Elyssa Duncan
Community Specialist
Posted May 19, 2020

Tough interview questions? Here's how to respond

Interviews can make you sweat, make your mind go blank, and send butterflies in your stomach. Plus you never know what the interviewer might ask - here are some tough questions and how to answer them!
Elyssa Duncan
Community Specialist
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Tough interview questions? Here's how to respond
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Interviews can make your palms sweat, your mind go blank and send butterflies fluttering away in your stomach. They're nerve-wracking because you never know what the interviewer might ask.

So what if they ask a REALLY tough, odd, or personal question? Here are some examples and the best ways to tackle answering them!

How old are you?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act does NOT prohibit an employer from asking about an applicant's age. They may also ask questions such as when you graduated high school or college. It is currently legal for them to inquire.

However, it is 100% illegal for the employer to take that information (graduation date, age, etc.) and discriminate based on that individual's age. For example, saying, "You are too old for this role."

The best way to answer:

Smile and keep it light. If you don't feel comfortable telling them, don't! When the interview is over you can make your decision, but the fact that they felt the need to ask that question should speak volumes about who they are as a company! Stick to something like "That is a great question, but I prefer to keep that to myself." You could always take the humorous approach and say, "It looks like my anti-wrinkle cream is working" or other funny responses!

Do you have any children? Do you plan on having them?

This type of question may seem innocent (the interviewer MAY be making polite conversation), but chances are they are likely asking to determine how dedicated and focused you will be as their employee. It is illegal for an employer to use this information against you!

The best way to answer:

Turn that question around! Say, "That's an interesting question, but maybe you can help me understand why it might be important. I guess I've never been asked that before, but I want to know what matters in this position." The interviewer will be left to answer why that question is relevant and how it pertains to the position.

If that doesn't work or you don't feel comfortable saying that, simply respond that you do your best to keep work and personal matters separate.

When was a time you overcame a mistake at work?

Employers will ask questions like this to try and understand how you deal with difficult situations. It can be hard to figure out how to answer this in a clear and confident manner.

The best way to answer:

Many experts suggest using the STAR (situation, task, action and result) method when navigating this question. Give them a brief summary of the situation you faced, your role in the problem, the action you took and how it was ultimately resolved.

"I worked as a supervisor at a shoe store downtown. A customer had ordered a pair of shoes online and had them delivered to the store where they were accidentally purchased by a different customer. Before I called the customer who placed the order online, I was able to find the same shoes from one of our other locations. I had them overnight shipped to her house and called her to explain the situation. She was understanding and wrote a great review!"

What is your greatest weakness?

This was always an interview question that made my mind go blank. Obviously it's hard to pick a flaw to highlight to a potential employer! But they're interested in seeing if you have a healthy level of self-awareness and whether or not you can be honest.

The best way to answer:

NEVER say that you don't have any and avoid the cliche "I am a perfectionist" response. Employers are looking for information that is real! They want to see how you faced a weakness and became stronger. So be sure to pick something.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This can be tough because you can accidentally reveal that you don't have a plan to make a long-term career with the employer at hand.

The best way to answer:

Keep it brief and keep it general! Talk about how you want to develop yourself as a professional, and what kind of environment you envision yourself being in.

"I'd love to be working alongside a team of positive and smart individuals who can encourage me to continue learning new things and develop my existing skills. My goal is to be in a supervisory role where I can demonstrate my leadership and project management strengths."


What was a tough #interview question that you were asked?

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Elyssa Duncan
Community Specialist
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Shirley Lancaster

Thank you for sharing these great interviewing tips.

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Ford Simpson

As always your posts are great,you and Ashley must be kindred spirits. The five year from now question kills me every time it's asked, maybe I'm to realistic to give a proper answer. Ford

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Allan Basford

One time I was asked why manhole covers are round?

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Connie Howe

What do you think about, being asked why you never went full time, as a temporary worker, at 5 or more jobs?

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Maud Appiah

Thank you Elyssa for the article and sharing these helpful tips.

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Usman Muhammed

I wnt to job in california

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Laura Mercier

Tough question I get is, Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict and how you handled it. I don’t enjoy conflict or talking about it. This is why it’s difficult.

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Clifford Perkins

I like the question about what is one of your weaknesses.Thanks for the tips, very helpful.

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Marcie Knott

Thank you Elyssa!!! Your insight will come very handy.

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Stephia Davis

I alway have fair of doing an interview for a customer representative are front desk Agent are receptionist because I never know what to say I get weak and nervous so I always get the job that don’t ask me questions out of my element I did A on line chat interview today for Asurion it is for a tech chat support I pray that I get the job I work a overnight job but it doesn’t pay well but I still thank and praise God for it but I want to work oth job I really thank God for these opportunities that he bless me with and for this group why daughter she really help me a lot with my interview all the time she is a pro she always moving up in her Job God is really blessed my family with jobs and more jobs

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