How to answer these difficult interview questions

9 minutes | Travis O'Rourke | Article | | Interview advice

A woman looks at a man. She holds a binder in her arms, the man is holding a piece of paper at her.

Are you prepared for your next interview? In this article, we will see how:

  • How to answer interview questions directly.
  • How to react to challenging interview questions without getting defensive.
  • How to use the STAR method to get your point across

So, you’re getting ready for the interview of your dreams, right? You’ve probably run through the usual questions and have your answers down pat. But what about the curveballs? Are you ready to knock those out of the park too?


How to answer difficult questions during a job interview

Alright, before we dive into those tricky interview questions, keep in mind that the interviewer is all about discovering what’s awesome about you and how you’ll use your talents to help the company grow. So, they might toss some tough ones your way to check out how you handle pressure. And don’t be surprised if they throw a few vague ones at you too – they’re just trying to see how you sort out your thoughts.

If you are looking for a new job opportunity, check our vacancies.


The challenging interview questions

1. "Tell me about yourself."

You might think this one’s a no-brainer since it’s just chatting about yourself, right? But it’s easy to get tripped up by how open-ended it is and miss the mark. 

Here’s what the interviewer’s really after: 

  • A quick snapshot of your wins and how you got there. 
  • The scoop on why you’re a perfect match for the job and the team. 
  • Cool stuff you know about the field that sets you apart. 

When you’re up against this question, keep it short and sweet, like you’re telling your story – where you started, the journey, and where you’re heading. 

  • Kick off with what drew you into your line of work. Maybe something like: 

“Marketing caught my eye while I was nailing my Management degree. I just clicked with it and kept getting better.” 

  • Then, bridge that to a key moment in your career that’s super relevant. Like: 

“Ever since, I’ve been mixing it up in different Marketing gigs, picking up new tricks along the way. That’s how I landed my gig as a Marketing Manager at company X.”

  • Wrap it up by tying it back to why you’re here, looking for the next big thing. You could say: 

“Now, I’m pumped to level up in a gig that’s got a global stage and more room to climb. That’s what got me stoked about this spot at your company.” 

Stick to this vibe, and you’ll not only answer the question but also shine a spotlight on why you’re the one for the job.

2. "Tell me about a time when you implemented a great idea." 

This one’s a sleeper hit. Companies are on the lookout for folks who are ahead of the game with fresh ideas, especially with all the tech, political, and industry shake-ups happening. 

It’s also your chance to paint a picture of what a rockstar day looks like for you. Say you’re in teaching—you could chat about that epic lesson plan, the grade you’re enlightening, and your master plan. Talk about the tools you used and how the kids rocked them. 

When you’re telling this tale, keep it tight with the STAR method

S - Set the scene. 

T - Talk about your role and the tasks. 

A - Action time: what you did and how you did it. 

R - Wrap it up with results, like stats or props you got. 

Stick to this, and you’ll not only answer their question but also show 'em you’re the idea champ they need.  

Check out our Interview guide: Your Guide to a successful job interview

3. How do you keep up to date with industry news?

Things move fast in pretty much any industry, so it’s smart to skim through the latest headlines before your interview. They’re asking 'cause they wanna see if you’ve got a genuine interest and if you’re the kind of person who’s always leveling up. It’s cool to mention any workshops or coaching you’ve done. And for bonus points, drop names of top-notch stuff you follow, like certain podcasts, must-read articles, or books that everyone in your field talks about.

4. "Tell me about a time you failed."

Hearing “fail” might put you on the defensive, but don’t sweat it. Saying you’ve never dropped the ball is a no-go. Hiring folks know we’ve all had our oopsies. They’re curious about how you bounced back and what you picked up along the way.

No need to spill about a major mess-up. Maybe chat about a time you blew a deadline or didn’t quite hit your targets. When you talk about it, focus on the lesson learned and how you’d switch things up if you got a do-over.

5. "What would be the ideal job for you?"

They’re not just being nosy—they want to know if you’ll dig the job and stick around. So, think about what you rock at right now and how that could play out in the new role. Then, connect the dots to the job you’re eyeing and show off a bit. Talk about what they need, what you’ve got, and why you’re like peanut butter to their jelly. 

6. "How would your friends describe you?"

This one’s a sneak peek for the interviewer to see if you’ll mesh well with the job, the crew, and the whole scene. When you’re answering, picture the traits that nail it for the role and check if that’s your vibe. Like, if it’s a sales spot, being a people person and all ears is key. So, give it some thought—how would your buddies sum you up, especially with this job in mind? Keep it real. 

7. "What salary are you looking for?"

With this interview question, make sure you know the industry average for your position. Your interviewer will definitely have this information. If you're not sure what your ideal salary would be, check out our salary calculator. Having this information will put you in a much better position to negotiate. If you are still at the beginning of the interview and don't want to negotiate salary yet, say that you want to better understand the company and the expectations for the position before commenting on salary. 

8. "Do you have any questions for me?"

This is your chance to end the interview on a positive note by showing genuine interest in the opportunity. Keep in mind some questions that have not yet been answered during the interview. 

Learn more about interview questions here


Prepare for you dream job

This is your opportunity to end the interview on a positive note by showing genuine interest in the opportunity. Keep in mind some questions that have not yet been answered during the interview.

It pays to prepare for the tougher interview questions, as this will help you feel more prepared and confident in your search for the job of your dreams.

Our professionals are ready to support you throughout your career at all times. Contact our experts today.

About this author

Travis O'Rourke
CCO, Hays Americas

Travis is a Marketing graduate from Fanshawe College and was the 2023 recipient of their Distinguished Alumni Award. He joined Hays after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays' outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.

Connect with Travis on LinkedIn

articleId- 71830085, groupId- 63372