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Career > Work

Answering The Hardest Interview Questions

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wilfrid Laurier chapter.

It’s time to start thinking about applying for jobs again. I know, it sucks. But instead of worrying about how badly your interview will go, let’s help you get prepared ahead of time! Remember to always stay positive in an interview, be confident with what you are saying and if you can think on the spot, that’s even more helpful. However, something not everyone knows is to ALWAYS turn the questions that they ask you back to the job you are applying for instead of changing the subject for too long. Here are the hardest interview questions to answer and tips to help you get the job you want this year!

1. Tell me about yourself.

Now it may sound like the employer is asking you to talk about your interests, but really all they want to hear is how you fit this role that you applied for. So talking about outside interests like football or hockey when you are applying to a bank isn’t exactly going to help you get the job. Instead, make sure you studied up on what they recommended on the application. For example, if they said they’re looking for someone outgoing and positive, talk about how you’re a very bubbly and social person that loves talking to people all day long.

2. Explain a time when you have previously made a mistake and describe how you dealt with it.

When they ask you this question in an interview, they want to know how you deal under pressure or in a tense situation. It’s important to understand what the job requirements are as well as the listed attributes they want their new employee to have. If they look for someone that’s “personable” it would be helpful for you to use a scenario that involved a customer issue and explain how you handled the situation to get the customer to leave happy from the establishment. This, in a roundabout way, will also turn a potential negative into a positive. Also, remember to never admit that you messed up but say something along the lines of knowing that an error needed to be corrected and then proceed to how you did just that.

3. Describe a time that you had a conflict with a colleague and what you did to deal with it.

This one is very similar to the last question in the whole issue department. If they’re asking you this question it’s most likely because you’ll be working closely with other employees. Avoid answering with things such as “there were communication errors” or putting the blame on the other employee that the issue was with. Avoiding common issues such as communication errors is important because working with other employees requires a lot of communication for a business to run smoothly, especially if the job you’re applying for is in food or customer service-related fields. Respond instead with a scenario where both you and the other employee end up resolving the issue together. For example, you both thought a customer’s order was incomplete and therefore remade the order. A solution to this would be to talk to the other employee after apologizing for the repetition and stating that you’ll ask them before trying to help them complete their order. This leaves the employer knowing that you are helpful to the other employees and willing to admit wrongdoing without having an ego problem, which is what they look for. Unproblematic employees are the go-to employees.

4. Why did you leave your previous job?

Even if you absolutely hated your previous job, DON’T trash them to your new employer! I know they’re asking you why you left and hoping you’ll explain why but saying that you didn’t get along with your colleagues or that the management was difficult, etcetera, will only drive you further down the list of applicants. Instead, respond by saying something about how the job you’re interviewing for suits more of what you plan to do in the future or that you have a passion for whatever it is you are applying for. This changes this question from a negative experience at your last job, to what you hope to get out of this job instead. ALWAYS give it a positive spin.

5. Why do you want this job?

I know the answer to this one is “the money, duh” but trust me, you don’t want to respond this way. Remember to stay in a professional manner, even if the money is the only reason you applied for this job at all. Instead of mentioning the pay, say something along the lines of how it’ll further your professional career, or that you feel like the skills you’ll learn from this job will be important to your life overall. All they really want to hear is a professional response and one that will benefit the company. Avoid saying that it’ll help you with other careers in the future, as this is a common mistake that people make trying to make themselves sound better. When applying for one job, focus ONLY on that one job. It’s okay to embellish a little and tell them you plan on staying, even if you don’t, but you didn’t hear that from me.

6. What’s your greatest weakness?

Avoid topics such as “communication” or “conflict,” the last thing this employer wants for their business is drama. By asking you this question, the interviewer is trying to understand how you see yourself and how self-aware you are of your own issues. It’s super important for this one to have a positive spin toward the overall job. Briefly describe a weakness you do have that doesn’t impact the job, for example, stating that you are talkative in a customer service job doesn’t exactly sound like a weakness but can be potential. After stating the weakness, explain how you’re slowly overcoming that weakness within your everyday life.

7. What’s your greatest achievement?

This may sound like it can be not job-related and technically you can say “winning my third-grade track and field medal”, although that wouldn’t exactly help you get the job. Try thinking quickly of something that seems related to the job in some way. For example, if you’re applying to a restaurant where you know there are lots of workers, you can use the accomplishment such as creating a book club with the rest of the employees at your previous job and getting through a bunch of books. This proves you are friendly and personable and also a team player even when not at work. The idea that you did this with other employees and got them to go outside of work suggests that this is actually quite an accomplishment to be proud of.

8. What qualities can you offer the company that other candidates can’t?

Employers typically ask this type of question to gauge your personality and characteristics and especially your experience for the role. It’s important when answering this question to draw on your strengths, even if they were previously mentioned in the interview, reiterating them doesn’t hurt. You can also cater your response based on the role you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a managerial role, stating that you have previously taken business leadership courses or had a leadership role at another organization could be the reason you land the job. And like always, remember to make it specific to the role they want you to fill.

All that said, it won’t be easy to think on your feet to respond to these types of questions in interviews. Just remember to speak with confidence even if you doubt yourself and be honest about yourself. As I said, it is okay to embellish a little, but don’t make up fake stories to make yourself sound better if they didn’t really exist, there are too many ways that can make you falter or stutter under pressure. Good luck interviewing and landing those summer jobs this year!

Bailey McIntyre

Wilfrid Laurier '25

Bailey is in her third year of English studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. From a small town, she escaped when she could by writing whenever possible, as well as reading all things Sci-fi and Romance. She loves Snowboarding, Baking and watching early 2000s movies with hot chocolate. Bailey has a passion for all things writing related and is also the Arts and Life Section editor for The Cord Newspaper at Laurier. Wishing to pursue editing and publishing post grad, writing is her main creative outlet.