Going into every job interview, you need to expect a few tough questions, but being prepared ahead of time can give you the edge you need to move to the next interview stage.

Here are a few questions to practice, so you’re not tripped up in your following interview. Answer them like a pro with our simple guide to answering difficult interview questions.

1. tell me about yourself.

Gulp. Talk about an open-ended question. The interviewer isn’t interested in your favourite colour, hobbies or that you’re a middle child unless they relate specifically to your work experience or the opportunity. 

  • Start with your elevator pitch – the short intro you prepared at the beginning of your job search covering the who, what, and why of who you are and what you can offer a potential employer.
  • Expand into more detail where you think it’s most relevant to the job.

2. what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?

To answer a question about your strengths, list qualities and traits relevant to the job opportunity you’re interviewing for.

In areas where you need improvement, focus on what you’ve learned from the challenge and how you applied your newfound self-awareness to other situations.

Though you want to be honest, don’t wallow in negativity or bring up something that’s a deal-breaker.

For instance, saying you have trouble meeting deadlines, while it might be honest, isn’t going to help you in the interview.

When a question asks you to reflect on something negative about yourself, give a short example and then focus the conversation on what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown due to the experience.

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3. why do you want to work for this company? Or why do you want this job?

The best approach to a question like this is to highlight aspects of the job you’re interviewing for, using your research and applying your own experience and personality.

You want to work for a small not-for-profit because you want your work to be impactful and make a difference in the community. You like the connection and support of a small office. While you’re a self-starter and enjoy working independently, you thrive in a collaborative workplace. 

Your answer should always reflect your research on the organisation, the job and what you can determine about the company's work culture. You’re painting a picture of how you fit in and the value and contributions you bring.

4. what achievements are you most proud of?

The answer isn’t the cake you baked at the weekend or winning a gold medal in your school swimming competition.

  • Focus on work experience (or volunteer if you don’t have any work history).
  • Think about how your work delivered results and what you achieved.
  • Have you won any prestigious awards that you are particularly proud of and relevant to the job?

Perhaps you initiated a new scheduling method at the coffee shop you worked at through university that resulted in fewer redundancies and a more equitable way of staffing shifts.

Any prospective employer can understand and relate to quantifying results based on your actions, regardless of where you worked or in what capacity.

final thoughts.

We’ve outlined four questions that can be asked, in some form or another, most frequently during an interview. Many more complex queries can come up, many of which can come from left field, so the more you research, practice and prepare, the better.

However, as much as you prepare, there may be moments during the interview where you feel at a loss as you don’t know how to answer the question.

take a deep breath, don’t panic, and say something like:

“That’s a great question. I need to think about that. Can we come back to it later?” as a way to buy time and confidently move to another question.

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