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How To Answer 12 of the Toughest Interview Questions

monzenmachi / Getty Images
monzenmachi / Getty Images

The job interview process can be nerve-wracking, especially when you get hit with a curveball question that you don't know how to answer. Although you can never truly predict what your interviewer will ask you, it does help to be prepared to answer some of the common tricky questions you may encounter.

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Here's how you should approach 12 of the toughest interview questions.

dragana991 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
dragana991 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Is Your Current Salary?

Your prospective employer may ask you this question, but in many places, they legally should not be asking for your salary information.


"Several states and localities now bar employers from asking this question in an attempt to end pay discrimination, which can happen when employers continuously base a person's salary on what a previous employer paid them," said Brie Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.

Even if your prospective employer can legally ask about your current salary, Reynolds recommends turning the question around to ask how much the role typically pays. For example, "I'd be happy to discuss salary and I'm interested to know what you had in mind for the pay range for this role."

PeopleImages /
PeopleImages /

Why Do You Want To Leave Your Current Position?

"It's definitely one of those questions that can leave you tongue-tied, so have your reasons clearly thought out beforehand," said Jacques Buffett, a career expert with Zety. "The key is to be brief and avoid being negative."

Even if you are leaving your current job because you hate it and you're bored every day, there's a way to frame this that doesn't sound like you're just complaining.

"Reframe it to something like, 'I'm leaving my job because although my current role has taught me a lot, I want to develop my career with an opportunity that challenges me more and helps me to further grow my professional abilities,'" Buffett said. "That explains it perfectly and concisely, and keeps it positive."

Prostock-Studio / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Prostock-Studio / Getty Images/iStockphoto

How Did You Get Along With Your Former Boss?

If you get along well with your boss, answering this should be a breeze -- but if they're the reason you're leaving or you tended to butt heads, it's best to answer this question delicately.

"If you truly can't think of anything nice to say about your previous boss, talk about the things you were able to accomplish while working with them," said Reynolds. "It's alright to be honest -- gently -- and say that there were some areas of your relationship that were better than others, but that you learned a lot about your own management and leadership style through them (even if it's what not to do)."

monzenmachi / Getty Images
monzenmachi / Getty Images

Why Do You Want This Job?

You may want the job you're interviewing for because it pays well or offers appealing perks like allowing you to work from home. But you should cater your answer to this question to be specific to the company, and provide concrete reasons why you want to work for them as opposed to other companies offering similar benefits.

shironosov / Getty Images/iStockphoto
shironosov / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Is Your Desired Work Location?

Many companies are in a transitional state right now, with some allowing remote work or a hybrid model with plans to move back to the office full-time. If working remotely -- at least part-time -- is important to you, you can still mention this, but be sure to emphasize you are flexible.

Reynolds recommends saying something like the following: "I'm open and flexible to the location of this role, and I'm definitely interested in working remotely if the job allows it."

FluxFactory / Getty Images
FluxFactory / Getty Images

What Was the Corporate Culture Like at Your Previous Job?

Even if your previous work environment was toxic -- or had no culture at all -- you should answer this question delicately. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive aspects of your new potential company.

Reynolds suggests an answer like the following: "My previous company didn't have much in the way of company culture and building employee bonds. Your focus on team retreats and rewarding employees is a big reason I'm interested in your company."

Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Are You Hoping To Gain From This Job?

Similar to, "Why do you want this job?," the answer to this question should focus more on the experience you can get at the company rather than focusing on the paycheck or perks. Explain what about the role speaks to you and elaborate on your wishes to learn and grow within the company.

insta_photos / Getty Images/iStockphoto
insta_photos / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Makes You the Right Candidate for This Position?

It can be uncomfortable to brag about yourself, but this is your opportunity to explain your relevant skills and experiences -- so don't pass it up! If possible, share a specific accomplishment you achieved in a previous role that's applicable to the types of responsibilities you would have with this prospective position. For example, "In my previous role, I performed similar tasks that increased our revenue by 40%."

fizkes /
fizkes /

Tell Me About Yourself.

Because this question is so open-ended, it can be tricky to know how to answer it. How far back in your career trajectory should you go? Is it OK to talk about your nonprofessional background too? According to Buffett, the answer to that latter question is no.

"Don't launch into a description of your personal life and interests," he said. "The interviewer isn't interested in your love of Instagrammable holiday locations or your weekend activities. They want to know about you in a professional context in your own words -- not in a formulaic resume format, but to prove you can demonstrate why you're a strong candidate. They'll be looking at your communication skills and your ability to present yourself in a professional context."

Buffett recommends taking a "present-past-future" approach to answering this question.

"Start with the present, talking about your current job -- what it entails, and throw in a nice juicy accomplishment you've achieved," he said. "Then, touch on the past, mentioning how your career got you to that position and adding in other relevant skills and experience from previous jobs. Lastly, segue to the future, explaining why you want this role and why you're a great fit for it."

fizkes /
fizkes /

What Would the Person Who Likes You Least in the World Say About You?

This question may catch you off guard, so it's a good idea to prepare an answer in advance. Think of a characteristic that others may not like -- for example, your impatience -- but find a way to spin it into a positive.

For example, Reynolds suggests the following: "They'd probably point out that I'm impatient. However, I feel that it makes me a better worker as I rarely miss deadlines, I respond to emails quickly and I regularly get answers to questions I have."

dusanpetkovic / Getty Images/iStockphoto
dusanpetkovic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

As with the previous question, you need to spin a negative into a positive to nail this answer.

"You need to demonstrate self-awareness with the ability to address your weakness," Buffett said. "That approach frames the 'weakness' with strength."

Buffett gives the following example: "I've struggled with confidence in the past but it's something I'm committed to improving. I've made it a habit to note my successes at work and the positive feedback I've received so I can see exactly why I should be confident about my abilities. I've also made it an aim to make at least one contribution or suggestion to team meetings and discussions. By consciously making an effort to contribute rather than fade into the background, I've helped to remove those barriers caused by a lack of confidence. It's a tough one to conquer but I'm definitely improving."

"A response like that shows real self-awareness and commitment to self-improvement -- a solid answer to this most daunting question," he said.

PeopleImages / Getty Images
PeopleImages / Getty Images

How Do You Handle or Manage Stress?

Your prospective employer may want to know how you react under pressure. Think about how you have approached stressful situations in the past and what worked best for you.

Reynolds suggests a response like the following: "When I get stressed out, I find it's best for me to take a step back and make a plan of attack. This helps me get a handle on the situation and figure out what I need to do to alleviate my stress and get things accomplished."

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This article originally appeared on How To Answer 12 of the Toughest Interview Questions