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It has happened to everyone. You are sitting in the interview room and the hiring manager asks you that one tough interview question you were not expecting. How do you answer a question that would appear to have no positive answer? What do you say when someone asks you to expose your weaknesses in the middle of a job interview?

These questions aren’t meant to trick you or make you fail.

They’re intended to give the hiring manager a glimpse at who you are as a professional. Do you gloss over the truth to hide negativity? Do you tense up under pressure? Are you the type of person that will own their failures and work through adversity?

In this guide, we will go over some of the top tough interview questions commonly asked during job interviews.

Describe a Time You Failed at Something

Why This Question is Asked

The big secret in business is that everyone fails. In fact, failure is something many venture capitalists require before they will hand over money to an entrepreneur.

Simply put: if you haven’t failed at something, you haven’t really learned anything.

Your answer will tell the interviewer a lot about you. It will show your character, honesty, and willingness to take ownership. These are three soft skills that are exceedingly difficult to teach.

How to Answer the Question

Honesty is the best policy with this question. Since you are reading this, there is a good chance you’re prepping for an interview.

Take a moment to think about a time in your career that a project didn’t go as expected. If you’ve worked in a call center, for example, consider a bad call you had or a metric you struggled with meeting.

Then, think about what you did to correct or overcome it.

Example Answers

“I worked in a call center before. Despite my hard work, I couldn’t bring my average call time down to meet the goal set by the department. I started bringing a stopwatch with me to work, and after a few weeks of hard work, I was able to bring that number down.”

“My last job was as a contractor. It was my job to buy the paint we used to paint walls after the drywall went up. There was one house in particular that I bought the wrong color for. We didn’t find out the color was off until after the work was done. When the error was discovered, I went out and bought the correct color and worked overnight to repaint the house so we could get the job done on time.”

Why Should I Hire You?

Why This Question is Asked

The interviewer wants to make sure that you are confident enough in your abilities to get the job done. One way to do this is by asking you why you are the best person for the job.

Your answer demonstrates your knowledge of the position and gives you a short window to sell yourself as the perfect candidate for the job.

How to Answer the Question

Research the position closely before arriving for the interview. Find out everything you can about the job, the company, and the company’s culture.

One handy tip here is to take the job posting and paste its text into a word cloud service like Wordle. This will give you a visual representation of the qualities and/or qualifications that the hiring manager is looking for.

Prepare your answer around the words that appear in the word cloud.

Example Answer

“I have over a decade of experience in broadcasting and a real passion for this business. As a lifelong fan of MediaCorp’s product, I’m familiar with the expectation of quality this company expects. I am confident that I can meet and even exceed on this expectation.”

What is Your Greatest Weakness?

Why This Question is Asked

This question is a lot like the one on failure we covered earlier. The interviewer wants to find out what type of person you are, and whether you are willing to own your weaknesses.

Many interviewers that ask this question will be specifically looking at whether you try to present a strength as a weakness. Doing this can hurt you more than help you.

How to Answer This Question

Give an honest, true weakness. Don’t try to shape a strength such as being a workaholic or working too hard as a weakness. That isn’t what the interviewer wants to hear at all.

Instead, focus on something you have been struggling with that isn’t a deal breaker but isn’t a strength in disguise, either.

You can always add what you have been doing to overcome this weakness at the end of the answer.

Example Answer

“I have trouble with keeping a strict schedule. I lose track of time when I’m working on a project I’m engrossed in. I have been working to improve this by adding reminders to my watch and allocating time for tasks.”

Name a Time When You Helped Your Team Succeed

Why This Question is Asked

This might sound like the perfect interview question, but few interviewees prepare an answer. This is an exceedingly difficult question for someone that worked by themselves or have a tough time with confidence.

The interviewer wants to know what kind of problem solver you are, and what you believe you bring to a team. Do you do your job and call it a night, or do you go a step beyond what’s expected of you?

Most importantly, these types of questions give them an idea of whether you are a team player.

How to Answer the Question

Think about a time you came up with the solution to a problem that hindered the team’s progress? Maybe it was a small thing. The point of this question is to see how easy you are to work with.

You want to tell a story with your answer, and not just give a one or two sentence response.

Example Answer

“I recently worked with a team to create a new mobile app for our customers. We were a small team and there were a lot of pieces to this app that needed to get done in a short amount of time.

I took on the role as task coordinator to ensure that everything got done when it needed to. It was my job to make sure that the lines of communication stayed open between team members.

It took a few long nights at the office, but we got it done. I learned a lot about application development. I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t have been working with everyone in that role.”

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