Dealing with Difficult Interview Questions

Dealing with Difficult Interview Questions

Dealing with tough interview questionsOften an interview is deliberately intended to be stressful on the interviewer.

Here are some ideas for dealing with Difficult Interview Questions

This is a Stress Interview. Per – Stress interviews are a deliberate attempt to see how you handle yourself under pressure. The interviewer may be sarcastic or argumentative, or may keep you waiting. Expect these things to happen and when they happen don’t take them personally. Calmly answer each question as it comes.

We suggest a “process.” These process will work no matter the question or circumstance. You may vary the processes to different questions, they’re not carved in stone.

Stress questions can be answered with various processes:

VAC Process – (Value added statement, Character statement & Action statement).

Example – “Why should we hire you?”

Answer – (V) I can add value immediately and consistently at both the operational and strategic levels. (C) Also, character is important, I bring integrity, tenacity and a learning/mentoring leadership style to the position. (A) Lastly, I’m an action oriented synergistic thinker that gets things done.

Question Process –  Some Stress questions can be answered with a question so as to control the interview

Example – “Tell me about yourself”

Answer – “Are you more interested in leadership style or management accomplishments?” Be ready for the answer to the question and be willing to spend 30-60 seconds response – IE – My leadership style is based on xyz or a recent accomplishment that I’m proud of is xyz.

Positive answer to a negative question Process

Example – “What is your biggest weakness?”

Answer –  While there are several strengths I bring to this position, including being a top performer in previous functions/positions, etc. I’ll have to learn this industry, but that’s a short term issue because of my tenacity to learn.

SAR Process  –  “S” – Situation, “A” – Action or Accomplishment, “R” – Results or Relevance

Example –  Tell me about a time when you:

  • Disagreed with your boss?
  • Had to deal with an insubordinate team member?
  • Failed to achieve your goals?
  • Had to clean up someone’s mess?
  • Felt you were not treated fairly?
  • How did you deal with a difficult co-worker?
  • How have you motivated a group of people?
  • How did you handle a marginal performing employee?

Answers – Each question has to be answered in a positive manner based on a situation where your action or accomplishment provided a positive result. Make the answer relevant to the type of work the interviewer.

Here are some questions and the type they are. Knowing the purpose of question helps you to better answer them.

Behavioral Questions

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Describe a time when you failed
  • How would your boss describe you, your subordinates, your associates
  • Tell me about on of your heroes
  • Do you work best with a team or by yourself
  • Of what are you most proud

Stress Questions (Also Behavioral)

  • What are your biggest weaknesses
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What can you do for me?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Why do you want to work at this company?

Illegal Questions

  • How old are you?
  • When did you graduate?
  • How old are you kids, are they in college, what kind of work do they do, etc
  • Do you have grandkids
  • Is your wife close to retirement?

Technical Questions

Be prepared for technical questions during the interviews. Often if you get a face-2-face interview they’ve already decided that you meet the technical qualifications and are looking for fit.


All questions should be answered with the 4Ps – Preparation, Practice, Positive (attitude & engagement) and Process

Process includes

  • Turning a negative into a positive to channel the discussion in your benefit
  • Answering a question with a question to control the interview
  • Using the SAR method – Situation-Action-Results (Accomplishments/Relevance)
  • Using the VAC Method of Valued Added statement, Action statement, Character statement

I compiled this information from a document that Greg Shelton shared at a job search group in Sept 2013

If you want more tough interview questions, just look for them via Google or Bing. There are plenty out there to review and even get ideas of how to answer. Stay focused to your process.

Author: tlburriss

I am a Networking Strategist and LinkedIn coach and Trainer. I live by my personal edict, "Networking is finding, developing and nurturing relationships that mutually move people forward thru life." I want to help people become better Networkers and better LinkedIn users focused on their business and career goals.