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Tough interview questions – what are employers looking for?

Tough interview questions – what are employers looking for?

Probing, behavioural-type questions at interview have become extremely popular with employers.

They’re tough, they’re revealing, and rather than giving a one-sentence answer, you’re expected to describe, in detail, a difficult situation at work and how you handled it. Here are some examples:


Tell me about a time when you worked in a team

This is about people skills, therefore your ‘story’ needs to demonstrate how well you collaborate, motivate and support others, especially if they’re struggling.


Give an example of when you had a disagreement at work

This is about your handling of arguments, conflict and stress. Your story should involve a disagreement with your boss or colleague whilst showcasing your problem-solving skills, empathy and patience. Your interviewer is also interested in whether you ever ask for help and how professionally you behave.


Tell me about a time when you influenced someone

This is about leadership potential so pick a situation where you took charge, helped and persuaded others, especially if they were difficult or uncooperative. Also try to demonstrate that you can accept responsibility, motivate others and think creatively in a crisis.


Tell me about your biggest failure

Everyone makes mistakes – but it might be disastrous for the company if you don’t tell anyone. Your story needs to prove you accept responsibility, not keep quiet or blame others. Try to include something of what you’ve learned from the situation…and don’t claim you’ve never failed or you’ll look like a liar.


Tell me about your greatest success / something that’s not on your CV

Here you can showcase any charitable, volunteering or caring work you do. Your interviewer is looking for evidence of dedication, enthusiasm and confidence as well as hearing about how you face difficult challenges.


When preparing your stories, the STAR technique is helpful. Remember to include:

1) The situation or problem
2) The task i.e what needed to be done
3) The action you took – in some detail
4) The result and what you learned from the experience

Most importantly, once your stories are prepared…practise, practise, practise.

Good luck

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