Two men sit at a table for an interview.

How to Answer Difficult Interview Questions

Interviewing for a potential new position can be overwhelming, especially when you are not sure what types of questions the interviewer may ask. Because various industries are so different, it is difficult to anticipate the more general questions that may come your way.

Since many of the beginning questions have little to do with the industry itself and are designed to help the interviewer get to know you, it can be daunting to know how to answer the questions. Knowing how to answer these generalized questions can help you stand out from the crowd, depending on what the company is looking for.

Wondering how to answer some of the most difficult interview questions? Keep reading to find out.

The Importance of Difficult Interview Questions

Most adults have been on at least one job interview throughout their career where they found the questions to be most difficult. From asking you about failures and weaknesses to wanting to know why you are the best candidate for the position.

Many candidates often wonder why these questions are asked especially when they do not seem to fit with the job they are applying for. The actuality, however, is that even though the questions do not seem to fit, there is often a higher purpose to them.

In most cases, these questions are important for interviewers to gauge whether a candidate will be a good fit for the company as a whole. Additionally, most people can position themselves to look good on paper, however, when faced with doing the job, it can be a different experience completely.

Whether you are doing an in-person interview or a video interview, the interviewer will be able to gauge your response to a question. For some companies, this is why they ask more difficult questions so they can see how you handle a stressful situation.

The bottom line when it comes to asking difficult interview questions is that each one serves a purpose for the company. Each question is most likely customized to read more about the interviewee than what they can see on paper.

Why do Interviewers Ask Difficult Questions?

While most interviews are designed to fit the industry in which the position is in, many questions get asked that seem to have little to do with the available job. Even though it can be frustrating to interviewees, these questions tell interviewers quite a bit about you.

Many questions have been asked in interviews across different industries for many years due to the power they hold. Being able to answer these questions will help the interviewer weed out those who may not be a good fit for the company.

Although questions like, “what are your greatest strengths/weaknesses” seem to be asked at most interviews, the way you answer them can tell the interviewer more than you may think. While it is important to be forthcoming with your answers, there is a fine line between that and saying too much.

Keep in mind that most interviewers are not trying to “catch you” in a lie or trap you into saying something that will eliminate you. In most cases, they are attempting to see how well you think on your feet which speak to how you will do on the job.

Additionally, many interviewers take some of their questions from other industries and adapt them to fit their situation. This is why even those questions that do not seem to fit with the industry, are likely some of the most important ones you will be asked.

It is important, as a job seeker, that you have prepared yourself for some of the difficult interview questions before showing up. Reviewing some of the most common questions can help you be prepared when they ask you an unexpected question.

A man has a video interview with a woman on a laptop screen.
Difficult interview questions are designed to trip up those who may not be a good fit for the job.

What are the Most Common Types of Questions Interviewers Ask and Why do They Ask Them?

Keep in mind that in most interviews, a majority of questions will focus on the industry and job position that you have applied for. However, there are many questions that you will think have nothing to do with the actual job.

The most important thing to remember is to ensure that you are answering all of the questions even if you are unsure how to do so. Refusing to answer a question can tell the interviewer that you may be hiding something and may not be a good fit for the position.

Are you curious about some of the most common types of questions you may find in most interviews? Keep reading below to learn more about the most common questions and what the interviewer may be looking for by asking them.

Tell Me About a Time You Failed

For this type of interview question, most interviewers are looking to learn something about you that is not typically written on your resume. Most of the answers to this type of question are about learning how you respond under certain circumstances.

In most cases, interviewers are looking to learn how you work under pressure and the way you respond when things do not go your way. Are you a team player? Do you stress out when things are not going your way?

Although the purpose of the questions seems to feel like a trap, many positives come out of learning how someone handles failure. This is because not everything on a job goes as well as you may want it to, and they want to ensure that you can handle that.

What Are Your Biggest Strengths/Weaknesses?

This type of question is often asked to assess your knowledge and self-awareness about your abilities. The interviewer is searching for an answer that focuses on what you know about yourself and also how you feel about that knowledge.

While, again, the interviewer is not attempting to trap you into saying something that will eliminate you from the running, they are trying to gauge how you view yourself. When you can give them more thoughtful answers, they can get a better sense of whether or not you are a good candidate for the position at hand.

Tell Me About Yourself and a Bit About Your Background

This type of interview question is somewhat difficult to answer due to the purpose behind it may be different for various industries. For the most part, however, people, in general, have a natural curiosity about other people.

This question is designed to help you relax by getting you to focus on something you do know about, which is yourself. The interviewer typically wants to know about your background and how you may have gotten into the work that you do.

Keep in mind that most interviewers are looking for information that is not written on your cover letter or resume. They often expect that you know this and will help them to understand what makes you the best candidate for the position.

Why Should We Hire You?

The important thing to remember is that an interview is designed to allow you to put your best attributes forward and sell yourself as the best candidate for a position. By doing this, you will set yourself apart from the competition and may land the job.

This question is also designed to allow you the opportunity to not only brag about yourself but to put the answer in the context of the job itself. The interviewer wants to know how much research you have done on the company and possibly the position you are applying for.

How to Answer Difficult Interview Questions

Whether or not you are interviewing in a field you know well, or if it is your first try at breaking into a new industry, you should be able to answer any question they throw at you. Since many interviewers want to ensure that you are truly a self-starter and can hold your own, you should be prepared to answer any question they throw at you.

As you are getting ready for your interview, it is important that you not only spend time researching the company itself, but you should also spend time practicing interviewing skills. Since you do not know what questions may be asked, you must research a wide variety of potential questions and ways to answer them.

Curious about the best way to answer those interview questions that are most commonly asked? Read on to find out how.

Best Answer for the Question About a Time You Failed

To answer this question, you will need to ensure that you are treading lightly since the interviewer is not looking for you to air your dirty laundry. In most cases, they are looking to learn a bit more about you and how you handle obstacles.

The best way to answer a question like this is to not focus purely on the negative aspects of the failure. Instead, it is recommended that you keep the answer fairly straightforward and short without avoiding the question altogether.

Most experts recommend that you focus on a time when a project did not come together as planned instead of an all-out failure. The important part of explaining this is to put into context how your team miscalculated and what you learned from it as well as the positive outcome of changing the plan.

Best Answer to the Question About Your Biggest Strengths/Weaknesses

For many interviewers and interviewees alike, this question can often lead to a slippery slope that can end an interview faster than anything. While this is your opportunity to brag and be honest with your interviewer, you should also tread carefully.

This is especially important for the biggest weaknesses questions since they are designed to bring your worst qualities to the surface. The best rule of thumb when answering this type of question is to answer by combining both the strengths and weaknesses.

For example, if you feel your best quality is your ability to relate to others through written and verbal communication, you may mention a closely related skill that may not be as strong such as time management and what you are doing to address the flaw.

Best Answer for the Questions About Yourself and Your Background

For this type of question, it is important to understand that the interviewer is not likely looking for your answer to be repetitive in your resume and cover letter. They are more interested in what they do not know about you by reading these items.

The best way to answer this question is to focus on what your background is concerning how you chose the industry you are in. Interviewers are likely to want to hear your story and what led you to the position you are applying for.

Keep in mind that it is important not to go on a twenty-minute diatribe of your background and tell every little detail about yourself. They typically are looking for a brief synopsis of where you are coming from and why you have positioned yourself to interview with them.

Two women sit across the table from a gentleman they are interviewing. One woman is using a laptop computer.
Mastering difficult interview questions by practicing your answers can help you to nail an interview.

Best Answer for the Questions About Why They Should Hire You

Since most interviewers are looking for what sets you apart from other candidates, you will need to answer this question thoughtfully. This means that you have taken the time to research not only the company but the position and job description as well.

In most cases, interviewers are wanting a reason they should look more closely at you for the position over other candidates. They also want to know that you took the time to focus on their company and that you can put yourself into the position as your answer.

Instead of telling them that you are passionate about the industry, take the time to bring in one thing they mention either on their website or in the job description and how you can address the issue. For example, use one of the job requirements and relate it to something you have done on a previous job and what the outcome was.

Ready for Your Next Interview?

As you are preparing for your next job interview, you should understand that you will need to leverage your skills against what the company is looking for. If you are not prepared for an interview with their specifications, they may find this to be a red flag and eliminate you from the opportunity altogether.

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