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How to answer tough interview questions

While we can never totally predict what interviewers will ask, certain questions arise all the time and you should make sure you are ready with responses. Many prospective employers will seek to test your ability to think on your feet and express yourself by throwing one or two tougher interview questions into the mix.

When answering unexpected questions, remember to:

Stay calm and collected

Keep your nerves under control. Speak at a normal talking pace and don’t rush, no matter how much you want to.

Maintain a positive outlook

Even if you’re talking about a negative experience, try spin it a positive light and discuss what you learnt from the experience

Pause before you answer if you need more time

Take a couple of seconds to think through your answer – your interviewer won’t mind.

Don’t argue with the interviewer

This should go without saying. Interviews are not the time or the place for arguments.

For more interview tips More interview tips that will help you land the job

"Never speak negatively about your current role or employer – it can be a major turn-off for a potential employer" - Chris, Divisional Lead, Rullion

Tough interview question examples

What motivates you?

The worst thing you can say in this situation is “salary” - the interviewer is looking for an insight into your aspirations and work ethic. The key to successfully answering this question is to answer with the interviewers’ goal in mind. If they are seeking somebody who can ‘get the job done’ or a ‘team player’, keep this in mind.

How do you handle criticism?

The key here is show that you can take constructive feedback on board and move forward.

How do you cope under pressure?

This question will only be asked if it applies to the role in question. Always respond with a positive and be prepared to give examples of when you have worked in a high-pressure environment and succeeded.

Download the full Interview Preparation Handbook to find out how to get the most out of your interview.