It’s interview time. You have all your questions prepared and all your answers ready to go (or so you think). You feel confident, motivated, and you’re focused. The interview is going better than expected when all of a sudden the interviewer throws you a curveball. Your face goes red, your palms start to sweat, and you can’t seem to get out any words. A pause of a mere 10 seconds feels like an eternity.
Don’t let this happen to you. There are always questions that can throw you off during an interview, but there are ways to prepare yourself. With any interview questions, it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking the question, and be sure you address that in your answer. Here are five of the toughest interview questions that, if answered correctly, can set you apart from all other candidates.
- Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker or a boss?With this question, the interviewer is looking for two important qualities: Your ability to work with others and your problem-solving skills. Don’t get caught in a lie and say you get along with everyone – we’ve all had conflict at one time or another. Tell a story about a time when you and a coworker disagreed on a project or an idea and how the two of you managed to resolve the issue. Tell a compelling story that will make you stand out among other candidates and, if possible, stick with talking about coworkers and avoid talking about a boss.
- What is your perfect job?Don’t list companies that you would think would be fun to work at. Instead, describe the role that you want to have. Take details from various job descriptions that have intrigued you in the past and put them together in a detailed answer. The interviewer is not expecting you to say “at your company”, so don’t panic when this question comes up. Instead, use this question to showcase your ambitions, interests, and previous experience (“In my last job, I really enjoyed…”). If you’re feeling brave, return the question and put the interviewer on the spot.
- Tell me a little about yourself?This was once my most feared interview question, but has now turned into one of my favorites. It’s the perfect opportunity to show that you’re a unique asset with a variety of skills and interests. You should have plenty of things to talk about, including your favorite classes you took in high school and college, sports that you played or that you still play, and where you live and where you want to live. You can basically talk about anything that you have done in your life that you’re passionate about and makes you sound interesting. Avoid your opinions and your beliefs. Talk about the facts and don’t stop talking until you get cut off. This is the one question that you should be hoping for every time during an interview. Make it count.
- Why should I hire you?The key to this question is not to hesitate. Of course you believe that you are qualified for the position and would make a great fit in the company, but if you don’t say it they might never know. Have the mindset at every single interview that this is the job for you. Do your research and prepare to answer this question beforehand. Is the company facing specific problems? Did the job ad mention certain responsibilities or roles? In your answer, tell how you would address these issues and above all emphasize what you will bring to the position, not what you are hoping to get out of it. Speak confidently and assure the interviewer that you truly belong in the company.
- If you were an animal, what would you be?
Now I don’t believe this question will make or break your interview, but it can pay off to be unique. The interviewer wants to know if you can think quickly on your feet, and with this type of question your answer will reveal personality traits that can’t necessarily be inferred from your resume. Think: if they interviewed 10 people and six said a dog, three said a cat, and you said an elephant, you would stand out and be remembered. You could say something like, “I would be an elephant because they’re huge, they eat almost all day, and I would love to actually know how intelligent they are.” You don’t have to be an elephant expert to explain this reason. Show the interviewer your ability to think outside the box and name an animal that will differentiate you from the other candidates.