As you get ready for your interview, your mental checklist tells you that you have prepared well. You have the answers to specific questions about your skills and strengths and your previous experience.

You have researched the company well, and have a list of very relevant questions to ask that will differentiate you from competition. Yet, curveballs and googlies are part of any interview. There will be unexpected questions thrown at you, and can come in different bits and bytes. While you cannot guarantee the exact ones, you can be fairly well prepared overall.

Here’s a simple guide to answering some difficult interview questions.

“why should we hire you?”

This is a tougher version of the question “Tell me something about yourself” (for which you may have prepared). The best way to reply to this question is to align your strengths and capabilities with the research you have done on the organization. For example, you can say, “One of your work culture attributes is customer-centricity. Let me tell you how I have practiced it in my previous employment.”

Your answer must convey not just the reason you fit in the best, but also what sets you apart in the context of what the company is looking for.

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“why do you want this job?”

This is not about your skills and capabilities, but about how well you are aware of yourself, how much you know about the new role and organization, how high your aspirations are, and how committed

you are to bring value to your new employer.

Weave your answer broadly on

  • how your skills match the role you are interviewing for,
  • how you fit into the organization’s culture to be its authentic brand ambassador, and
  • how you will elevate the company in your professional ascent.

For example, you can say, “I am excited by the opportunities that this company has for data scientists in the cutting-edge space it operates. I would like to grow in this niche area and contribute to the success of the organization.”

“tell me how you handled a situation of conflict with your previous colleague or manager.”

However sensitive it may be, this is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself. If you can demonstrate that you are aware of and confident of handling disagreements with your peers or managers, you will ace this question.

Your response must show how well you understood the conflict, and the reason why it arose in the first place. It must show your positive intent to resolve conflicts — and that you have the necessary problem-solving and inter-relationship skills that is critical for organizational and personal success.

Avoid posturing to look good, and be genuine so that you can resonate with the interviewer.

Smiling man and woman working at a hotel reception desk helping a guest.
Smiling man and woman working at a hotel reception desk helping a guest.

“what did you like the most and the least in your previous job?”

This is a more encompassing way of finding out why you left your previous employer, and your ability to find the positives in a situation.

Avoid focusing on the negatives about another person or the work culture and policies. Talk about aspects and situations that helped you succeed and hone your capabilities. Even when talking about what you least liked, transform it to be about finding better avenues to achieve your professional goals. For example, you can say something like this — “I feel good that I was given the opportunity to contribute in different capacities to the success of my team, and this helped me learn a lot. I want to prepare myself for the next levels of leadership, and that is what I missed in my previous job.”

Two people having a conversation while sitting down in a lounge environment.
Two people having a conversation while sitting down in a lounge environment.

“what is the one area you would like to improve on?”

Be real and truthful about an area where you would like to develop further rather than making it about what’s wrong with you. Follow it up with the steps you are taking to improve on it. For example, you can say, “My project management skills are very strong and I’m working on enhancing my negotiating skills by….”

These are but a few of the tough and unexpected questions you may face. As well as you will prepare, there may still be some questions that can stump you. The good news is that rarely is there a wrong answer — and in opting for the best way to answer them, it is perfectly okay to say that you may need some time to think about it, and ask to come back to it later.

Good luck!


Take a deep breath, don’t panic, and say something like:

“That’s a great question. I need to think about that. Can we come back to it later?” as a way to buy time and confidently move to another question. 

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