interview questions

Tough interview questions and how to answer them

Navigating tough interview questions can be one of the most nerve-racking aspects of attaining a new job. Your qualifications don’t matter if you’re unable to effectively articulate how they make you a good fit for the position you’re applying for. That’s why we’ve rounded up six of the most common tough interview questions alongside sample answers and expert guidance. Use this guide to help you ace your next job interview.

Common Tough Interview Questions and Answers

We’ve put together a list containing some of the trickiest interview questions that you’re likely to encounter during your job search. Use our helpful answer templates to win over your interviewer and land the job of your dreams.

What has a past mistake taught you?

A common variant of the “What is your biggest weakness?” question, this query will help your interviewer gauge your adaptability. When answering, make sure that you don’t list a serious mistake. Saying that you used to show up to work habitually late or that you cost a former employer millions of dollars due to a careless error may disqualify you from the job even if you’re able to spin it as a learning experience.

Instead, use a relatively minor blunder, and show how it’s contributed to your growth. For example, you might say that you used to take on more work than you could handle. However, coming close to missing a critical deadline taught you the importance of collaboration and proper scheduling.

What are you reading right now?

This seemingly outside-the-box question has become more common in recent years. Employers value curious individuals and lifelong learners. The reading material you mention doesn’t have to relate directly to your job, but you should be able to tie it back to your work in some manner.

For example, the pop psychology bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a fantastic book to trot out, since you can directly link the book’s central message, how we learn and remember, to your workplace performance.

You could also mention productivity blogs or a major newspaper such as the New York Times to show that you’re informed about ongoing trends in the world around you.

What are your salary expectations?

Salary negotiations are one of the trickiest aspects of any job interview. You don’t want to undercut yourself, but going too high might stop you from moving forward in the interview process. If the company lists a compensation range in the job advertisement, you can use that to guide your answer.

Outside of cities and states that have pay transparency legislation, it’s common for companies to fail to provide any indication of what they’re willing to pay for a given position. Fortunately, salary aggregator websites like Glassdoor can give you a rough estimate of prevailing wages.

It’s recommended that you quote a number toward the upper end of the pay band. That’s because it’s generally easier to negotiate down than up. However, don’t get carried away. Use your years of experience, educational background, and personal accomplishments to inform your negotiation tactics.

What about our company stands out to you?

The hiring process is expensive, both in terms of dollars spent and hours lost sorting through resumes, interviewing, and training. Consequently, companies want to make sure that they’ll get a good return on their investment. Ensuring that you’ve done your research signals that you’re more likely to put in the work necessary to be a great employee, and that you’re less likely to leave shortly after getting hired.

Good answers to this question will center on the company’s competitive advantage. In other words, focus on what makes that company unique. It’s also a good idea to tie this back to your career goals. For example, if you’d like to focus your career on a particular type of software, you can explain that your interests dovetail with the company’s primary offering.

Why should we hire you?

This question is essentially asking you about the qualities that make you stand out from the competition. Highlighting past accomplishments is key here. Stay away from vague or unverifiable information. Saying that you’re a hard worker does nothing to differentiate you as a candidate. However, showing off the app that you developed or the open-source project that you contributed to gives the interviewer a concrete example of your skills.

Ready to take your interviewing skills to the next level? When you sign up for Pathrise, you’ll get the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with an expert Pathrise mentor and get high-level feedback. You’ll also receive access to a full suite of career development services, from resume writing to best interviewing practices. Apply to become a Pathrise fellow today!

Apply today.

Pathrise logo

Alex MacPherson

Hi I'm Alex! Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2019, I have worked on the growth team for Pathrise helping job seekers hone their skills to land their dream role through curated content on interview prep, resume building and more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *