What is the hardest interview question you have ever been asked?

I’m sure you can relate to a time when you walked out of an interview feeling mentally and physically exhausted. You ran through the interview over and over again in your head, and what stuck was that one question that just completely threw you off guard.

I know I have. I remember walking out of an interview feeling like an epic failure, only to then be called a few hours later and I was offered the job!

The tough interview question I had to deal with related to how society viewed the Gen Y – how we are categorised as having a more relaxed work ethic and whether I a) agreed that this was true and b) whether I considered myself to be a part of this category. I froze and words stumbled out of my mouth with the general theme, although I can’t even recall what I actually said. Fortunately my overall response must have appealed to the interviewer as they offered me the job that afternoon!

This month we asked you ‘what have been the hardest interview questions you have been asked?’ I consulted our recruitment experts here at Challenge Consulting, and provided below are their suggestions on how to prepare for these types of questions in the future:

  • What are some of your weaknesses? The reality is we all have weaknesses. The purpose of this question is to understand how aware you are of your weaknesses and also understand how proactive you have been in developing your skills to overcome your weakness. E.g. my biggest weakness is my perfectionism. I tend to not to want let tasks go until I know that I feel they are perfect. As my last job required me to juggle conflicting priorities, I had to develop my organisational skills to ensure that I prioritise and meet competing deadlines.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years’ time? Most people aren’t psychic so it is hard to say where you will be in 5 years, let alone 15 years! However, the purpose of this question is to better understand how you would like to develop your career. Explain why you have applied for that job and why you want that job. Next, you need to ensure you maintain the balance between being realistic and not too ambitious. Why are you committed to this job, how does it fit into where you want to go? What are the skills that you hope to develop in this job? Are you someone committed to this job or are you going to leave tomorrow when something better comes along?
  • What is a normal day like for you? This is a question that both candidates and employers get asked. It is hard, because most days aren’t “normal”. The purpose behind this question is to best understand how your time is most likely to be spent. What would be the percentage split of responsibilities? Are their seasonal influences on how your tasks will be split? Is your work project-based and therefore your workload will be dependent on the project? You may like to explain how your last week or month looked, to provide an example of how your workload is managed.
  • Give us a specific example of someone you found difficult to work with. What did you do? What was the result? The purpose of this question is looking at how you have adapted your own interpersonal style to meet the needs of the situation. Provide the steps that you took in building this relationship and what you learnt from this in the future. You can of course outline an example of where you were faced with someone that was particularly challenging, and outline the steps that you took to build this relationship. The key thing is explaining how you are proactive in resolving situations. We’ve also covered an article on this previously that you may find of interest.
  • Why shouldn’t we hire you? This is a tricky way of asking – what are your weaknesses? See above.
  • You have 1 minute to tell me why I should hire you – While this question may seem like it’s pressuring you to sum up your response, this question does allow you to outline key points and it is the opportunity to sell yourself in the interview. When the interview is being conducted, one minute can actually be quite a long time to outline your strengths. If you have never taken the opportunity to write down your key strengths, I suggest taking the time to do so, as this is a question that you can prepare yourself for.
  • How would you define ‘common sense’? Sometimes it can throw you off to be asked to define something as you may feel that you need to tell the employer what they want to hear as opposed to using logic and applying the term to something that you would use in a day to day situation. Here is the dictionary definition: Good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

We always recommend practising your interview skills. Last week we featured an article that explains the benefits of mock interviews. But despite all the practice sometimes you just cannot prepare the answer ahead of time. When faced with that tricky expert, remember nobody is a better expert on your key strengths and what you can offer the role better than you. Instead of going into panic mode (which is our natural response) give yourself space. Breathe. Listen to the question. Don’t be afraid of short pauses. Reflect on your key strengths and skills and give your answer.

But remember nobody knows you better than you, so you are the perfect person to answer that tricky question that they are asking.