Interview tough questions and answers

Interview advice

If you’ve reached the interview stage make sure you’re prepared for the likely tough questions you’ll be asked by your interviewer. With over 70 years of recruitment experience, we’ve put our best minds together at Brook Street to bring you our guide to tough interview questions – and how to answer them!

It’s a great idea to practice these before you go in to your interview, and see if you can get a friend or relative to talk you through them and evaluate your answers. Practice answering these questions a few times and you’ll smash the interview – and be the most memorable candidate by a long shot.

Q. “Why should we offer you this job?”

A. There’s a thin line between coming off as confident and appearing arrogant. Be prepared to list the reasons why you feel you’re a suitable fit for the role, and where possible back them up with practical examples. For example “the reason you should offer me this job is because I feel that my skills in administration and organisation would be an asset to your company/team. You mentioned that your ideal candidate would have to be highly organised. An example of this from my current role is...(then go on to tell the employer how you demonstrated your skills)”.

Q. “What are your weaknesses?”

A. This isn’t there to trip you up. Try and make your weaknesses into disguised strengths such as “I’m not happy when I’m not stretching my skills in my job”. Or mention a weakness, which you know isn’t required in the job such as “I’m not good at foreign languages”.

Q. “Tell me about a time when you have overcome a difficult challenge or situation at work?”

A. The key with this question is to make sure that whatever you choose to talk about, you’re the star of the story. Pick a time when a problem arose that was beyond your control, and explain in detail how you overcame it. Don’t feel shy about highlighting your excellent problem solving skills and stress free attitude!

Q. “If we offer you the role, what would you do in your first 90 days?”

A. Don’t be fooled, no one expects you to get this one exactly right. This question is looking at how you think and how you plan. Managers like people who can hit the ground running and be a great team player immediately, so it’s good to have an answer that highlights these. Stress the need for flexibility to adapt to the needs of the company, and the key goals of your plan. Remember to focus on what you’re going to do and not what you’re going to learn – no one wants to hear how long you’ll take to settle in!

Q. “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?”

A. Though it might seem tricky, this is really quite a simple question. You’re being tested on your commitment to the job you’re applying for –they want to see how long you’re planning on sticking around! Give your answer in two stages, focus the first half on what you’re looking to get out of this rile, then deal with up skilling yourself so that you’re ready to take on a more senior position.

Be prepared for those slightly out-of-the-box questions...

You’ll certainly have a friend who has a friend who’s had one of these interview questions. Popular with some companies, they use them to test your problem solving skills and how quickly you can think on your feet. It’s not worth spending too much time worrying about these, but we’ve listed some of the hardest below!

Q. "What will you be famous for?" EY

A. This question is really asking what is your biggest personal ambition? The employers will be looking at how your goals line up with the role that you’re applying for, and how it reflects your personality. If you get stuck, (or you don’t think that admitting your secret dream to be a world class competitive eater is appropriate,) a simple approach to this one is best. You can say that you’ve got no ambition to be famous, but you’d like to be remembered for being kind, or funny – neatly sidestepping the question and still profiling your social and interpersonal skills.

Q. “What would the name of your debut album be?” Urban Outfitters

A. It can be hard to think of something on the spot for this one. The employer will be looking for creativity, and again testing your personality to see what you come up with in the moment. If you don’t have a secret album name stashed up your sleeve, simply go for your first name. When questioned why, you can say ‘It was good enough for Beyonce, Madonna and Elvis – and I’d like my album to be up there with the best!’

Q. “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?” – Whole Foods Market

A. Bizzare, certainly; but this is just one question asked by Whole Foods Market when interviewing prospective new hires. If you ever face a question like this one, the most important thing is to take a deep breath and remember that it’s not a trick! They’re just interested to see how you think under pressure, and to test how you approach problems. There is no right answer! For this particular riddle, we’d say that it’s easiest to say one horse-sized duck. There’s only one animal to consider instead of 100 to contend with. This will profile you as a strategic thinker, able to evaluate risks and stay calm.