How to answer tough interview questions

Let’s face it, interviews can be scary. Often, you’re unsure of exactly what you’ll be walking into, and whether you’ll get along with, or impress the interviewer/s. If you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll have completed your ‘homework’ on the position, the hiring company, and researched on who will be in the interview with you.

Real Insurance interviewed founder of recruitment agency AD Connects, Amie Duignan who is an expert in the field of applications and job interviews, to get the low-down on some of the more common yet tough interview questions you might face, and how best to answer them.

 “I know this sounds super cliché, but I have been in your shoes. I’ve felt lost, confused, and honestly so stressed in my career,” Amie says.

“Seven years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do or what was even important to me, I was working a job I knew I didn’t love but couldn’t find a way out. I had no idea how to get what I wanted or what that truly was, and I kept thinking, ‘it will be okay, something will change.’ I didn’t realise that the ‘something’ I wanted to change, was actually that I had to change,” she adds.

Growth in the job market could mean more opportunities

With the Australian Labour Market predicting that 9 in 10 new jobs will require post-school education, and more than three-fifths of the total projected employment growth will occur in high skill level jobs, it makes sense that interviewees need to be on top of their skillset growth, as well as their ability to present well and aim for new job roles.

If now is the perfect time to seek out your dream job, a higher salary or better conditions, then it’s time to think about your interview technique.

What are the 7 most common interview questions and answers

As shared by Amie, here are the seven most common job interview questions and answers to help you land your next role:

Why do you want to work here?

This question is a given as it’s a great determiner of your motivation for applying. It helps the interviewer see whether your outlook aligns with the company’s values, and if you’d be a good fit within their work culture.

“Describe what you find appealing about the position, how you prepared yourself for a career in the organisation and how you believe your present job equips you for the position in question,” Amie says.

Look at your prospective employer’s website and social media accounts to determine their values and what stands out to you about them as a workplace. Also consider the industry they are a part of and why that appeals to you. Showing that you’ve done your research will help the interviewer see that you are genuinely interested in joining their team. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Not only is this a great opportunity to highlight that you’re loyal and you intend to stay for at least a few years and contribute to the company in meaningful ways, but also to share your aspirations for the skills you want to master in the role that you’ve applied for.

“The goal of this question is to see whether you are keen to grow,” Amie says.

Showing that you are goal-driven and have a growth mindset will resonate with employers that appreciate motivated job seekers.

Provide an overview of your experience   

“A great way to prepare for this is to read the job description and explain how your experience aligns. Then you can add in extras to show how you match what they are after, plus that you can add extra value to the team,” Amie says.

Look at your previous roles and see which skills are transferable and which ones you might not have but are excited to develop in this new role. Remember, it’s all about having a growth mindset! And don’t forget to mention soft skills, such as listening, collaborating, and developing and managing relationships.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?  

Even the most senior candidates can struggle with this question. However, if you are prepared, it can help showcase your experience, attitude, and resilience. 

When answering strengths, share a specific example that showcases this strength. For instance, if you are a quick learner, share a project that you worked on where you had to learn to use a new tool or platform, and share how you weren’t afraid to ask questions and lean on the more experienced people on your team to hit the ground running and successfully learn this new skill.

“Be specific, share real numbers, be authentic and create relevant stories on your strengths,” Amie says.

“For weaknesses, there’s one fool-proof method: think of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve,” she adds.

If you struggle with public speaking, for instance, instead of simply answering that you don’t like public speaking – you can speak about the steps you are taking to overcome this fear by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. For example, you may have asked your manager if you can run the weekly meetings with your immediate team. This will show that you are practising your public speaking in a safe space and working towards speaking in front of larger groups.

What do you already know about the company? 

In this day and age, when almost every company has an online presence, it’s important to do your due diligence and research your interviewers. See what you can find on their website, especially in their ‘about us’ section. Also see what their presence is like on LinkedIn, and if there are any articles written about them in the news section of search engines. 

“Draw on recent work they’ve done, how their culture and values align with yours, and any recent products they have introduced,” Amie says.

Let your job interviewer know why you’re excited by the prospect of joining their company and working on any new innovative projects that they they’re scoping or already have in the pipeline.

What did you like – and not like – about your last role?

When answering this question be honest but professional. This is not an opportunity to be critical of your current or previous employers but show that you are professional at all times and display emotional intelligence. 

Likes can be easy, whether it was the culture, the skills you learned or your achievements. When it comes to dislikes, it could be something as simple as a lack of opportunity to learn new skills or progress further in your career. 

“My advice is to answer this question honestly, but make sure you know what you’re saying too,” Amie says.

“Due to nerves, some people can answer this question by saying one thing but meaning another.”

What is one thing you would improve about yourself?

Just like weaknesses, this is a great opportunity to talk about something that you are actively working on – this could be a hard skill related to your role or a soft skill that’s applicable in all aspects of life.

“Turn your answer into a growth opportunity, describing how you are being proactive to better yourself in that particular area,” Amie says.

What are 3 tough interview questions and answers

Here are a few tough interview questions you may get asked and should practise answering ahead of your interview. 

What are some positive and negative management experiences you’ve had?

By asking this question, the interviewer is most likely trying to work out whether you’d be a good fit under the manager you’d report to if you’re successful in getting the job. They may also want to see if you take accountability for your own work.

When answering this question, be positive and constructive in how you speak about your current or former managers. You may want to highlight your adaptability in being able to work under different types of managers. Focus on what you’ve learned from different management styles. If you have worked under a difficult manager, focus on how you overcame the challenge and grew professionally.

Can you give an example of a situation where you disagreed with a stakeholder and how did you overcome it?

This question focuses on stakeholder management, and is an opportunity to highlight how well you work with others and remain goal-oriented to ensure the project or task you’re working on is delivered successfully and on time. 

The interviewer most likely wants to see how effective your communication skills are and your conflict resolution skills. They want to see whether you’re open to different points of view, if they have merit, as well whether you’re able to share your point of view with confidence and defend its merit if the need arises.

When answering, focus on how you’re open to actively listening to your stakeholders, answering their questions, and addressing any concerns they have. When sharing a specific situation, frame it by telling them who the stakeholder was, why the disagreement occurred, how it was impacting your project and the steps you took to resolve the issue and what the outcome was. 

What is your proudest accomplishment at work and how does it demonstrate your readiness for this role?

While you may have many accomplishments that you’re proud of, choose one that emphasises your suitability for the role you’ve applied for, and that you are genuinely proud of.

Your accomplishment may show innovation, problem-solving skills or how you’ve contributed towards the company’s growth. Be sure to highlight the skills and strategies you employed to reach your success and how you’re excited by the prospect of doing something similar in the job you’re interviewing for. 

Secure that role

“One last big tip: remember that an interview is as much a chance for you to interview them,” Amie says. 

So, be sure to have a couple of questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Whether it’s about the role or the team you’ll be working in. It could be something as simple as why the role is vacant or how you’ll be supported during your probation period to ensure you succeed in learning and owning the role.

We hope you find these tips helpful for your next interview. While job interviews – especially tough interview questions – can be daunting, interviews can also help you decide what you’re searching for in your next role – whether it’s being part of a dynamic brand, great team culture, or opportunities to grow and develop in your career.

Changing jobs might happen every few years, but it’s still a big life change. Unexpected life changes, like sickness or injury can happen to all of us. Protect your financial future by considering Real Income Protection Insurance. Request a quote online today or call us on 1300 385 792.