3 Tough Interview Questions & How to Answer Them

It happens to the best of us – the interview is going well, you’re building rapport and you’re pretty sure you’ve impressed them so far. Then, all of a sudden, you’re struggling to find an answer for what turned out to be a really, really tough interview question. Perhaps you don’t have experience directly relating to what’s being asked, or you’re unable to work out immediately what the interviewer wants to hear; maybe you’ve simply experienced the dreaded ‘mind blank’.

The truth is, often it doesn’t come down to a right or wrong answer but seeing how you react under pressure. Whether the question is skills or competency based, relating to something vocational or something abstract, nailing these tough interview questions IS possible – it just comes down to being prepared.

Here at NLG, we’re all about seeing our jobseekers through the interview process – so, here are 3 tough interview questions you’re likely to come up against at some point, moreover how to answer them well.

Question: What constructive criticism have you received from managers/colleagues in the past?

This one is a bit of a classic, and could be compared to, “What is your greatest weakness?”. With this interview question, the employer is often trying to assess your level of self-awareness rather than what you’re actually good or not so good at; it’s also a great indicator of whether you’re driven by self-improvement and making changes to better your skills, be that with regards to technical or professional.

Be candid in your answer, without over-sharing – think of something which has been brought to your attention during your career, and provide an example and some context of when you’ve known it to happen; finish by explaining how you’re working to overcome or improve it. Check out our example answer below to see exactly what we mean.

Example answer: “In the past, someone mentioned to me that I had spoken over others during a meeting. I sometimes struggle to contain my enthusiasm when handling a new project! However, it’s not polite nor professional – I took pains to work on my active listening to make sure I’m letting everyone share what they need to before I jump in and I’ve also found that by taking notes, I’m able to better absorb other peoples’ ideas before bringing my own to the table. This gives me a much more rounded understanding of things, and I don’t talk over anyone as a result.”

Question: Why do you want to work here?

This question is a little more abstract; there’s really no right or wrong answer. It’s important to give an answer which doesn’t sound too textbook (i.e. picking out a few buzzwords from their website), but also to make sure you don’t over-reach – for instance, talking about things which aren’t guaranteed or set in stone, for example the ability to progress quickly when they may take a more slow-and-steady approach.

The truth is, a successful answer here comes down to research. Don’t try to answer with things you don’t know or haven’t been explicitly been told (meaning don’t make any assumptions) – instead, base your answer around their company values and ideals, the things you’ve learnt about their culture based on social channels of theirs you follow, and their standing/reputation in the industry they operate within.

Example answer: “I’ve been following your business for a while, so when I began my job search yours was at the top of my list of target companies. Having delved deeper, I found that many of our values align really closely, such as championing accountability and always maintaining a client-first approach – something I’ve demonstrated throughout my career – so this added to my excitement. The position we’ve discussed sounds like a great step where I could bring value, the company itself is one I can see myself making a difference in and I love what I’ve heard so far about how you operate.”

Question: What achievement are you most proud of?

Interviewers love this question and, truly, it’s one you should look forward to; it’s an opportunity to really stand out, to show them your passion. It’s largely aimed at gaining more of a cultural and personal understanding of you, including how you view and determine success.

Your answer doesn’t have to relate to your job (unless asked for a career accomplishment specifically) – take it to heart and talk about something which appeals to your personal values. This may well be something you’ve achieved at work, a project you led in the workplace for instance, but could also apply to something you’ve accomplished in your spare time or a personal experience you’ve had. Try to steer clear of generic achievements such as completing a degree or being promoted; these are, of course, amazing endeavors, but they’re often inevitable – your interviewer is expecting exactly this. So, go a little deeper; talk about the achievement, give them some context, discuss the process and then explain the outcome.

Example answer: “There are a few which spring to mind but, honestly, my biggest achievement so far has to be completing my first marathon last year. It’s not something I ever saw myself doing and required a strict training regime which I researched heavily and then put together myself, along some real commitment to get myself ready. I’m proud of the time I spent physically and mentally preparing, along with the result itself.”

Hopefully with this advice, you’ll be able to master your answers to some of these tough interview questions – and, for any others you might have, we’d love to hear from you. Check out the Next Level Group LinkedIn page to connect with our team and leave us a comment with the tough interview questions you’d love to know the answers to!

Any views or opinions expressed within this blog do not necessarily reflect the official policy of  NLG. Any points made are for general information only, and none should be relied upon as a basis for making any business, legal or other decisions. Neither NLG nor the author can be held responsible for any reliance placed by you on any information or material within this article.

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