How to answer tough interview questions

interview tips Feb 23, 2023
Two people sitting at a table with a laptop in front of them. They are smiling across the table at someone else.

Interview questions are not meant to trick you, but it is easy to overthink when you’re trying to convince the company you are the best for the job.


At the end of the day, companies want to know if you’re qualified and a good fit for the team. That’s why some questions can seem tricky, awkward, or even nerve-wracking.


No matter what the question is, remember to be:

  • Honest
  • Confident
  • Positive 


Here are some tough interview questions you could encounter – and what to say to move on to the next round.


Why did you leave your last job?

When you are asked this, the company wants to know if they are taking a risk by hiring you. 


It’s important that you’re honest, but do not reveal unnecessary details that could paint you in a bad light. 


If you start talking about disliking your managers or not getting along with your colleagues, the new company you want to work for is less likely to call you back – even if your reasons are valid. The last thing they want to think about is the possibility of you bad-mouthing the company if you eventually leave them. 


Try focusing on what you enjoyed about the job, what you were missing, how that translated in your work, and what you decided you needed instead. 


Let’s say you had a disorganized company who threw deadlines at you last minute and team members who didn’t support you. You constantly felt like you were falling behind and it wasn’t your fault, but you were still blamed or you were not recognized for your efforts. Try explaining the situation this way:


In my previous role, I really enjoyed the wide variety of tasks I was entrusted with as it gave me a chance to expand my skills and participate in interesting projects. Sometimes the project expectations would change without notice or projects were assigned with deadlines that were increasingly difficult to meet. I had some trouble receiving support to remedy this, which resulted in submitting work I do not believe reflected by capabilities. I am looking for a role where I can be challenged with enough notice to deliver the quality of work I know I am capable of.


If you were fired, you should still be honest. You may not have to disclose this, but potential employers can learn the truth anyway by checking references and reaching out to previous employers. 


Sometimes people are let go for operational reasons. If your job was automated, outsourced, or part of a round of layoffs, that is very understandable. When you explain this, discuss the work you were doing when this happened and how many other employees were dealt the same hand so the interviewer has an understanding of the environment from which you were let go.


If you were fired because you were not fulfilling your work requirements, you can share this, but follow-up with a commitment to doing better in your next role. 


For example: 

“My manager and I understood that the job was not the best fit for my skill set, as I was having trouble reaching my monthly quotas. In my future work, I intend to agree to and maintain a goal that is challenging yet feasible for me as I grow and improve in my career.”

What’s your greatest weakness?

In this answer, language is very important. Tardiness, missed deadlines, and attention deficits could be something you struggle with, but sharing them could also be why you do not hear a call back from a company.


Put a positive spin on a weakness. If you have been described as a “control freak” or “bossy” because you like things done in a particular way, you can make that sound like a dedication to excellence. 


Your weakness should be quickly followed by what you have learned about it and how you intend to improve in the future.



“I am very particular with how I complete my work, and in the past, I have struggled to share the workload with my colleagues. However, I know we have my teammates so we can put our best work forward together. Since then, I have learned to trust my team more and share the workload when they offer their support.


This answer shows that you are aware of your shortcomings and that you intend to do better. 


Why should we hire you over other candidates?

This isn’t an opportunity to bash other candidates, but an opportunity to brag about yourself. 


Before every interview, you should write down all of your work accomplishments and then compare that to the list of responsibilities and expectations on the job posting. Find where your past overlaps with what they want for the future.


When you describe why you are the best for the job, you can demonstrate how you have already accomplished what they hope to see in this role.


For example: “This role calls for someone who has experience with email marketing. In my previous roles, my work has helped our subscription list nearly double in size. Since I began working, the click-rates of our products and services have increased by 10 percent.”


If you don’t have achievements like this to share, speak to your general skillset and emphasize how versatile you are.


“I can bring many skills to this role, such as coding, debugging and testing, and object-oriented design. In my previous roles I have found that these skills, paired with my communication and teamwork skills, made our projects run seamlessly as we could collaborate efficiently to reach our deadlines. I know I can bring the same speed and excellence to this role.”

How do you handle criticism?

This question is a great way to share your work experiences. Instead of speaking in theory, be vulnerable by sharing when you performed less than your best because everyone has had those moments. This is an opportunity to also share how you took that criticism, overcame the mistake, and improved for the future.


Remember to use the STAR method when you’re sharing a personal experience in the workplace during an interview. 


STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result:

  • Describing the situation 
  • Describing the task
  • Explaining your action
  • Sharing the results


After sharing where you went wrong, share what you learned about the situation that led to criticism. If it’s applicable, share what you did differently the next time you were in a similar situation and if you received different results. 


Tell me about yourself

Some people may see this as a chance to get more personal, but these companies are not asking about your favourite movie. 


“Tell me about yourself” is an elevator pitch. You need to know what the company wants to know so you know what to share about yourself. 


It is a one-minute resume that tells an interviewer why you are interested in this job and why you are the best fit. 


Here are the areas you should touch on when this question comes your way:

  • Your current or most recent job
  • One or two roles where you had responsibilities that align with responsibilities of the role you’re applying for
  • Key achievements that demonstrate leadership, excellence, or a direct relate to the role you’re applying for 
  • What led you to this role


If you would like to personalize it a bit more, do so strategically. 


If there is someone you know at the company that is in good standing, don’t be afraid to name-drop them: 


“I went to school with [friend’s name], who worked here as a [position title]. I was excited when they shared this role with me because of this company’s innovation and the projects [my friend] is so committed to.”


If the person you are interviewing has a strong digital presence and you have seen some of their content online, work that into your answer:


“I work best when there are other professionals to draw inspiration from. The other day, I saw your LinkedIn post and it really resonated with me because [give relevant reason].


Employers also ask you to tell them about yourself so they have a launchpad for their next question. They can ask you to build off of something you learned at a previous job or ask about a solution to a problem with a specific software. When you answer this question, be sure to only mention things that you can answer in more detail later. 


Practicing your answers

You need to practice your answers as much as you prepare them. Interviews, whether they are in person or online, are about sounding confident, maintaining a steady gaze, and speaking clearly.


You can have great answers rehearsed, but stumbling or mumbling through them can hurt your chances. It’s also important to keep a good posture. But if you don’t know what you look like, you can get in your head. It can also be difficult to feed off your interviewer’s energy, especially if you are meeting them online. 


This Video Interview Bot can help you out.

Source: Video Interview Bot


It gives you situational interview questions and tests your competency, strengths, and weaknesses – all while recording you.


You can record yourself as you practice your responses, and make the changes you need to be a stronger candidate.


If you’ve made it to the job interview, celebrate that you are already qualified for the job. Now is your chance to show them why you are the best!


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