10 of the toughest job interview questions – and how to answer them

editorial image

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences, made even more intense if the interviewer goes off script to ask something unexpected.

Some of the toughest interview questions were published by careers site Glassdoor, after scouring thousands of examples shared by candidates online. Knowing how to approach such questions without becoming flustered can make a huge difference to your chances. Heather McArthur from Raeburn Career Coaching, and John Lees, author of Knockout Interview, offer their essential advice.

1. Who is your hero and why?

“The thinking behind that,” McArthur explains, “is they’d like to get an idea of your values.” “The hero should be somebody who matches what you believe in, and has done something you admire. You can apply that to the advertised job, because they too have values they want to display. “It’s all about getting a sense of whether that person would fit into the organisation.”

2. Tell me your biggest weakness… and then another?

“We plan for wildcard questions,” says Lees, “but questions like that are entirely predictable. It’s almost a habit now for interviewers to ask about strengths and weaknesses. “The best thing to talk about here are areas of development. Bring up things you know you can improve on and therefore are doing so. Say you’re undertaking training or working with a mentor in an area. “It’s about changing the focus.”

3. Who do you admire?

“This is directly related to the job,” says Lees. “It can give interviewers a clear indication as to whether you’re impressed by business people, ambitious people or high energy people. “It’s better to think of somebody who is likely to be admired by that kind of business. For example, if you pick somebody very entrepreneurial and you’re going for a job in the third sector, that may not be the best fit.” Read more at:

4. What’s your coping mechanism when you’ve had a bad day?

“I like this one,” says Lees, “and I don’t think it’s an oddball question at all. “It’s looking at people’s self awareness and how they respond under pressure. The best way to deal with that is to give them a good example. Say, ‘let me tell you how I dealt with this problem’, listing everything that went wrong and how you fixed it.”

5. What advice would your best friend give you?

“I’d come back with an assertive answer,” says McArthur. “Something like: ‘I think they’d remind me to put across the strength and skills to do this role and to find out as much as I can about this organisation.’”

6. How would your enemy describe you?

“I’ve never come across that one,” says Lees. “Probably answer this one with things that are effectively strengths. So, attention to detail – something that enemies would find rather irritating. “But I’d avoid talking about personal relationships – especially real enemies.”

7. What’s the most selfish thing you’ve done?

“I’d turn that into something to your advantage,” advises McArthur. “Maybe say you’ve been focused on your career and you weren’t spending as much time with your friends and family. But add that you’ve turned that around now. “Go into the interview with a clear plan. Think: I need to get across these skills and this experience and the things that I enjoy.”

8. What would you ask the CEO if you could ask them anything?

“Hopefully, if you are going to an interview you know enough about the business to be able to come up with something interesting,” says Lees. “It should probably be about the future of the organisation. It might be relevant to some challenges its faced in the past, but the future is a good bet. You could ask about what’s coming up, new plans, future expansion and growth. “It’s a good way of showing you’ve done your homework.” Read more at:

9. Tell me about your childhood?

“This would be about whether you’re going to be the right fit,” advises McArthur. “You can talk about how your childhood is a good preparation for the kind of person you’ve become. “If you’ve been thinking already about matching the role they are advertising, you can maybe go back as far as childhood and say that’s when I first got interested in so and so.”

10. Are you a nice person?

“I think this is a silly question,” says McArthur, “and I think an interviewer has a duty to ask you sensible questions. “If I got that in the interview, I would look them in the eye and say, ‘well, I live by my own values. I think that I am, but other people might have different values.’”

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title iNews.