Did you land a big job interview? Congratulations! In today’s sluggish economy, getting that interview appointment is more difficult than ever, and you are probably in for some stiff competition. In order to land the job, you need to do some homework. To help you, here is our list of the toughest interview questions and how you can handle them with aplomb.

Interview Questions

List of the toughest interview questions

1. Tell me about yourself

Many interviewers use this open-ended question as a warm –up. They will use it as gauge of your confidence and poise, so think your answer through ahead of time. This is not the time to tell your whole life history. Keep it short and simple by giving a summary of your education, prior work experience, and career goals. Be sure to explain how getting this particular position will fit your career aspirations.

Unless specifically asked about personal information, keep your response work-oriented and don’t reveal all your best insights about the company and how you can benefit it on this opener.

2. What would you say is your greatest weakness?

Don’t fall into a trap with this one. You always want to focus on your strengths in an interview, so you can use this seemingly negative question to share positive information about yourself. Don’t say that you don’t have any weaknesses because that can come off as arrogance. Instead think carefully ahead of time about perceived weaknesses that can be viewed in a positive light. Here are a few examples:

  • I tend to overcommit myself and then have to work long hours to fill my commitments. (Reveals you work hard and are responsible.)
  • I tend to take a job and run with it. I have made progress recently in delegating more responsibilities to others.
  • I would like to develop my public speaking skills. I am looking for opportunities to make presentations so I can gain more speaking experience.

3. Why do you have this gap in your work history?

As with all of these questions, fore-warned is fore-armed. When you are ready for this question, you can answer confidently. Today’s employers are not put off by lay-offs, so there is no need to be embarrassed if you lost your last job. Explain how losing your job has been a learning experience. Have you done volunteer work in the meantime? Tell the interviewer how those skills have impacted you. Have you taken some courses to expand your knowledge? Sell it as an advantage.

4. Why did you leave your last job?

No matter what the circumstances were that caused you to leave your last job, this is not the time to air your dirty laundry. Do not under any circumstances bad-mouth your former boss or your former place of employment.  Focus instead on the positive skills and lessons your gained from that job and how you will use those skills in this new position.

Do not stretch the truth here. You prospective employer can easily find out if you were laid off or fired. Explain why you left the job, but do not embellish the story with unnecessary information. Many talented professionals have been outsourced, so explain what happened if you were a victim of downsizing. If you were fired, you can explain that you “parted ways” and then move the conversation on to how you will use what you learned at the job in this new position. This could be a good time to mention any references that you have.

5. Why should I hire you?

Your answer to this open-ended question can reveal whether you did your homework or not. Before the interview, look over the job description carefully and find several ways your skill set matches each of the desired qualities for the job. Discuss them in the interview in a confident manner, stressing how you have demonstrated those skills in your experience so far.

Here is where you can really explain how you are the best person for the job. Be as specific as possible.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

It may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t answer this one with anything that sounds even remotely like “I don’t know.”

Here is your chance to show that you are ready to make a commitment to this company and what it offers. That does not mean to say that you should reply that you would like to own the company one day, however.  Keep those aspirations to yourself and respond confidently that you would like to build your career with this firm and take advantage of all it has to offer.

7. Do you have anything you want to ask me?

Don’t be unprepared for this one and respond something like, “Um, no, I think we have covered everything.”

Even if the interviewer has been thorough, keep a question or two back to ask in the event the interviewer pulls this question out of the bag. Show your interest in the company by asking about new projects the firm is taking on. Inquire about the company’s culture and/or community activities. It doesn’t hurt to let the interviewer know you are interviewing the company to see if it is a good fit for you as well as the other way around.

Getting a big job interview is an accomplishment. Take the time to prepare for it by thinking about and practicing your responses to these questions in advance. If you have a friend or family member who will role play them with you that can be an effective way to get rid of some of the pre-interview butterflies.

Maintaining your poise and confidence during an interview will go a long way in showing an interviewer that you can handle the pressure of the new position. Remember, an interviewer wants to find someone who knows the job requirements, can fulfill them and move the company forward. When you can handle the interview questions with ease, it shows you are that person.