How to Answer Tough Job Interview Questions

A single job interview could change your career and your entire life for the better. That is, if you ace it. Here are five common tough questions asked by Human Resources managers to trim the list of applicants.

The following tips could transform you into an ideal candidate!

1) The salary question: What are your expectations?
Human Resource (HR) experts are always looking to cut down expenses for each advertised job. This is why it is important for you to be knowledgeable about the average salary paid for the job you have applied for – based on several factors which include the nature of the business, the size of the company and its location.
Do your research and come up with a salary range rather than a particular amount. By giving a salary range, you allow room for negotiations. With a particular amount, you never know if it is too high – and hence will scare off the HR representative. Likewise, you never know if it is too low – thus benefitting the HR who will gladly accept your amount and eventually cut down on the offer’s initial price. A good way to close the chapter on this tricky question is to state that “based on the company’s budget, on the role and my level of experience, I believe we can reach an agreement as I’m open to discussion.”

By now, you may have seen this popular and funny image at least once on social media. (Image by

2) The trap: what is your greatest weakness?
This is captured above– with great humor – reflects the approach you should absolutely never take when faced with this question.

Be “tactful”. Here are two simple examples:

  • If you’re applying for a data entry position and you declare that you can’t bear routine work, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.
  • If you’re applying for a Customer Care Service job where patience is needed to deal with all types of clients, and you state that your greatest weakness is your bad temper, you’ve just deleted your name from the Human Resources Manager’s shortlist of applicants.

Instead, give an answer that will NOT downplay your qualifications. A good way to do so is by revealing an area of your skills or approach as a professional which has improved over the years. For example, if you are generally classified as you tend to take time learning, you could reveal it, but not without adding how much your desire and determination has helped you overcome your weakness and you are willing to take on constructive criticism to help you develop through the learning process. In other words, transform negatives into positives. It works and you can’t lose with this strategy.

3) The attitude test: why did you leave your previous job? (or why do you want to leave your current job?)
Never badmouth your previous employer, no matter how unfair they may have been to you. If you badmouth them, the first question that will come to the mind of the HR Manager interviewing you is:“What if the company advertising this position is the next one you’ll badmouth to another company? You can’t be trusted, can you?” If you had disputes with your previous employer, keep them private. Instead, shift the topic by talking about your desire to grow in your field by assuming more responsibilities and explain why this job you’re eyeing will help you do so.

4) Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is often asked when the company hiring aims to find stability by sticking permanently with the ideal candidate.
Of course, life takes twists and turns. You never know how things will unfold in five years. You may have to move to another city, take up new courses or have family commitments which may interfere with the job you are hoping to land. In that case, the best answer is to say that you’re hoping to be an expert in your field in five years’ time and be able to help new colleagues with your experiences.

5) The last question“Do you have questions for me?” asks the HR recruiter.

If faced with this question, one thing to note is the following: Never ask about the salary. This is a topic that should be raised by the recruiter first, and it only surfaces if you’ve been selected among the best. Being the first to bring up the salary issue (again) when concluding an interview could make you look bad. You don’t want to show that you’ve applied for the money. Instead, you can ask the HR Manager how a typical day at the office is like; this will help you prepare for the job. You can ask which platforms or systems are used to communicate within the crew or with clients. To have more points you can bring onboard strategies that are familiar to you and could boost the synergy and productivity within the company. This attitude will prove that you are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and already engaged.

By Olu Eletu

Back to salary matters:
After the interview process, if you receive a contract offer and the salary doesn’t quite match your requirements, you can state that you’re very excited about joining the company but that you will be glad if – based on all your capacities – the salary could be reviewed within your expected range.

Have you tried any of these tips? Let us know about your experience with job interviews!

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