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A job interview is designed to find the best candidate for the post being offered. The recruitment process can be long and expensive. If recruitment agencies are used to supply candidates, their fee may be as much as 30% of your first year’s annual salary. Then there are the costs related with any additional training you may need; so the last thing an employer wants to do is employ the wrong candidate and have to repeat the process.  However you must always prepare for difficult job interview questions.

For some people the interview process can be a nerve wracking experience, but a good interviewer will try and get the right candidate and will try to get the best out of you. That could mean that you may be asked difficult job interview questions. It may simply be something you have not considered you would be asked or a question to which you truly do not know the answer. It is not a good idea to try and bluff your way out. A good interviewer will usually detect this and you will not do yourself any favours. On the other hand answering truthfully is a demonstration of your honesty. Remember, the person who asked the question might be your prospective boss.

With practice, interview skills can be improved. You can prepare yourself by identifying potentially difficult job interview questions that you may be asked, and consider your likely response.

We have given some examples of difficult job interview questions that you may be asked, with possible answers.


difficult job interview questions the pd cafe1. How Well Do You Work In A Team Environment?
Many people will say on their CV ‘A good team player’, or ‘I enjoy working in team situations’, and think that they have covered the subject. Just stating it is not enough. Most employers consider teamwork as an essential requirement. A well-organised team will create a happy, efficient workplace. Everyone has a different approach to how they deal with their colleagues, so tailor the answer to this question to your own approach. Perhaps you could answer “I really enjoy working as a member of a team as I find working in a team allows me to contribute as well as learn from others.” If possible always give an example of when you made a positive contribution in a team situation that ended in success e.g. “I found the leads for the sales team and we then followed them up collectively which resulted in our team exceeding our targets.”

2. Are You A Good Leader?
If you are applying for a post with leadership responsibilities or have said in your Application Form/CV that you are a good leader, this difficult interview question offers you the opportunity to show you can manage or lead well in your job and how you deal with the people who work under you. Perhaps you could answer this question along the lines of “I believe that I am a good leader. I am firm but fair with the people who work for me and find that I get a good deal of respect by operating in this manner.”

3. Are You Good At Getting The Best Out Of Your Team?
Normally when an interviewer asks this difficult interview question they are looking for an answer that shows how you manage and run your team to get the best performance out of them. Your answer should demonstrate your leadership qualities and how they benefit the people that work for you – for example; “I have excellent communication skills and understand how important it is to listen to my team.” Give an example that will demonstrate you are what you say you are.

4. You Have Only Been In Your Current Job A Short Time, Why Are You Leaving?
No interviewer wants to recommend a candidate who is only going to work for them for a short time before looking for another job! If you have been with your current employer for a short period of time then you need to find an answer that is going to reassure the interviewer’s doubts and put their mind at rest. It is possible in this situation that you could answer this difficult job interview question by saying “Yes I have only been in my current job for a relatively short period of time but I now feel that I am ready to settle down in a position I am comfortable with for a long period of time.”

5. How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?
Remember if you are successful, the person who asked the question could well be your future employer or manager. A good way to answer this difficult job interview questions is to give an answer that you would like your boss to actually think of you. You could possibly say something like “I get on very well with my boss and we have an excellent working relationship. He/she has always supported me and given me opportunities to develop my skills.” Do not lie about your relationship with your boss if you genuinely do not get on as this may come out in references taken later. Under the employment law, previous employers have to be very careful how they word references and are not allowed to tear your personality apart!

6. You Seem Over Qualified For The Job, Why Are You Applying?
If you thought you were overqualified for this job would you be applying for it? It may well be that you are desperate and have seen this as a way back into employment. A potential employer doesn’t want to think he is going to employ you only for you to get bored in five minutes and start looking elsewhere because the job is too easy. This is a difficult interview question to answer but you could answer by simply stating that you applied for this job because you know you can do it and your ability may open other opportunities within the company.

7. If You Were Successful, How Soon Would You Expect To Be Promoted?
The reality is most of us want promotion as soon as possible. Promotion generally leads to more money and better benefits; however consider your answer to this question carefully. Try not to give a definite timescale as they might not be looking to promote you within that time-frame. The wrong answer might give the interviewer the notion that you might leave if promotion was not on your terms. In all honesty the right kind of answer to this question would be along the lines of, “I would hope to prove my skills and abilities within the organisation and be promoted in accordance with company policy. I think the time-frame is reliant upon how my progress is viewed.”

8. What Sort Of People Do You Find It Difficult To Work With?
We can all probably give examples of someone we have worked with who has irritated us or who we find difficult to get on with. Do not be led along the wrong route by this question. Remember you are at an interview. You are there to win a job not to dish out dirt. A good way to respond to this question is to give general examples. “I think that timekeeping is very important, so if someone is constantly late their actions often affect others negatively.”

9. What Do You Think Of Your Current Company?
Knowing that you are speaking to someone who might employ you, an answer that explains why you are leaving in a positive manner is a good idea. Your response to difficult interview questions such as this should be that you have really enjoyed working for your current company however you feel that this opportunity is too good to miss.

10. What Is Your Current Salary?
This is one of the most difficult job interview questions and you may feel comfortable replying honestly while others want to give a non-committal answer. What is right depends on your situation. However we cannot advocate lying; you may regret this at a later stage. Some companies want to save as much money on salaries as they can and this question is often used to determine what salary they are prepared to offer you.

sample difficult interview questions at the personal development cafe

11. What Salary Would You Expect If Offered The Post?
This difficult job interview question is actually an illegal interview question that should not be asked.  However if you choose to answer it you have several answers. If you commit to a salary at this stage you won’t be able to negotiate later; on the other hand if you ask for too much, you may price yourself out of a job! If you don’t know what the job pays then do some research on the internet. You will be in a much better position to answer if you know what the role commands. You could ask the interviewer “What would you be expecting to pay for this position?” If have a figure in mind that you feel the role is worth, then say so and give the reasons why you should be paid at that rate.

12. How Well Do You Work Under Stressful Situations?
As most jobs carry an element of stress, this question is designed to let you give examples of situations where you have operated well under stress. Remember you do not necessarily have to give a work based situation; you could use a situation when you had to cope with a relative’s illness or hospitalisation, getting married or even how you coped with changing careers after redundancy.

13. How Would You Feel If We Offered You Another Post Within Our Company?
This could sound like a slap in the face. If you applied for a role, then it is the role that you wanted surely? However, if an interviewer asks you this difficult job interview question then perhaps they might have identified other skills in you that might be better suited to another role. If you are being offered an alternative role, by dismissing the offer you could pass up the chance to get into the company. The reality is – you are looking for a job with the company and if taking a job gets you in – it also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities.

14. You Have Read The Job Description And A Summary Of The Job Role What Areas Of This Job Appeal To You The Least?
Some difficult job interview questions just don’t have a right answer. You want the job so pointing out things you do not like is probably not a good idea. In this situation it may be best to simply state “I am happy with the role and feel confident that I can do it to the best of my ability.” If pushed to find something specific make sure it is a small part of role and if you can try turning it from a negative to a positive for example; “I understand that I might occasionally use Excel. Although I have used it before, I am not an expert but this would give me the chance to learn and expand my skills.”

15. Are There Any Questions You Would Like To Ask?
There are two ways to approach this:
1. If you do have genuine queries then this is the time to ask. You should always have a few prepared questions ready to use; ask them confidently.
2. This is the perfect time to return to any question you feel you may not have answered to the best of your ability. This question normally comes towards the end of the interview so it gives you the opportunity to reassure the interviewer that you really do want the job.

Interview skills courses

Remember, interview skills can be improved. There are some excellent interview skills courses that you can access which will give you the opportunity to ask in-depth questions, learn and gain a deeper understanding of the whole recruitment process. Alternatively you may be able to find interview skills workshops that address current issues in your area.

By familiarising yourself with difficult job interview questions you are likely to be asked, your interview skills presentation will seem more natural and your confidence will increase.  You can also find some popular interview questions and interview questions you may be asked here at The Personal Development Cafe.

If  you have any  interview tips, a topic you wish to raise or questions you would like answered, you can post them by using our comments form below.  All comments will be reviewed and then posted as soon as possible.

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