By Debbie Holden 18 Jun 2019 5 min read

Tough interview questions and answers


A job interview is a big hurdle towards getting the job you want. The most nerve-wracking part of an interview, besides making a good first impression, is not knowing what questions will be thrown your way.

There are several questions which can be difficult to answer if you’re caught off guard. Interviewers ask tough questions for a number of reasons, including finding out important information about you, to learn about your thought processes and to gauge your experience and comfort level with difficult tasks. Employers may also be asking you questions to identify whether you are a good fit for the company/team.

Whatever the topic, you would ideally like to be able to answer every interview question as best as you can. Below, we’ve outlined some of the toughest questions you could face in an interview, besides the ones related to your profession, like a mechanic, car sales or vehicle technician specific interview.


What is your most significant achievement?    

This question assesses your values and attitude as much as your achievements. Not that this question isn’t solely limited to your career – employers lie to hear about your activities outside of your job and education. Talk about something you’re genuinely proud of, as opposed to something you think will go down well with the interviewer. It could be an achievement that involved leading others, overcoming obstacles or persistence.

For example: “My biggest achievement involves leading my team all of the way to the top of the national football league we competed in this year. I was the captain and coach for our team, a tough feat for someone who needs to be on the pitch as well as being able to oversee everything that’s happening – but I think this also says a lot for the team I managed and how well we all worked together. So you can imagine I was glowing with pride when we made it to the finals, only to bring the cup back home with us that day. This season showed me that a motivated, ambitious team with the right leadership knows no boundaries.”


How do you respond to criticism?

A person who struggles with criticism can be difficult to teach or develop at work. Welcoming constructive criticism helps us grow as individuals, to learn and improve with any job. If you struggle to respond well to criticism, work on approaching this type of question positively.

For example:“I welcome criticism because it makes me a better employee. Nobody is perfect, which is something I struggled to come to terms with at a younger age. Now I have grown and developed, I am happy to hear it. It helps me to identify issues and ensure they don’t happen again in future.”


What motivates you?

A popular question to be asked in a car sales job interview for example, or more general, a strengths-based interview. It focuses on what you enjoy doing and what you do well – it’s also a question that graduate recruiters are increasingly using alongside or instead of competency-based interview questions. Try to draw on an example from your extracurricular activities, work experience or studies that suggest you would be strongly motivated by the job you applied for.

For example: “I am motivated by money and achieving goals, which makes it pretty easy for me to want to work well as a car salesman – I want to hit my targets, because I like a challenge, and who doesn’t like to earn more cash? Paired with my love for cars, adding a cash incentive on top of that only makes me want to perform better.”   


How do you respond to stress and/or pressure?

This question can be common in roles that require alot of task management, like a mechanic job or vehicle technician career. Through this question, an employer wants to find out how you would cope in a busy working environment, and how reliable and level headed you are when things go wrong. It helps to give an example of a time where you have met difficult deadlines or handled tricky people in the past.

For example: “In my last job, it was just me and another mechanic working in one garage. We had a great reputation in our local area, so we were very busy. I remember one day, we felt as though we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew in terms of tasks that would be completed in one day. But as opposed to panicking, we both sat down and created a list of priority tasks that needed to be completed e.g. customers who were coming back to get their car that day, and broke down larger tasks into smaller, manageable ones that could be handled in between the larger priority tasks. It was a tough day but we got through it and all of our regulars and new customers left satisfied.”


What have you learned from your mistakes?

Yes, it’s strange to think that you should talk about your shortcomings while trying to sell yourself at an interview – but as you may have learned, mistakes are great learning experiences. No employee is perfect, as we’ve said previously, and we all make mistakes. Employers ask this question to identify your level of flexibility and your willingness to own your errors and learn from them.

For example: “While I work hard not make them, mistakes are great learning experiences. Sometimes, we’re all susceptible to making a bad call. A couple of years ago, our business was severely understaffed, and the pressure was on to hire a new member of staff at the garage I was working at. I hired the first candidate who walked through the door, which proved to be a costly and time consuming mistake. Looking back on this, I should have taken more time to consider how a longer search for a more quality candidate would have been far more beneficial to our business as opposed to looking for a quick fix. Working overtime until the position was filled would have been a much lesser inconvenience. ”


Below is a video from “The Interview Guys” – here they discuss 3 of the toughest questions you might need to answer in your interview.


What do you expect from your manager?

Your interviewer will ask this question to find out whether you are coachable and have reasonable expectations of your supervisor. Avoid any negative connotations, and focus on the reasonable expectations you have for a manager. Give an honest example of the management style that is most likely to motivate you at work.

For example: “I thrive in situations where my supervisors take the time to give me constructive feedback about my performance. It helps keep me on track of my objectives and priorities. I also appreciate an ‘open door’ policy where I can confidently approach them with any issues.”


Tell me about something you wish you’d done differently at work

This question is similar to “What is your greatest weakness?” in that the interviewer is asking you to think carefully about how you learned from a particular situation, and how you could have turned it round to your advantage.

For example: “Post university, one of my earlier jobs was working in a dealership. I was still learning alot of the ins and outs of the working world, the role and the business itself – and I was afraid to ask for help (even when it was offered). The thought of it made me feel as though I was incompetent or needy. As a result, I made a few costly mistakes that could have been avoided if I had just asked about the right approach. I think I’d been there just a couple of months before I realised that sometimes two heads are better than one in solving a problem, particularly if you have less experience with what you’re doing.”


What are your goals for the future?

When asked this question, try to match your objectives with what the company might be able to offer as part of your career development. As the bare minimum, ensure your goals involved staying with this company for more than a short-term basis.

For example: “My career goal is to work for a large dealership where I can eventually become a sales manager of a large team.”


Why do you think you will be successful in this role?

Stress how your strengths and qualities match the needs of the job. Be specific, and tell them why you are suited to the job – match yourself to the company so they can see why you stand out against other competitors.


Are you innovative?

If you’ve recently graduated or just entered the working world, you might be asked this question. Employers want to know if you are someone who can think outside of the box to solve a problem. If you don’t have much work experience under your belt, you can use an example of a time you made a positive impact. E.g. if you ran a fundraising event, or found a way to increase productivity in the workplace.