design side, and I noticed that requirement in your job description.”

  • “I’ve been in the marketing industry for over five years, mostly working in account management roles. I most recently worked for a large tech company overseeing four other account managers. Now, I'm looking to expand my experience in fintech, which is why I'm so interested in joining an agency like yours.”

2. Why do you want this job?

This is a very common interview question, yet it can prove difficult to answer. The interviewer wants to know what drew your interest to this specific position, plus why you think you’re the right candidate for the job. Your answer needs to address key points like how your skills match the job description, why you’re excited or passionate about the job, and how you’d fit into the company’s culture.

Bad answers:

  • “To be honest, I have a lot of student loans to pay off, and I was immediately drawn to the salary of this position. Plus, my friend works in the marketing department, and he’s always talking about how fun the company holiday parties are.”

  • “I really like your benefits package—especially the unlimited paid time off. I can’t wait to take vacation time.”

Good answers:

  • “I’ve worked in project management for eight years, but I still strive to constantly hone my skills and learn new things, so I was drawn to the learning opportunities at [company name]. I’d love to learn how to code so I can deepen my expertise.”

  • “I’m excited for the opportunity to work with a small growing team. I want to have a voice at the table when it comes to your initial branding and PR efforts—I already have so many ideas I want to run by the team.”

Read more: How to Answer: Why Are You Interested in This Position?

3. What do you believe the biggest challenge of this job would be?

If you haven’t reviewed the position you’re interviewing for in-depth, this could be a tough interview question. The interviewer wants to know that you understand the job, and they also want to gauge whether you’ll be challenged in the role. Be honest about what you believe will be the most difficult part of the job. 

Bad answers:

  • “I don’t think I’ll have any challenges in this position.”

  • “The most challenging part of this job will be the hours—I’m not a morning person.”

Good answers:

  • “I believe the biggest challenge of this job will be initially learning the entire product range, especially every feature and benefit. I plan to start studying right away so I can work the floor as soon as possible.”

  • “Since this will be my first leadership opportunity, I believe my biggest challenge will be gaining the confidence of the team at first. I plan to be transparent about my experience and will remain open to any constructive feedback."

4. What’s something you didn’t like about your last job?

Here, your interviewer wants to see if you’re respectful when speaking about past issues. It can be difficult to reframe your answer if you left your job because of a toxic atmosphere, discrimination, or bad boss, but it’s important to not trash talk your former employer in the interview. Instead, focus on an aspect of the job that made it more challenging to reach your professional goals

Bad answers:

  • “I was forced to stay in the office from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. every night, so I didn’t like that I had no work-life balance. Plus, I had zero feedback on my work.”

  • “My coworkers were very different from me, and I had a very hard time getting along with them and collaborating in an efficient way.”

Good answers:

  • “I learned a lot in my last job, but ultimately, I didn’t feel like there was enough room for me to grow professionally and be challenged within the company. The advancement opportunity here is something that initially drew me to send in my resume.”

  • “The lack of stability. After three company acquisitions, I had five bosses in three years, which made it difficult to establish professional connections.”

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Move On After Working in a Toxic Environment?

5. What is your greatest weakness?

Another classic tough interview question. Here, it’s important to strike the right balance between being honest but not inadvertently putting yourself down in the process. Basically, you want to share something that you’re improving on without signaling that you’re not a good fit for the position.

Bad answers:

  • “I have a really tough time meeting deadlines. I know I’ll eventually get my work done, but I prefer to do it at my own pace.”

  • “My biggest weakness is identifying my own weaknesses.”

Good answers:

  • “I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to assignments when my plate is full. Sometimes my ambition gets the best of me and I end up taking on too much without an efficient way to manage my time.”

  • “I’ve always been comfortable with analyzing data and crunching numbers, but since qualitative data is equally as important as quantitative data in research, I’m really trying to improve my writing skills.”

Read more: 7 Expert-Approved Ways to Soothe Interview Anxiety

6. How do you deal with conflict?

We all have different approaches to our work, and we’re not always going to get along with every coworker. Still, your future employer wants this tough interview question to uncover whether you’ll shut down when exposed to difficult people or if you can respectfully hash out differences. To answer, explain how you attempt to resolve conflict and how you can work with a variety of personalities. (For this question especially, we recommend using the STAR method, which can help you illustrate your conflict resolution skills with an example.)

Bad answers:

  • “I’ve come to realize that some people just don’t mesh, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  • “I avoid working with people who aren’t similar to me.”

Good answers:

  • “Everyone has disagreements with a coworker at some point in their career, and I’ve learned that it’s best to pull them aside to have an honest, one-on-one conversation. Usually, issues can be resolved once you understand the other person’s work preferences and communication styles.”

  • “I actively monitor my attitude during conflict. I strive to actively listen to the other person’s point of view without becoming defensive. If I need to speak with a person further, I’ll move the discussion to a private space to avoid any public embarrassment.”

7. Give me an example of critical feedback you’ve received and how you handled it.

Employers ask this tough interview question to see if you have a sense of self-awareness and if you’re receptive to feedback—especially if it’s negative. Think of a real piece of criticism you’ve been given and explain how you’re working on improving that weakness.

Bad answers:

  • “My boss told me I was slacking at work and threatened to fire me if I didn’t turn in my assignments on time. I disagreed with their viewpoint at first, but now I meet all of my deadlines.”

  • “I’ve honestly never been criticized. I guess my work is just top-notch.”

Good answers:

  • “I tend to get super excited and animated about the projects I’m working on, which can cause me to occasionally interrupt my coworkers in meetings to share my ideas. After my manager pointed it out to me, I started taking notes and actively listening while my peers were speaking, and now I try to be the last one to contribute to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.”

  • "I was asked to heavily revise a project that I had spent many hours on, but after digesting the comments, I understood how the proposed changes would strengthen the finished product. I'm always eager to learn from people, especially when the critiques can help me grow in my career."

Read more: Think Like a Boss: How to Answer Any Interview Question They Throw at You 

8. Why should we hire you?

This is where the hiring manager really needs to hear you set yourself apart from the competition—now is not the time to be vague. Explain how your strengths are tied to the job description requirements, plus why you’d be a better option than someone with the exact same background as you. Let your personality, passion, and accomplishments shine.

Bad answers:

  • “I’m passionate about marketing, and I think I’d be the best fit for the position.”

  • “I’ve been told by all of my previous employers that I’m a really good employee.”

Good answers:

  • “I increased the customer base by 55 percent in my previous job, which shows my dedication to constant improvement. I will stop at nothing to deliver positive results for the team.”

  • “I have the experience and attitude to excel in this position. I have almost three years of production experience, I’ve developed my communication skills from working directly with senior managers, and I have a reputation for getting things done with a smile on my face.”

9. Why are you leaving your current role?

Similar to question four, this is a direct attempt to learn why you’re job searching. “The interviewer wants to make sure that you have a positive attitude and are an all-around nice person to work with,” Raza says. “Red flags include bad-mouthing your last employer, suggesting you didn’t get along with your coworkers, or claiming you want to be paid more.”

Bad answers:

  • “I hate my boss, so I’ll take anything in order to leave.”

  • “I’m honestly just really bored, so I’m hoping to work in a fun job.”

Good answers:

  • “I’m hoping to expand my copywriting experience, and the opportunity to be mentored in that area at [company name] really excites me.”

  • “I believe I've progressed as far as I can in my current role, I’m looking for a change of environment and responsibilities to motivate me.”

10. What are your salary expectations?

In some states, it’s illegal for interviewers to ask you for your salary history. However, some hiring managers will still ask, and it’s safer to have a prepared answer that’ll set you up for a good salary. “The interviewer wants to make sure that you researched the job and that you know the average salary based on your experience and education,” says Raza.

Bad answers:

  • “I’m currently making $50K, but this job has a max of $90K, so that would be fine.”

  • “I’ll take as much as you’ll give me.”

Good answers: 

  • “Based on my experience and education, I believe that $65,000-75,000 would be a fair ask.”

  • “Based on the average salary for this position in New York, I’d expect $75,000-90,000 in order to leave my current role.”

About our source

Tazeen Raza is an interview and career coach with several years of professional human resources experience. Raza has worked in recruiting, talent management, and college recruiting, developing her passion for helping individuals realize their strengths and weaknesses before landing their dream jobs. Learn more about her services at tazeenraza.com.

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Cara Hutto

Assistant Editor

Cara Hutto is the assistant editor at InHerSight. Her writing primarily focuses on workplace rights, job searching, diversity, and allyship, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in media and journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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