Candidate in an interview

How to Answer Tough Interview Questions.

By Amanda Gonsalves on 17th July 2017


Interviews are stressful and most of us have crazy stories of being asked tough questions and giving cringe worthy answers. The best way to move forward is to laugh at yourself and use the experience as a learning opportunity. Here are four common interview questions that candidates have trouble with.

1.Tell me about yourself (TMAY)

Fail: You talked about your family history for 10 minutes

The TMAY question is asked at the beginning of the interview and sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. Candidates often have trouble with their answers because they usually don’t know where to begin and as a result deliver a very long and dull speech instead of a compelling story.

Responses should be 1-2 minutes in length and is very similar to an elevator pitch. You don’t have to provide many details, but be sure to mention your experiences that relate to the job. Make sure you smile and be engaging to leave a memorable impression.

2. Why do you want to leave your job or why are you currently unemployed?

Fail: You said your prior boss fired you because you were lazy

These are difficult questions to answer as many people look to leave to improve their current situation or may have been let go. The best way to tackle this question is to own your prior mistakes and be positive by focusing on what you hope to learn from the new opportunity. If you were let go, you could say something like, “Unfortunately it was not the right environment for me and in my next opportunity I’m looking for…” or “I made a few mistakes in at my last role and these are the steps I’m taking to ensure it does not happen again”

3. What are your weaknesses?

Fail: The job was to audit companies and you said your biggest weakness is attention to details.

This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions in the history of interviews and yet still seems the Achilles heel for many candidates.

The interviewer is looking for honesty, self-awareness, and self-improvement.

Don’t deny that you have a weakness or try disguising a strength as a weakness. The best way to answer the question is to give a genuine weakness that is not directly related to your ability to perform the job. Be sure to also show steps you’ve taken to improve.

4. What is your 5-year goal?

Fail: You were interviewing for a Junior Accountant role and said you’d like to be the Vice President of IT.

Now that “job hopping” is the new normal, interviewers ask this question to gauge your level of commitment to the role and your motivations. Common mistakes include discussing future leadership roles with unrealistic timelines or future job opportunities that are not related to the one currently being interviewed for.

Focus the conversation on the current job you’re interviewing for by showing interest doing whatever is required to master it and after you would be willing to grow into future roles if they were presented.

Didn’t get the job? Check out Turning the Time When You Didn’t Get the Job into a Positive experience to help you get back on track.