5 Tips for Answering Difficult Interview Questions

January 30, 2019

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Posted by: Nicola Malcolm

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While candidates will never know beforehand which specific questions they’ll be asked, the tips below provide guidance for generating successful responses to those challenging questions.

Download "The Ultimate Job Seeker's Guide: Interview Preparation" 


1. Prepare

How do you answer the “3 weaknesses” job interview question? You practice ahead of time.

Today’s wealth of resources on the internet make it easy for candidates to formulate an answer to the trickiest interview questions. You can search commonly asked interview questions and review sample responses. You can ask your friends in similar industries what challenging questions they had to answer.

You’ll find yourself thinking less on your feet when you’ve had the chance to brainstorm your answers ahead of time. While memorizing your answer may make you sound too rehearsed, it doesn’t hurt to formulate a variation of what you intend to say.


2. Follow with an Example

Most interview questions are best answered with an example of your work. Give your interviewer a thorough answer by peppering points of your past accomplishments, initiatives, and reactions.

Your employer wants to know how you’ll handle the various situations while working for them—it’s why they ask,“Why did you leave your previous job?” or “What you can bring to my company?” These questions provide employers with a gauge to assess your abilities. Following your initial statement with an example provides a concrete demonstration of your skills in action.


3. Discuss What You’re Proud Of

People are more animated when they’re talking about a favourite subject or beloved memory. While you still have to maintain a professional tone, the ability to answer tricky interview questions with an example you’re proud of shows the employer you’re enthusiastic, passionate, and dedicated to your work.

Whether you’re discussing your three- to five-year plan or selling them on the reasons for hiring you, showcase yourself in a way that highlights your best abilities. Next, combine that response by reflecting on how the examples relate to the role. Adding specific details will strengthen your answer.


4. Spin a Negative Experience into a Positive Opportunity

Sometimes, your answers to challenging interview questions may show you in an unfavourable light. Your best comeback is to follow up with how you would have improved the situation.

Being asked to describe a time you failed isn’t going to make you look your best, yet you want the employer to view you as an honest and competent candidate. Finish your response by discussing how you learned from this failure, the steps you took to ensure the situation wouldn’t happen again, and what you would do differently today to resolve the issue. The interviewer will be impressed by your ability to learn from past mistakes.


5. Stall for Time

Questions such as “What have you learned from your mistakes?” and “How do you handle stress?” might require a moment to provide an answer. There is nothing quite as distressing in an interview as drawing a blank.

If you feel stuck for an answer, focus on finding your response by either asking the employer to repeat the question or saying it aloud yourself. If this doesn’t help, ask for clarification. It’s okay to pause and collect your thoughts.

These tips will help you prepare for any type of interview. You’ll find it easier to navigate strenuous questions and provide strong answers.


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Nicola Malcolm

Nicola Malcolm

Nicola has over 20 years of staffing industry experience with global, international, and Canadian firms. She has a broad knowledge base from having worked at a temporary recruitment desk, as an on-site manager in a global warehouse and manufacturing company, and in marketing, IT and operations. In addition, Nicola managed a portfolio of MSP/VMS accounts for a global MSP, and currently manages the staffing supply of 10+ Canadian MSP/VMS programs. In her spare time, Nicola uses her recruiting background to help her family, friends, and personal network find meaningful work opportunities. She also enjoys applying her operational skills to plan family trips abroad as often as possible.

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