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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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6.2 Tough questions

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Figure 9 Tough questions

Some questions in interviews can be challenging, especially if they are unexpected. Do not assume that tough questions will only be asked in formal interview situations. You might find an informal contact asks you whether it is wise to look for a career change or how much you want to be paid, for example. Of course, what one person considers tough, might not feel the same way to someone else. It is worth anticipating, and preparing for the questions you would personally find tricky. The next activity helps you to do this.

Activity 7 Answering tough questions

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

This activity will help you to think ahead to interview questions you might not find easy to deal with and how to prepare for them.

Spend a few moments thinking over interviews you have previously attended, career conversations you might have had, or the questions you generally dislike being asked about yourself. Write down between three and five questions in your notebook.


Now compare them to the list below. How many of them are similar to your own?

  • What are your strengths?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why should you be appointed rather than an internal candidate?
  • How much are you worth?
  • Having worked for one company for so long, what difficulties do you expect in adapting to our culture?
  • Isn’t it a bit late in your working life to change career?
  • How have you tried to stay up to date?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What are your ambitions?
  • Do you not feel that you might be over-qualified (or too experienced) for the position we are filling?
  • What were the circumstances of your leaving your last employer?
  • Why has it taken you so long to find a new job?
  • If you had complete freedom of a choice of jobs and employers, what would you choose?
  • What interests you least about this job?
  • What sort of relationship did you have with your last manager?


It is likely that you found some overlap because the list above, while not comprehensive, features commonly asked questions.

Obviously, if you anticipate and prepare for questions like these you are going to give a better answer than if they catch you unawares. If you have time in your study schedule this week, you may want to make some notes on what you would include in your answer, and what you might exclude. Often the best policy is just to be honest with these types of questions.

These last sections have been about what questions you may be asked. Remember, though, that the interview is a conversation, so you are expected to ask questions too. So, think about what you want to know, which will allow you to decide if the opportunity is right for you and demonstrates extra interest in the position you have applied for. This is an essential part of your basic preparation and is covered in the next section.