November 5, 2020  |  Purdue Global

Have you ever been stumped by a question you were asked in a job interview? It’s a terrible feeling when you’re unsure of how to respond to an interviewer, especially after all the hard work you’ve put into getting the job interview in the first place.

You’ve worked hard to earn your degree, spent time polishing and tailoring your resume and cover letter for each position you applied for, built a professional network, and researched the companies where you would like to work. You’ve gotten this far, and you could ace your next job interview by preparing answers to some of these frequently asked tough interview questions. If you learn how to answer interview questions through some of these interviewing tips, you could be well on your way to pursuing your next career goal.*

Best Way to Handle Tough Interview Questions

Before you get to the interview, it’s crucial that you research the company you have applied to. What is its business focus? Has the company been in the news lately? Information like this will help you understand how the job you are seeking fits into the organization and what some of the goals and challenges might be. Prepare thoughtful questions that demonstrate your interest and motivation.

When answering interview questions, explain what you can do for the company—not what they can do for you. Read the job description closely beforehand. Prepare to discuss your background and how it relates to the position you are seeking, but avoid discussing personal information. Provide examples of your work quality, accomplishments, and abilities. Have addresses, phone numbers, and employment dates accessible to complete a job application.

Sample Answers to Tough Interview Questions

While you shouldn’t sound like you’re reading from a script, it can be helpful to have answers to common interview questions already prepared. Here are some interview questions and how you should answer them.

Question 1: Tell Me about Yourself

This is one of the most common questions interviewers ask, and it’s a great time for you to highlight your accomplishments that clearly demonstrate how you can contribute to the company. Respond succinctly by outlining your professional achievements and the career path that got you to the interview.

Sample answer: “I graduated from Purdue Global in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and started my career as a patient coordinator. I got along well with the hospital staff, which helped me learn a lot about the inner workings of a hospital. Now I’d like to use that knowledge to take on the role as an administrator at your hospital.”

Question 2: What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

The best approach is to turn your weakness into strength. First describe a weakness you observed in yourself, the action you took, and the subsequent improvement in a given area. 

Sample answer: “At my current job, I often commit to several projects at once, which limits the attention I can give to each of them. I am resolving this by keeping track of my projects on a planner and setting realistic deadlines.”

Question 3: How Would Others Describe You?

Seeking ongoing feedback from your coworkers and bosses is one way to ensure you have a good answer to this question. Think back to past discussions with your former employers and share the feedback you received with the interviewer. If you have any performance reviews, emails, or other written materials that express this feedback, review them prior to your interview so you’re prepared with a response.

Sample answer: “My former colleagues have told me they can always count on me. Working in a deadline-driven environment, I feel it’s critical to set realistic timelines and work efficiently to deliver on what I set out to do.”

Question 4: Tell Me about the Worst Job/Boss You Ever Had

This is another one of the tough interview questions. Whatever you do, don’t talk negatively about your past jobs or bosses. The interviewer will assume that you’d talk about them and their company the same way.

“I’d encourage candidates to focus more on a situation than a person. Tell the interviewer about a situation in which they disagreed with or had a professional conflict with a superior: what actions did they take to resolve it and what was the result?” says Jennifer Katz, director of Career Services at Purdue Global. 

You can use the STAR approach—situation, task, action, result—outlined below, to help prepare your answer.

Question 5: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to the organization and professional development. Tell the interviewer why you would like to stay with this particular company for the long haul and discuss some of your career goals, which should align with the company’s goals.

Sample answer: “I earned my degree in information technology because I’m inspired by the idea that the field is always evolving. I have always seen myself working for a company, such as yours, that shares my passion to be on the cutting edge of technology.”

Question 6: Why Should I Hire You?

If there was ever a time to toot your own horn, this is it. This may be the last thing you’re asked, and it also can be one of the toughest interview questions, so provide the interviewer with a memorable response.

  • Remind the interviewer why your qualifications are a good fit for the position.
  • Reiterate your excitement for the opportunity.
  • Discuss how your strengths align with the company’s mission statement or a recent initiative to demonstrate how you could be an asset to the company

Sample answer: “I have earned a fire sciences degree and have the past experience to qualify me for this position. But as anyone in fire services knows, being a team player is equally important. My positive attitude is infectious and I can bring a sense of camaraderie to this fire station.”

Other Common Interview Questions

Interviews may also include behavioral questions that aren’t as easy to prepare for. Behavioral interviews assess what you have done in the past, not what you say you might do in the future. This allows hiring managers to assess you more objectively. The premise is that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. Interviewers develop a list of questions based upon specific competencies needed to be successful in the role they are hiring.

To do well in a behavioral interview, you must be able to tell stories that link your experience and skills to the position. Do your homework and research the employer’s core values, since some questions will more than likely relate to them. Be sure to focus on the job and the key skills the employer wants, then tap into your memory for detailed work or school experiences that you can use when answering questions.

The STAR approach is helpful in developing answers to behavioral questions. First, think about a situation or task that you faced in the past. Next, describe the action you took. Lastly, describe the result you achieved.

Behavior-based questions usually begin with:

  • Give an example of a time in which you…
  • Describe the most significant…
  • Tell me about a time when circumstances required you to…

Examples of behavioral questions can include:

  • Tell me how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation. How did you overcome it?
  • Think of a project you participated in over the last year. Tell me exactly what your role was and what you did. What problems or issues were there and how did you handle them?
  • Describe a time when you facilitated a creative solution to a problem between two employees.
  • Give an example of a problem you faced at a job and how you went about solving it.
  • Tell me about a situation in which you demonstrated your leadership ability.
  • What are the three most important values you demonstrate as a leader? Now, tell me a story that demonstrates each of these leadership values in practice within your workplace.
  • Provide some examples of how you adapted your own communicating style to deal with different people and situations.
  • How have you handled a situation when a boss failed to adequately communicate with you?

Come Prepared for Common Interview Questions

Come up with your own answers to these tough interview questions before your next job interview and practice responding with confidence. Be prepared with answers that show off your experiences and personality—you not only will impress the interviewer but also could increase your chances of acing the interview.

Earn a College Degree Online With Purdue Global

If a certificate or college degree could help you reach your career goals, learn more about Purdue Global. We offer more than 175 online programs, so you can continue to work and take care of family obligations while you go to school. Contact us today to learn more.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.

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*Employment and Career Advancement: Purdue Global does not guarantee employment placement or career advancement. Actual outcomes vary by geographic area, previous work experience and opportunities for employment. Additional certification or licensing may be required to work in certain fields.