Let’s face it. Interviews are scary. In fact, 92 percent of U.S. adults agree on that.
When preparing for an interview, it’s important to not only focus on rehearsing answers to common interview questions, but also to prepare stories that illustrate your accomplishments from your career. If you want to be able to provide the best possible answer to even the hardest interview question, you’ll need to prepare these types of stories to help you score the next interview or even the job!
To help you calm your interview jitters, here are some ways to help you answer the five hardest interview questions:
1. Why should I hire you?
When the interviewer asks this question, this is your opportunity to sell your skills and experience to the employer through highlighting your strongest accomplishments. To prepare for this question, make sure you are thinking through relevant accomplishments you’d had thus far in your career, and mentally format them using STAR—Situation, Task, Action, Results. When you do this, you will be able to create a story about your experience.
In my previous position with ABC Public Relations, I worked with a team of account executives to develop a crisis communications plan for a client who produced a recalled medication. This was critical because the client was losing millions of dollars in sales and 1,500 people across the country were affected by this product. Unfortunately, the week prior, the account supervisor for this client left the firm, so I decided to take the lead on this project because of my skills in crisis communications. With the help of my team, the client pulled the product and submitted a public apology. Although this cost the client $25 million dollars, we were able save the client’s reputation. As a result of my action and strategic planning, I was given the opportunity to be promoted from assistant account executive to account executive for this client. Because of this experience, I know I have the qualifications you’re looking for in a communications manager.
2. Why is there a gap in your work history?
When the interviewer asks you about the employment gap illustrated in your resume, it can definitely make some candidates freeze on the spot or feel embarrassed. Regardless of the reason for your employment gap, make sure you explain how this was a learning experience for your career.
I left my last job because of (insert reason). In the recent (weeks/months), I’ve faced the hard reality of a tough job market. However, not once did I allow it to affect my success as a professional. (If you volunteered or took some courses, this is a great place to say so!) Despite the gap in my work history, I am confident in my skills and expertise. In my previous job, I (insert accomplishment story).
3. What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you?
To answer this question, think of a quality or personality trait about yourself that would initially appear to be a negative characteristic, but turn it into something positive. For example, let’s say you’re a stubborn person. Although stubbornness can be seen as a negative quality, you could illustrate how you are a hard worker who won’t give up until the job is done.
My old college roommate would probably say I am the most stubborn person he has ever met in his life. While this quality may seem negative at first, let me assure you this stubbornness drives persistence in my work. Whenever there is a strict deadline or an important decision to be made, I will continue to be persistent in my work until success is achieved.
4. What is one thing you’d change about your last job, and why?
Now, when the interviewer asks this question, they’re trying to trick you. Make sure you avoid speaking badly about a previous boss or coworker. You definitely do not want to burn any bridges or cross any lines with the interviewer.
If I could change one thing about my previous job, it would be the lack of consistency in communication between management and employees. At my last job, I had three different supervisors to report to who had three different strategies for completing the same project. Because of this, many projects had to be extended beyond deadlines and there was often a lot of confusion among employees. By creating more consistency in communication between upper management and the employees, everyone in the department would always be on the same page and communication would always be transparent.
5. Tell me about a time when you failed.
When the interviewer asks you this question during your interview, they really want to know how you deal with failure and learn from mistakes. This is definitely another question that can make you feel pressured, because no one likes to admit to failure. But if you can explain how your failure helped you learn how to be more successful in the future, then you will be able to nail this tricky question during the interview.
In my previous job, I missed an important deadline, which caused the company to lose a large sale with a client. After I made this mistake, I realized just how important it is for me to communicate with my supervisor and coworkers when I know I cannot meet a deadline. Now, whenever I have a project that’s due in at least two weeks, I split the project up into smaller, more manageable tasks and set reminders for each one. This way, I am able to work ahead without becoming overwhelmed with the overall project and its deadline. By doing this, I have greatly improved my ability to work more efficiently to complete projects on time.
The next time you’re preparing for an interview, be sure to take the time to think of your most impressive accomplishment stories for these tough interview questions. As long as you focus on your strongest skills and experience, you will be ready to take on your next interview with confidence!
What is one of the toughest questions an interviewer has asked you?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and HR technologies. She’s also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle, and career and recruiting adviser for numerous outlets.