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6 Tough Interview Questions & How to Prepare for Them

tough interview questions

Does it seem employers love throwing tough interview questions at you? While it’s true that some may be pressure-testing you, most just want to get a sense of what you know and how you’ll react in particular situations. The best way to hit back? Keep your cool by being prepared. You can start by practicing your answers to these six questions:

Tell Me About a Time You Failed

This is one of those tough interview questions meant to help a hiring manager determine if you lack humility or are afraid to tell the truth. To ace it, form your answer using the STAR method: State the SITUATION, describe the TASKS you were responsible for, then the ACTION you took and, finally, the RESULT. Of course, you’ll want to add what you should have (or could have) done differently and why you know that now.

What Would You Do If…

This is another excellent opportunity to put the STAR method into action. Keep in mind that this is more of a situational question that isn’t asking for a past example. But giving them one via a STAR formula would showcase not only how you THINK you’d act in the situation, but how you actually have. For example, look back at how a Samsung Austin engineering candidate answered the question, “What would you do if you were under a time constraint and did not know how to solve a problem?”

“Once you have the STAR formula down, you’ll amaze yourself by how well you can plug new situations into the framework,” says The HT Group Founder and CEO Mark Turpin.

Why Should We Hire You?

You know this one is coming, so why is this question hard to answer? Probably because it requires self-promotion, which makes most job seekers cringe. What should you do then? Be authentic and focus on details that will truly help your potential employer understand how you can fit in with the team and the impact you could make in their organization.

Do You Have Questions for Me?

Asking questions of your interviewer is a must. It shows that you are engaged and interested in the opportunity. That being said, avoid rapid-fire. Instead, keep the questions to about three or four per interview and ensure they are relevant to your stage in the interview process. For example, early questions should show you understand the job duties well. From there, you can broaden your understanding of how you will fit the job, the team, and the company culture. If you have serious concerns about compensation or other sensitive details before you feel the questions are appropriate, consider bouncing them off your recruiter first.

“Gotcha” Tough Interview Questions

These tough interview questions are meant to throw you a curveball and make you feel confronted and cornered. Some organizations even fill an entire second or third interview with aggressive questions and criticism. These are known as “stress interviews,” and they’re designed to help the interviewer see how you will respond under pressure. This tactic is often used with employees who will be working with customers or difficult stakeholders. The best thing you can do is to keep your cool and think of a neutralizing answer. Here are some examples.

Illegal Tough Interview Questions

What happens when your interviewer asks a question that makes you wonder if it’s even legal? Tough interview questions that can raise red flags may seem innocent enough, but they can be dangerously loaded. They can include questions like, “I love your accent. Where did you grow up?” “Will your family mind that you’d be traveling so much?” “Ah, Texas Tech. Great school. When did you graduate?” You can find some guidance on answering these types of questions (or not) here.

Unfortunately, the list of tough interview questions doesn’t end with six—and there’s no crystal ball to know what you’ll be asked. If you need additional help prepping for your next interview, our recruiters can help you best prepare for the unexpected.