7 Tough Interview Questions You Should Prepare For

tough interview questions and answers

The job-searching process is a marathon, not a sprint. After you’ve created a great resume, applied to open positions, and used your networking skills, hopefully, you’ll land an interview. If you do land an interview, pat yourself on the back. After all, only 2% of applicants even get asked to interview for the average open position, according to a report from Teamstage.

Once you get the interview scheduled, it’s time to prepare. Along with researching the company and getting all your ducks in the row, it’s also wise to practice answering common and challenging interview questions. Every company and interview process are different, and some hiring managers like to throw curveball questions that can catch even the most experienced candidates off guard.

It’s impossible to prepare for everything a hiring manager may ask, but looking at some common tough questions will get your gears turning and give you a more focused mindset heading into an interview. If you have an outline of the things you’d like to say, you’ll likely be much smoother.

Empire Resume will run down 7 tough interview questions you can prepare for, including recommended answers. Good luck!

1. How Do You Handle Stress? 

This is a common question and one that hiring managers will be listening closely to your answer. The one thing you don’t want to say is that you never get stressed. That shows a lack of emotional intelligence. Everyone gets stressed sometimes, and what managers want to know is how you manage times when you feel stressed out and how you perform under pressure.

To answer this question successfully, it helps to provide specific examples of times you felt stressed at work and what you did to manage the feeling. You definitely don’t want to say you feel stressed when juggling multiple projects and deadlines, especially if the job description details that. Answering like that may show a hiring manager you’re not a good fit.

Here’s a sample answer that could work: “I expect to encounter pressure at a job, and I thrive under good pressure. Sometimes, stress can be a good thing because it motivates me to focus and get things done. I can think of a time when I had three big projects due in one week. I did feel stressed, but I managed it by using my time management skills and breaking things down into small segments. As a result, I was able to complete all the projects on time to my boss’ satisfaction.”

2. What Did You Think of Your Last Boss?

tough interview questions and answers

This one is tricky to answer and can also be somewhat of a trap. Experts agree you should never say anything negative about former employers in an interview. If you do go on a negative rant, a hiring manager will easily see you as a problem person who potentially can’t deal with conflict. Definitely not the route you want to take.

Even if you had a complicated relationship with a previous boss, there are ways to answer the question positively. Highlight the good aspects of a former difficult manager and talk about what you learned from working for them. If the interviewer pushes for criticism, don’t take the bait.

Here’s a sample answer: “My former boss had very high standards, but I feel like it was good because it pushed me to improve. We may have bumped heads sometimes, but we could always work things out. I learned a lot while working for him, and his high standards turned out to be motivation for me to keep getting better and work harder.”

3. What Motivates You?

This is a very open-ended question and you can answer it in several ways. That’s what makes it challenging. It’s a classic behavioral question where a hiring manager will want to know what makes you tick, what drives you to succeed, and whether those things align with the company’s goals and mission.

Doing research on the company and job description will help tremendously in answering this question. Ideally, your answer should blend together the things that motivate you to succeed and what the position and company are all about. When you add these two together, it’ll show the manager you’re a great fit.

Here’s a sample answer: “I’m really driven by achieving a goal and getting results. I like when I have clear goals set, and I can progress each day toward accomplishing them. At my last job, my boss had very aggressive goals for me, but we worked together and devised a strategy to achieve them. It was a great feeling knowing that I was helping the company succeed.”

4. Why Do You Want This Job?

tough interview questions and answers

This is another question where thorough research about the company and the position will come in handy. It may seem like the hiring manager wants to know more about you and your career goals by asking this question, but that’s only partly true. They really want to know if you researched the company and its mission and what you’re looking for aligns with their goals.

This question is probably your best opportunity to sell yourself to the employer and is similar to the common interview question of “why should we hire you?” First, think about what makes the company seem desirable and set that up in your answer. And then tell the manager what you bring to the table and how you would excel in the position and help the company succeed.

Here’s a sample answer: “I want this job because I understand this company is on the rise and one of the best sales firms in the area. I want to be part of this business as it continues to grow, and I think my experience in sales and my tenacious work ethic can help you build something great.”

5. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

This is another common tricky interview question where you’ll want to avoid saying anything negative about your past or current employer. If you’re currently employed, a variation of this question is, “Why are you looking for a new job?”

Hiring managers want to know whether you quit, were fired, and left your previous job on good terms. Your answer will reveal a lot about your character in the workplace and whether you’re a loyal employee.

It’s definitely a question you’ll want to be careful with. Keep your answer short, honest, and straightforward, and also use it to pivot why you want to work at the company you’re interviewing for.

Here’s a sample answer: “To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for a new job, but I saw this opportunity come up and I was really attracted to it. I’ve put in a few excellent years with my current company, and I’m looking for a new challenge. The open position at this company sounds very exciting, and I think it matches my interests, skills, and experience very much.”

6. What’s Your Desired Salary?

tough interview questions and answers

This is possibly the most challenging question of them all and, depending on your negotiating skills, it could make or break your earning an adequate income. The first thing to remember is always wait for the employer to ask first. Many times, a discussion of salary won’t come up until a job is offered. But sometimes, hiring managers will ask for a desired salary range on a second or third interview.

You can answer in various ways, depending on the negotiating strategy you’d like to take. Whatever you do, it’s always best to provide a salary range instead of a specific number. If your range is too high, it could scare the employer off. And if the range is too low, it could cost you thousands of dollars.

One good strategy is to delay. Tell the employer that at this point in the interview, you’d like to hear more about the position before you discuss salary so you can determine if you’re a good fit. Delaying salary negotiation until the end of the interview is a good tactic because it gives you more leverage.

7. How Do You Deal with Conflicts with Co-Workers?

This question is tricky and can catch you off guard if you haven’t prepared for it. Everyone deals with conflict at some point in a job, usually with a manager or a co-worker they find difficult. Hiring managers will want to know you don’t resort to childish or toxic behaviors in the workplace and you’re a good team player.

When answering, assure the interviewer that you’re a good listener and, when dealing with conflict, you always do so in a private space. Let them know that you’re open to hearing other people’s opinions and provide examples of times you worked out differences with a co-worker or boss.

Here’s a sample answer: “When dealing with conflict at work, I try to be an active listener and hear the other person’s point of view. I believe almost every conflict can be worked out as long as I don’t get defensive when I’m talking with someone. For example, at my last job, I felt like a co-worker was throwing me under the bus, so I approached him in private. We were able to talk about the situation very maturely and de-escalate before it got worse.”

Consider the Motivation Behind the Questions

tough interview questions and answers

No matter how much you prepare for an interview, there are bound to be a few tough questions that’ll catch you off-guard. Of course, you can’t anticipate every curveball an interviewer may throw, but if you research the company, practice your answers, and stay calm and poised, you have an excellent shot at impressing hiring managers with your answers.

One trick is to always consider the motivation behind the question. Some questions can be very tricky, but hiring managers are usually looking for similar things in your answers, such as whether you’re a good fit, if you really want to work at the company, and how much research and preparation you’ve done.

Stay tuned to our blog for more helpful insights into careers and employment, including articles such as How to Prepare for Retirement, How COVID Has Changed the Workplace, and Recession Proof Careers.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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