employment 4 students - The UK's most visited student jobsite


How To Answer 9 Difficult Interview Questions

12 Oct 2022

Difficult interview questions can make entering and leaving an interview a daunting process. You’ll either find yourself dreading going into the room, or frantically questioning yourself over how you answered the interviewers – typically going over different scenarios in your head.

But forget that because you’re prepared.

You’ve done it; you’ve progressed in an application, and you’ve landed yourself an interview. Next step is to prepare best to ensure you can walk into the interview confidently and as your best version of yourself.

Here’s how to answer difficult interview questions.

1. Why do you want this job?

This is a perfect opportunity for you to highlight why you are a good fit for the role.

As obvious as it may sound, it is important to ensure that you demonstrate that you understand the job requirements and the business.

Does this role allow you to challenge yourself and expand your skills? Does the company culture feel like a perfect fit? Is there a new project you want to be a part of? If you are going to mention factors like that, be sure to give an example as it is an easy way to demonstrate you understand the job.

Keep it relevant and professional too, this question will likely bookend your interview coming at the beginning or the end – so will have a significant impact on how the interviewer remembers the interview. Likewise, try to sell yourself and add a bit about what you can bring to the business.

For example, “The opportunity to work on a new project is something I find highly rewarding and will allow me to further develop my analytical skills whilst also working with other departments to use my previous experience in the X industry to bring in fresh ideas and solutions.”

2. Tell us something about yourself

This is certainly a tricky one. It often opens an interview and can help to set the tone for the rest of your interview.

Start with a point about education. This is a really good way to subtly create a timeline of your career and why you’ve chosen a certain industry/sector (if relevant) and storytelling is a great way to get your listener engaged – in this case the interviewer.

If you can, mention previous experience to indicate you are suitable for the job. You’ll probably discuss this later in the interview, but it’s a good way to maintain focus on your suitability for the role.

3. What is your biggest weakness?

You’ll likely be asked to explore some of your strengths, but what is an appropriate way to talk about a weakness? After all, weaknesses are supposed to be negative, right?

Not always. When discussing any of your weaknesses, it is important to make sure the focus is on what you are doing to improve that element, or counteract it, as this draws the negativity away from the weakness and can demonstrate a desire to learn and develop your professionalism.

For example, “I’ve been taking on more opportunities to present in order to improve my public speaking skills as this is something I’m really looking to develop”.

Likewise, make sure the weakness is appropriate. You DO NOT want to be saying time management is a weakness when you’re applying for a Project Management position – big red flag for the recruiter.

4. What do you dislike about your last job?

Negativity needs to be removed from this answer and needs to be constructive. Simply saying bad stuff about your previous employer is a red flag and doesn’t look good at all.

Try to add a positive spin to this question. A good route to go down is to open with a positive line, such as “I have enjoyed working there…”, and then focus on how you’re looking for new challenges, or that you are eager to develop a certain set of skills – relevant to the role you’re interviewing for of course.

Stay clear of mentioning people, such as managers or colleagues, as this appears that you could be problematic.

5. How do you handle pressure?

This is where the STAR technique comes in – Situation, Task, Action, Result.

Whilst it is good to say you handle pressure well – that’s what the interviewer wants to hear – it is pretty much useless to say so if you have no examples to back up your claims.

Think of a time you’ve handled a high-pressure situation and focus on what YOU did to have a successful outcome. It could have been you on your own or working as part of a team. By breaking it down into the STAR technique, it will allow you to clearly show the path to managing the situation, and importantly highlights what was done to solve the problem in that situation.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

With this response, the approach you need to take is to focus on development within your role. This could be to further a particular set of skills which is relevant to the role or progress within a team/the company into a management role. Share your vision with the interviewer, they will want people who are willing to go the extra mile rather than showing little willingness to progress and learn.

7. Explain a time you have handled a difficult colleague/conflict

Most jobs require working with people, and many of which will see you become a key component of a team. Like many machines, if one component fails, it can bring everything to a halt.

Conflict does exactly that in a business.

When an interviewer asks you this question, they might as well ask “are you a troublemaker?”, because that is exactly what they are trying to avoid and keep out of their business.

This question can sometimes be difficult to answer if you’ve never had conflict in the workplace, but there is nothing wrong with rolling back the years and considering your time in education (either school, college, or university).

Think of a time you’ve been working in a group, and you’ve had to overcome a disagreement. The same as handling pressure, use the STAR technique to discuss what the

Discuss what the issue was, how you got around it, and what was the outcome. Employers want to know what your methodology is behind resolving conflict, so make sure you spell it out for them.

8. How do you deal with criticism?

When a recruiter asks this, willingness to develop and learn may be something they are trying to gauge.

If you’re able to view criticism as constructive criticism, you’ll be able to sail through this question. Why? Because there is always an opportunity to learn from criticism, so make sure you get this across. Criticism is feedback, and without feedback it is often hard to understand how well you are doing something, positively or negatively.

Think of a time you’ve done a piece of work, either in education or the workplace, where someone wasn’t a fan of your work – now explain what you did after receiving some feedback you may have not expected or not gone the way you would have liked.

You could answer with something like “I take criticism in my stride; I understand that there is always room for improvement. When there is criticism of work I have done, I make sure I listen to what others have to say, good or bad, and change what I do in the future to develop my skill set”.

9. What motivates you?

This question is often used to determine if you’re a suitable fit for the company culture, so it could be helpful that you do a bit of research of the company to see any indications of this.

Everyone is motivated by different things, and a recruiter will be interested to learn what will motivate you in order to get the most productivity out of you. This will likely be linked to your role too, as depending on your roles/responsibilities you may be required to be an integral part of a team, lead a team or working independently and need to be self motivating. Likewise, it can also give recruiters an interesting insight into your hunger to progress in the company and your career.

Try to think about the role you’re interviewing for and consider a suitable angle to go for.

Some safe bets to go to are…
- Working in a team to achieve goals
- Furthering your skills
- Challenging yourself
- Solving problems
- The prospect of company progression

Share article with your network

Leave a comment

Comments currently closed. Tough break.

Enter your email address and we'll send you the latest blog updates