10 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 1, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Preparing for an interview is important to ensure you have the best chance of getting a job. Thinking of answers to tough questions employers commonly ask will set you up for success. In this article, we look at why employers ask tough questions and what they're looking for in an answer. We also provide 10 tough questions and example answers to help you prepare.

Related: 17 Interview Tips to Help You Get the Job

Why do employers ask tough interview questions?

The main reason interviewers ask tough questions is to get to know you and your thought process better. So, even if questions don't seem directly relevant to your role, employers are trying to assess your logic and critical thinking.

Employers also ask tough interview questions when you're applying to technical roles to test your knowledge. They want to see how you answer complex technical questions to ensure you have the necessary knowledge and confidence for the position.

Common tough interview questions with sample answers

Here are ten of the most common tough interview questions employers ask across industries and roles. We explain why employers ask these interview questions, the type of answer they're looking for, and provide you with an example answer for each to help you prepare.

1. What's your greatest weakness?

Employers ask this question to get to know your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you're a good fit for the role. However, they also want candidates that are honest and self-aware about their abilities. Avoid including any negativity in your answer. Instead, you can always turn the negative into a positive.

Example: "As a manager, I struggle with delegating tasks. I know it's necessary to ensure my team runs successfully and gets everything done on time. But I'm so passionate about my work that I always want to be involved. I've started to improve on this weakness by creating daily to-do lists for myself and delegating the tasks that I can't dedicate enough time to."

2. What did you like and dislike about your previous role?

This question will tell the hiring manager more about your work history and experience. Employers are looking for honesty, but they don't want to hear complaints about your previous role or company. It also gives them the opportunity to determine whether you dislike tasks or certain aspects of the role you're applying for.

Example: "In my previous role as an English teacher, I loved working with children. Children are so fun to be around, so spending time with them every day was great. Unfortunately, there was no room for career growth at my previous company. I had little opportunity to improve my skill set and knowledge, which I know I could do here."

Related: How to Answer "What Did You Like Least About Your Job?"

3. Why should we hire you over other candidates?

If you don't prepare to answer this question, it's tough to think of something that sets you apart from other candidates on the spot. Employers want to see if you're confident in your skills and abilities to determine if you'd be a good fit for their team. Focus on your experience, skills, and attributes when answering without putting other candidates down.

Example: "You should hire me for this role as I have a proven ability to increase sales. In my previous role, I increased our annual sales by 15% in my first year and 30% after three years. I came up with sales plans and goals that the company had never thought of before. I would love to help you and your team do the same here."

4. What's your greatest achievement?

Employers ask this question to get to know more about you and your professional experience. They want to understand how you gauge your success and determine what you consider your biggest accomplishment. When answering, think of a relevant, recent achievement that showcases your skills and abilities.

Example: "In my previous role, my greatest achievement was being named employee of the year. My managers all came together and selected me for the award as I consistently impressed them. They said I was one of the best employees they've had as I'm reliable, help my team members, get all of my tasks done on time, and contribute new ideas to help our team succeed."

5. Tell me about yourself

This is one of the most popular interview questions in any industry or role. Employers usually start the interview by asking this question to get to know you and make you more comfortable. Your response doesn't need to be detailed or long. Employers are looking for a quick summary of your education, skills, and professional experience to help them determine what questions to ask next.

Example: "I'm a recent graduate from the University of Toronto where I specialized in journalism. While I was getting my degree, I interned for the Toronto Star for two years. They even published some of my articles, which my manager said isn't common for interns."

Related: Interview Question: "Tell Me About Yourself" (Tips and Example Answers)

6. Why do you want to work here?

Employers want to see that you're prepared for the interview. This question shows them whether you researched their company beforehand. They know you are likely applying to other roles, but want to know why you want to work with them specifically. Use your answer as an opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the role and what you know about the organization.

Example: "I loved the medical team at my previous clinic, but it's always been my dream to work here. This hospital does so much for the community, and whenever I've had to come here for myself or my family, I've received excellent service. I want to work with healthcare professionals like yours that strive to provide the best patient care every day."

7. How do you handle stress?

Many jobs have stressful elements and challenging days, so employers want to know if you can handle stress constructively. Answer with specific examples of healthy coping mechanisms you refer to when stressed.

Example: "I handle stress by talking about it. Communication is very important to me in my professional and personal life, so I find talking through stressful situations helps me come up with a solution. I try to talk to my colleagues if I have a problem I think they might be able to offer insight on. Or I talk to my manager if I'm feeling overwhelmed."

8. Can you tell me about a time when you overcame an obstacle?

Employers want to know if you have strong problem-solving skills to work through common obstacles associated with the role. When answering this question, use the STAR method. Provide a specific situation, task, action, and result to answer the interviewer's question thoroughly.

Example: "In my previous role, one of our students got injured. As the manager, I have first aid training, but I wasn't on school property at the time. Thankfully, the student was fine, but it made me realize we should be more prepared for emergencies. I organized first aid training sessions for all employees that wanted the training and held the sessions over several days, so everyone had the chance to attend. The next time there was an accident on the playground, we had plenty of staff adequately prepared to take care of them."

9. How do you handle conflict with a colleague?

Employers ask this question to gauge your problem-solving skills and ability to resolve conflicts professionally. Strong communication skills are important in any job, so emphasize this skill with a relevant example when answering.

Example: "I rarely have conflicts with my colleagues as I prefer to create strong working relationships by openly communicating with everyone. When it does happen, however, I ask to meet with my colleague in private to discuss our conflict. Having other people around makes the situation more stressful and can lead to added confusion. When we're alone, I suggest that we each take the opportunity to discuss the issue, how it made us feel, and our views on it. Together, we come up with a solution to the problem with mutual respect."

Related: Problem-Solving Interview Questions and How To Answer Them Effectively

10. Can you tell me about a time you made a mistake at work? What did you learn from it?

Employers value candidates who can take responsibility and acknowledge their mistakes. The key takeaway interviewers are looking for in this question is what you've learned from errors. It shows that you're self-aware and eager to improve.

Example: "When I was an administrative assistant at a medical office, I accidentally e-mailed an invoice to the wrong patient with a similar name. I know how important it is, morally and legally, to uphold patient confidentiality, so this was a significant mistake. When I realized, I called the patient I sent the invoice to and explained what happened before asking them to delete the e-mail. I learned to always double-check the e-mail address line before sending, and I've never made the same mistake again."

Now that we've looked at why employers ask tough interview questions and answers they're looking for, you'll be better prepared to practise for your next interview.

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