5 Tough Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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

Now, we’re going to take a look at the other side of the table, analyzing these same 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 your 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 delved into tips for answering job interview questions effectively, let’s look at some specific questions and how they could be attacked from the candidate point-of-view.

“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 rather 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?”

“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 somewhat related to the role you’re interviewing for can be a strong signal to the interviewer that you would be engaged and interested in the work at hand.

Don’t be afraid to bring personal passions into the equation here (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.

“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 of 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 in the success of the company – not just in finding the easiest possible route to a hefty paycheck.

“What has been your greatest challenge with x technology and how did you overcome it?”

If the employer is asking this question, they’re likely concerned with 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 in using said tool.

Maybe you are proficient in the tool 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.

“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 may be, 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 for your boss.

Start thriving in your career with help from Oggi

In finance and accounting, 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.

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