5 Tough Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

In a recent post, we looked at five lesser-known but high-impact tough job interview questions for employers to ask finance and accounting candidates in order to assess their ability and overall fit.

Now, we’re going to look at the other side of the table, analyzing these five questions from the job seeker’s point of view. If you’re in an interview and a hiring manager asks you these questions, how can you make sure to respond in an honest and effective way?

Here are some general tips for answering job interview questions, along with five examples of tough questions and how to answer them.

Tips For Answering Job Interview Questions

From the interviewer’s perspective, a good question is all about uncovering how a candidate might perform and respond to specific challenges within their would-be role. With this in mind, the candidate’s answers should aim to illustrate those points for the employer.

Assuming you’ve done your research on the position and the company ahead of time, here are a few tips to help you ace every job interview from handshake to handshake.

Speak Slowly

It can be easy to get flustered during a job interview, especially if you feel particularly blindsided by any one question. But no matter how caught off-guard you may feel, speaking quickly or frantically is only going to intensify that anxiety – while also making it more apparent to the interviewer. Slow down. The interview is not a race, and hiring managers appreciate candidates who remain composed amid changing circumstances. Take time to think of how you want to respond to each question, and then do so calmly and clearly.

Use Examples

Anyone can say they’re a great team player or that they’re effective under pressure. The interviewer is more interested in hearing about specific instances in which you displayed those and other strong qualities to provide high-impact results. Be prepared to talk about the times you’ve let your skills shine (bonus points if the examples are relevant to the position you’re interviewing for). The STAR interview method is a popular way to achieve this result on the fly.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Many initially successful interviews have seen themselves go off the rails as the result of one common culprit: rambling. And we’ve all done it. The interviewer asks what appears to be a straightforward question, only to hear the candidate respond with a chaotic grouping of sentences – none of which have much to do with the question that was posed. Preparing specific responses to specific prompts or types of questions and then rehearsing those responses beforehand is one of the best ways to avoid rambling and will make you appear more well-spoken and prepared in the eyes of the interviewer.

Now that we’ve discussed tips for answering job interview questions effectively, let’s look at some specific questions and how a candidate might approach them.

5 Tough Job Interview Questions:

1. “What would you change about your current employer?”

This question primarily aims to show how well you identify opportunities and can also show if your priorities skew toward organizational improvement, cultural improvement, or another area. It’s important not to bad-mouth your current employer here but to speak from a place of constructive and strategic thinking as to how you might improve the business.

Every business has room for improvement. Speaking in an overtly negative way about your current or most recent employer can come across as a red flag to your prospective employer, who might think, “If they’re saying this about their last job, what would they say about us?”

2. “What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on in the past?”

This question can uncover how passionate you are about certain areas of work and how well you might align with the requirements of the new role. Talking about a project related to the role you’re interviewing for can signal to the interviewer that you would be engaged and interested in the work at hand.

Don’t be afraid to mention personal passions (e.g., “I worked as a consultant for a sporting goods brand, and I love the outdoors”), as this can also highlight your potential as a cultural fit.

3. “How do you decide which companies and positions to apply for?”

Here, the hiring manager is essentially trying to see where your ambitions lie. If you say you only look for jobs that have an easy description and high pay, it won’t make you sound like a driven and focused employee.

How you respond should speak to the true underlying reasons why you want this job. You might say:

  • “I want to further my career growth and development.”
  • “I want to be part of an exciting and collaborative team.”
  • “I want the opportunity to lead people toward a common and ambitious goal.”

These types of responses showcase your interest in the work and the company's success – not just in finding the easiest possible route to a hefty paycheck.

4. “What has been your greatest challenge with X technology, and how did you overcome it?”

If an employer asks this question, they’re likely concerned about a specific tool or software platform you would be utilizing in the role (such as an ERP system) and want to see how familiar and proficient you are with it.

Maybe you are proficient in the solution, but no specific challenges come to mind. That’s okay. The hiring manager is not only trying to ensure you know the tool – they’re also trying to assess how well you overcome job-specific challenges and learning experiences. So talk about that, whether it’s relative to the tool they mentioned or a different experience altogether.

5. “Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied with your work and why.”

Interviewers might ask this question to try and gauge how seriously you take your work and the standard to which you hold yourself – not just the standard you feel held to by your superiors or peers.

Think of a time you know you could have done better but didn’t. Maybe you weren’t able to due to limited time or resources. Maybe other variables outside of your control got in the way. Whatever the reason, what matters here is that you convey to the hiring manager how seriously you take your work and the pride you take in doing a good job for yourself – not just for clients or your boss.

Start Thriving in Your Career With Help From Oggi Talent

Staffing and recruiting is about much more than just filling a seat. It’s about finding the right people for the right positions that will help the business succeed.

At Oggi, we understand what it takes – and who it takes – to get the job done, taking time to understand your skill set and your career goals before finding a position where you can succeed. Our team of professionals uses decades of industry expertise and a passion for people to drive recruiting results today and tomorrow.

Whether in need of a short-term, long-term, or permanent position, we are here to help facilitate lasting career connections.

Contact us today to start finding finance and accounting positions that can truly make a difference in advancing your career.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What are some key traits companies look for in executives during the interview process?

A: Executives are the most senior level of a company’s leadership, and as such, companies often look for certain traits when interviewing candidates for executive positions. Some of these desired characteristics include strong communication skills, excellent problem-solving abilities, adept decision-making capabilities, strategic thinking, conflict resolution expertise, financial acumen, and the ability to lead effectively.

All of these traits help to ensure that an executive will be successful in the role and can guide a company toward its desired goals. Furthermore, companies may also look for qualities such as creativity, ethical behavior, empathy, humility, and resilience when considering executive candidates. Together with the other traits mentioned above, these characteristics can help to make an excellent executive and a valuable asset to the company.

Q: How can I demonstrate my leadership skills during an executive interview?

A: During an executive interview, you should strive to articulate your leadership skills clearly and compellingly. For example, you can explain how you have led teams to success through effective communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. You can also share concrete examples of how you have implemented strategic plans that have produced results.

Additionally, discuss any conflicts or issues you have resolved and how you motivated your team members to work towards a shared goal. Finally, emphasize the value of staying organized and keeping up with industry trends. Doing so can demonstrate to the interviewer that you are an effective leader who can bring tangible results to the organization.

Q: How should I approach answering questions about my experience leading and managing teams?

A: When answering questions about your experience leading and managing teams, it is important to focus on the results of your work. For example, discuss what strategies you implemented that led to successful outcomes or how you motivated team members and drove them toward a shared goal.

Be sure to emphasize any lessons you learned from past experiences and explain how this knowledge has informed your current approach to management. Finally, remain focused on the positive and avoid being overly critical of yourself or your team members. Doing so demonstrates that you are a leader capable of driving successful results in any situation.

Q: What is the best way to answer questions about my experience with financial planning and budgeting?

A: When responding to questions about your experience with financial planning and budgeting, it is essential to emphasize the successful outcomes of your work. For example, you can describe how you managed costs, improved efficiency, or generated revenue through your financial decisions.

You'll want to discuss any challenges you faced while managing budgets and explain how you overcame them. You should also explain any strategies you implemented to ensure the budget was adhered to and offer specific examples of how your financial planning helped the organization reach its goals. This will demonstrate that you are a competent financial manager capable of making sound decisions.

Q: How can I address questions about my experience dealing with difficult stakeholders or board members?

A: When responding to questions about your experience dealing with difficult stakeholders or board members, explain the strategies you have used to effectively manage these types of interactions. For example, discuss how you have been able to mediate disagreements and develop solutions amenable to all parties.

Emphasize any conflict resolution skills you possess and discuss how you have used them. Finally, explain any strategies you have implemented to maintain positive relationships with stakeholders or board members and describe how these efforts resulted in successful outcomes for the organization.

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