tough interview questions

Do you have an important job interview coming up? Are you nervous about it?

That’s perfectly understandable. Most people – even the most seasoned professionals – are unsettled by the idea of being placed into the spotlight and grilled by a zealous hiring manager.

Job interviews are intrinsically nerve-wracking due to their unpredictable nature.

Questions such as “tell me about yourself” don’t trigger much anxiety because they’re predictably common and relatively easy to prepare for; it’s the curveballs that stress people out.

Well, rejoice – today I’ll equip you with smart answers to tough curveball interview questions.

By the way, if you’d like to receive the highest level of support with job interview preparation, consider our premium job interview coaching services. We offer these remotely, to clients in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and beyond.

tough job interview questions and answers

Just between you and me, I don’t believe that tough interview questions are very effective candidate screening tools; mostly, they serve no purpose other than making the interviewer feel smart. However, until more sophisticated candidate screening methods emerge in the near future, we’re stuck with what we have.

Your job is to learn to play this game well.

Before you start dissecting individual questions and their answers below, be sure to do the requisite background work. That means:

  • Research the organisation to help you to understand the company and its challenges, values, and strategies.
  • Review the job description and compare the requirements to your own career background to help you identify strengths (and skills gaps) with regards to the position.

Then – and only then – start learning to answer specific questions below.

1. Would You Be Willing To Take A Salary Cut?

What They Want To Know:

Salary is a very delicate topic. However, being able to negotiate money is a strength in itself – especially if you’re applying for management or sales roles. The key is answering this question well lays in your ability to read the motivations underneath the question.

It’s entirely possible that the business is being sneaky, and is trying to lure candidates by advertising a certain salary, then asking them to aim lower. Or, perhaps this is a test designed to see how you handle being pressed in a negotiating situation. Finally, this could be a legitimate “we want you, but can’t quite afford you” realisation on behalf of the employer.

Regardless, use this question as an opportunity to demonstrate your negotiation and conflict resolution skills. Start by reiterating your unique value, then offer options with a “can-do” attitude.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“Yes.” or “No.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“Thank you for being frank. I’d like to make a huge positive impact on your company and I believe I have the skills to do so. These include my 15 years in operations, as well as my MBA – and they do make me quite competitive within certain salary bracket in the market. While I have certain salary expectations, money isn’t everything – and I’d look at all factors – including intangibles such as the company’s culture – as part of the complete compensation package.”

2. Besides Compensation, What Do You Value The Most In The Workplace?

What They Want To Know:

Companies are increasingly focused on building teams that share the same values. As Kristi Hedges of HBR points out, culture determines how work gets done, but values enable the company to prioritise, make decisions and reconcile conflict. A culture may celebrate efficiency, for example, but values determine what gets sacrificed in the pursuit of it.

This question is designed to shed light on your value system – as well as your personal awareness of your values.

It’s an easy interview question to game – because it’s not difficult to research a company’s values online and provide an answer that demonstrates value alignment. However, I’d encourage you to think twice before doing so, as poor alignment of values is a strong predictor of job dissatisfaction. It’s best to aim for a legitimate alignment of values between you and your future employer.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“Free craft beer and cider on tap, like they have at WeWork. A-ha-ha.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I’m the type of person who likes to be challenged. In fact, I’m most fulfilled when I finish my workday knowing I gave it 110%. Because of this, I’m looking for a workplace where I can have the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility, be pushed outside of my comfort zone and drive results. I’m definitely not a “keeping a seat warm” type of manager.”

3. If You Could Choose Any Company To Work For, Where Would You Go?

What They Want To Know:

Never gush about other companies, but do acknowledge that you’d consider opportunities that are aligned with your values (see question above). The employer wants to hear that you’re passionate about their product and culture.

You should demonstrate this, but don’t feel the need to hide the fact that you’re considering other companies. Speculate on what else may have grabbed your attention, if this opportunity wasn’t on the table.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“Tesla. Pretty cool company, right?”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I applied for this position because I wanted to work for your company. I love what you’re doing in the market, and how you’re going about it, so the opportunity naturally stood out. Hypothetically speaking, if this opportunity didn’t present itself, I’d be looking at roles that I feel similarly aligned with. For example, I really love what XYZ company is doing in the ABC industry – I think it’s really important and interesting work”.

4. What Makes You Unique?

What They Want To Know:

What makes you different from other, similarly qualified candidates? How can you solve a commercial challenge in a way that other candidates can’t?

This is a tricky one – because most people are not aware of their differentiating factors. In fact, most candidates, when faced with this question, will default to summarising their experience.

The trick to focus on the intersections of your skills and personality, then back those up with tangible outcomes (read the full guide to answering this interview question here).

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I have 10 years of experience in marketing.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I’m both creative and logical. Because of this, I’m able to design and implement marketing campaigns that are both creative and commercially meaningful. In other words, I focus on both creativity and ROI.”

5. What Type Of Work Environment Do You Prefer?

What They Want To Know:

This question probes for your alignment to company culture. It’s an important question to answer well for both the employer and for yourself – because 46% of new hires fail within the first 18 months and, in most cases, it’s due to company culture mismatch. Skills can be trained, but culture misalignment can be difficult to shift.

Use this question as an opportunity to discuss the company culture and your fit within it. If you don’t find enough common ground, this is probably not the right opportunity for you.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I want to work in a professional environment with nice people.” This answer, although technically correct (who doesn’t want to work in a professional setting full of nice people?) is too generic.

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I’m the kind of person who is driven by targets, so I need an environment that pushes me outside of my comfort zone. However, I’d also like to ensure that the company’s mission is personally meaningful to me. I applied for this role with Netflix because I think the traditional media landscape is broken and I’d like to play a part in shaking it up through the use of exciting emerging technologies.”

6. Are You Interviewing Anywhere Else?

What They Want To Know:

How hardball can we play with you? Don’t forget that it’s not just employees who compete for roles. Employers also compete for great talent – and your value, as perceived by them, is closely tied to your competitiveness in the market. Don’t reveal details of other companies or specific roles, but also don’t feel the need to hide the fact that you’re considering other opportunities.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“No. You’re the only company that I want to work at” or “Oh yes, I’ve applied everywhere and now have 8 interviews lined up.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“Look, I’d prefer to work at your organisation because of the strong culture alignment we spoke about earlier. However, recruiters are talking to me about a few other opportunities that are also closely aligned.”

7. Take A Few Minutes To Bring Your Resume To Life For Me.

What They Want To Know:

The interviewer wants to know what you bring to the table. Because this interview question is so open-ended, it can be easy to run away with your answer and even put your foot in your mouth. Don’t provide an “I’ve worked here”, “I’ve worked there” summary of your resume.

Rather, have a 3-minute elevator pitch prepared that starts by demonstrating your unique value and backs it up through a few data points from your resume. (How to prepare for your job interview).

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“When I finished university, I got a job at KPMG as a graduate analyst. It was a great job and I learned a lot. A few years later I applied for a job with Deloitte as a senior analyst. A friend of a friend knew the hiring manager and I got that job. It was a pretty good role – my boss was very nice and I worked there for a few years. Unfortunately, I was made redundant, which is why I’m interviewing with you today.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I’m knowing for helping organisations strip friction out of their sales processes. Industry-wise, my sweet spot is working in B2B technology sales environments. You’ll see from my resume that in a recent sales operations role with Cisco I was able to increase the effectiveness of a sales team by 26% in just three months by reducing their dependence on external stakeholders. Similarly, in a role that I held between 2012 and 2015, I exceeded…..”

8. Why Are There Some Gaps In Your Employment?

What They Want To Know:

Are you the type of person who jumps around and can’t commit to anything? Are you trying to cover something up? This tough interview question is destined to shed light on your employment trajectory, and the decisions that shaped it.

Be honest. Don’t lie – ever. When explaining a gap, emphasise the positives where you can (e.g., describe the reason for a gap, but demonstrate that the time between jobs was spent productively).

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I was so tired of working, and I took a break,” or “I couldn’t find a job.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I took time off to care for a family member / had a period of unemployment following a layoff, but used that time to complete a course / upskill.”

9. What Do You Expect From A Boss?

What They Want To Know:

Your interviewer is interested in knowing whether you, as an employee, are coachable and have reasonable expectations of your future boss. Don’t fall into the trap of answering this question by listing what you disliked in your previous supervisors. Provide an honest example of the management style that is most likely to motivate you to do your best work.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“Let me tell you a story about a previous boss of mine….. what a tool, right?”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I find I thrive in situations where my supervisors take the time to provide me with constructive feedback about my performance. This allows me to know that I’m on the right track. I also appreciate it when they have an “open door” policy where their staff feel encouraged to approach them about issues.”

10. What Is Your Biggest Weakness That’s Really A Weakness, And Not A Secret Strength?

What They Want To Know:

“What are your weaknesses?” is a very common job interview question. Most candidates prepare for it by identifying a couple of “softball” weaknesses that are easily repackaged as strengths. This question puts a spanner in the works by forcing you to get more honest.

To provide an intelligent answer to this tough interview question, I suggest you begin by examining your personality using the Myers Briggs personality indicator. This tool is frequently used by executives to provide non-judgemental, factual insights into people’s personalities. For example, an INTP is very determined, but can be edgy in their style of communication.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I have no real weaknesses.”, “I’m unreliable.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“Glad you’ve asked me about this. I’m the type of person who likes to constantly improve. As a result, I recently used the Myers Briggs test to identify my strengths and weaknesses. Turns out, I’m an ENTJ, which means I’m very effective but can be impatient. I expect my team members to prove themselves on the very first assignment. If they begin to underperform, my tendency is to stop delegating to them and start doing the task myself.”

how to prepare for job interview

What is the single biggest predictor of job interview success?

  • It’s not your Sydney University Law degree.
  • It’s not the summer internship you did at KPMG.
  • It’s not a connection that you have “on the inside”.


The biggest factor that separates candidates who get job offers and those who receive “thank you, but” emails is…


A lot of it.

The importance of preparation cannot be stressed enough – it is essential for a successful interview.

By preparing for your interview with rigour, you create systems and habits that prevent outside factors from derailing your job interview. You also gain skills that enable you to sell yourself with impact and confidence.

Let me walk you through a few key preparation steps that can lead you to interview success.


Dress To Impress.

This point sounds almost too obvious, but I need to mention it. A lot of people unnecessarily undermine their chances by either over- or under-dressing.

Don’t listen to myths like “clothes don’t matter, find an employer who appreciates you for who you really are, not for your clothes”.

Listen to me very carefully. Humans are a tribal species. Clothes, apart from functioning as portable shelter, perform a signalling function. Signalling that you belong to this tribe, but not that tribe.

Work is deeply tribal in nature – because it requires “us” to do something differently to “them” so that we can help “ourselves” and “others”.

Your clothes need to signal that you’re playing the same game as your employer. That you belong to the same tribe.

Now, don’t panic – you don’t need to buy another Armani suit before your next job interview. But make sure that you align your appearance to the cultural expectations of the company that you want to join.

(You did research the company, right? More on this later).

If in doubt, err on the side of simplicity and conservatism. Don’t overdo it on perfume. Don’t wear ripped jeans. Don’t wear activewear (unless you’re applying for a job at LuluLemon).


Prepare Answers To “The Big 5” Questions.

If you’re like most candidates, you’re worried about being caught off-guard by a tricky or unorthodox question like “How many balls fit into a Mercedes E-Class”?

In reality, you should be much more focused on very simple, common questions that almost every recruiter asks. I call them “The Big 5”, and they are:

Make sure you prepare concrete answers to all of them. Get a top interview coach to help you, if necessary. Write your answers out by hand onto a piece of paper (this helps with memorisation) and practice delivering your response in a mirror until you feel natural and at ease.


Be Ahead Of Time.

If your job interview is to be conducted in person, arrive at the location 15 minutes before the scheduled time. If the interview is to be online, be sitting in front of your computer at least 10 minutes before the call.

Make sure that nothing causes you to be late, by preparing everything ahead of time. Select your outfit, identify your travel route, find a suitable carpark.

When attending a remote interview, check video and audio feeds of your computer the night before the interview – and once again on the morning of the interview.


Do Your Research.

Learn specific, relevant facts about the company – its history, its current business climate, its markets (and its marketing efforts), competitors, latest news, products and services.

If you know the name of the person who will be interviewing you, make an effort to research them, as well. What is their title? What is their career story? Who were their previous employers? Do you have any shared connections on LinkedIn?


Study Your Resume And The Job Description.

You need to know your resume back to front. Study it and make sure you can expand on any of its points.

This is particularly important if you’ve used the services of a professional resume writer; you don’t want to appear unfamiliar with your own resume.

Study the position description. This may surprise you, but a lot of candidates show up to an interview not knowing what the job is really about. Review the core competencies of the role. Identify any gaps between your experience and listed requirements (and prepare good answers).


Prepare Smart Questions To Ask The Interviewer.

Remember that an interview is a two-way process. It’s a business discussion between two people who have something to offer – and something to lose. Both of you want to make the best possible decision, so both of you need to ask questions.

Some questions you might ask include:

  • Why has the position become available?
  • What would success in this role look like, in 12 months’ time?
  • Why did the person who previously held this role not succeed?


Key Takeaway.

The most confident and articulate candidates were not born with a strong ability to sell themselves. They got there by doing mountains of preparation. You can become a strong candidate, and convert most of your job interviews into job offers, by doing the same.

what makes you unique interview question

This is a truly evil interview question.

When a recruiter or a hiring manager asks you “what makes you unique?” during a job interview, what they’re really asking is:

“What makes you more commercially relevant than the other 20 candidates that I have to interview this week?”

To answer this question effectively, you must look at the situation from the recruiter’s point of view.

Let’s say you need to hire an Operations Manager. What’s your first move?

You Place An Ad On Seek.

Over the next few days, 250 applicants’ resumes flood your inbox. You begin screening and discover:

  • 100 of them didn’t apply for the right job. Goodbye.
  • 50 of them were “off” in some way. You got a “funny feeling” about them. Flick.
  • 50 didn’t make the cut because they were too high risk, or had weak experience. Culled.

The remaining 50 candidates get ranked by your Applicant Tracking System in descending order of preference. You invite the top 30 for an interview, and 20 of them accept.

It’s day #3 of interviewing and candidate #17 is sitting in front of you, dramatically furrowing his eyebrow at your latest stroke of recruiting brilliance.

“Hmmm, what’s unique about me? That’s a great question. Well…”

what makes you unique

You glance at your watch and wonder about all of the interesting things you could be doing right now. Kicking the ball with your kids. Grilling a steak with your mates. Going for a walk in nature. Running 10K to the sound of a good podcast.

It’s 533pm. You clear your throat. The candidate perks up:

“Well… I’m very good at improving processes, you know? I also work hard and take pride in my work.”


You Get My Drift.

The job market is competitive. Recruiters are busy. The world doesn’t need another operations manager who can merely improve processes. Working hard in 2022 is not a source of competitive advantage – it’s a reason not to get fired.

So, how to answer the dreaded “what makes you unique?” question during a job interview?

The answer is not easy.

You need to demonstrate how you’re able to solve a specific pain point in the market in a way that other candidates with similar levels of experience can’t.

Easier said than done, I know.

This is why I’m not providing you with a templated response. The Internet is full of those, but they won’t help. There are no magic silver bullets available (but you should check out my article on how to answer video interview questions – and don’t forget that we offer outstanding job interview coaching services, too).

To answer this question with impact you’ll need to do some work. Homework. Soul-searching, even.

Apart from learning to answer this specific question, you’ll also need to spend time preparing for the job interview.

For the 2 people who are still reading past this point (let’s face it, this blog can’t hope to compete with the serotonin avalanche that is your Facebook feed), here are my instructions.

Study The Space.

Start by researching the industry you want to target. What challenges, opportunities and setbacks is it facing? Next, research the companies in the space. Imagine that you’re the CEO of one of those companies.

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What – and who – are giving you headaches?
  • What is preventing you from getting promoted?

Study Yourself.

Now, look at the intersection between your skillset and your personality. Some questions to consider:

  • What makes you, you?
  • What makes you do things the way you do them?
  • What natural curiosities have you followed to end up where you are today?
  • What forks in the road have led you to your current role?

Find The Intersection.

Finally, join your world and the employer’s world.

In other words, what mix of skills, worldviews, values, motivations and outlooks do you bring to the table in a way that will ease the pressure on your next boss?

Your answer to that question will be the perfect response to the dreaded “what makes you unique?”

phone interview questions

Have you applied for a few roles?

Great. You probably have a phone interview just around the corner. Not a full, formal interview, but a quick, informal “chat” with a recruiter.

This type of phone interview can take anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Its purpose is to help a recruiter decide whether they want to invite you for a full, structured job interview. Think of it as a quick, sharp elimination round that helps you – and the recruiter – decide whether there’s benefit in investing more time into the process.

phone interview questions and answers

Let me share with you the top 5 questions that recruiters and hiring managers ask during phone interviews.

After you learn the interview questions (and my recommended answers), read this post – it will help you do well in any interview.

By the way, if you’d like to take your phone interviewing skills to the highest level, consider using a premium job interview coaching service. We offer these remotely, to clients in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and beyond.

1. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?

What They Want To Know:

This is a common way of kicking off a phone interview. The open-ended nature of this question helps the interviewer understand the dynamics surrounding your current employment situation. Whatever you do, don’t badmouth your current employer.

A good answer will allude to seeking personal growth, more challenging work or career advancement. Just be aware that a good interviewer will probe more deeply into any answer that you give, so make sure that you tell the truth.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I’ve had enough of my current boss. I’m leaving that guy.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I am looking for the opportunity to apply the skills I’ve gained in my current job to a new environment.”

2. Tell Me Something About Yourself That I Wouldn’t Know From Reading Your Resume.

What They Want To Know:

If your resume is like that of most people, it’s quite generic. It speaks about typical expectations and achievements of a person with your level of experience.

For example, if you’re a project manager, your resume probably mentions Agile, Prince2, your timeliness and your ability to act as a conduit between the executive and technical people.

A recruiter who is interviewing for this role will want to drill deeper than that – using this type of interview question. In your response, allude to aspects of your personality, value system and skillset that will be not only unique, but also commercially relevant.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I have a pet labrador called Jonno. I also like gardening.” This type of response certainly lists things that are not on your resume, but they do nothing to position you as a solution to an employer’s problem.

Example Of A Good Answer:

“Well, for me work is more than just a means to an end. It’s a channel for creative expression. I know that this seems odd coming from a project manager, but PM work can be surprisingly creative. In fact, I’d insist that in order to be an excellent PM you need to view your job through a creative lens. For example….”

3. How Do You Stay Focused While Working Remotely?

What They Want To Know:

Remote work is a daily reality of the post-COVID world. Employers have been forced to adapt to it, but many still feel apprehensive about each candidate’s individual suitability for it. Consequently, many use the initial phone interview as an opportunity to put their nerves at ease.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I work without structure. There are plenty of hours in the day, so I just plug in when I feel like.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I begin my day by creating a to-do list, complete with deadlines. I also build in a couple of buffer zones that I can use to handle unexpected tasks. I cross my tasks off as the day progresses. Needless to say, I also make sure that I eliminate distractions, like social media and pets.”

4. What Tasks Do You Not Like To Do?

What They Want To Know:

This phone interview question, in theory, is meant to reveal your working style. Of course, in reality, it’s a game of diplomatic communication, where you reveal just enough to put the recruiter at ease.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I don’t like to be told what to do.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

Begin by sharing a weakness that you’ve identified in yourself such as, “I’ve never been comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, so I’ve always dreaded big meetings.” Next, explain how you’ve addressed this weakness. “I decided to turn this weakness into a strength and signed up for Toastmasters.”

5. What Is Something People Assume About You That Is Incorrect?

What They Want To Know:

Emotional intelligence is a key focus of the modern recruitment process, and this phone interview question is designed to shine a light on your levels of this skill. More broadly, it probes for your capacity to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses.

Behind this focus is the idea that a person who is self-reflective is able to improve their behaviour for the better; a person who isn’t aware, is not.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I have no idea. People’s opinion of me is not my concern.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“When I’m focused on my work, I tend to have a very serious vibe. Some people interpret that as being unfriendly. To counter this, I make extra effort to build relationships with my colleagues during less intense parts of my day.”

Bonus Tips: How To Prepare For A Phone Interview.

Eliminate All Distractions.

Put the phone on silent, turn off the TV, make sure that your pet is not barking. Have a notepad and pen ready. (Read my interview preparation guide).

Create A List Of Possible Questions.

Use this guide, and guides similar to it, to create a list of likely phone interview questions. Rehearse your answers – preferably with a friend who can offer effective feedback.

Speak Clearly.

Make sure you wear a headset and speak into it. Let the interviewer finish speaking before responding.

Use Good Interview Etiquette.

After the phone interview, follow up with a written thank you note. Use this as an opportunity to reiterate your value.

video interview questions

Video interviewing is officially in vogue!

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this job interviewing approach has gone from the fringe to the mainstream. It means you, as a jobseeker, need to be ready for a potential video interview at any stage in the recruitment journey.

Today I’ve compiled 10 of the most common tricky questions that you can expect to be asked. Mind you, these are not the usual “tell me about yourself” garden variety questions – there are already plenty of guides on the Internet that show you how to answer them – including one of mine.

This guide covers some of the more challenging, unusual questions that you may be asked in a video job interview. Let’s get stuck into them without further delay.

(By the way, your video interview may be preceded by a phone interview – take a look here for common phone interview questions – and best possible answers).

common video interview questions


By the way, if you’d like to take your video interviewing skills to the highest level, consider using premium job interview coaching services. We offer these remotely, to clients in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and beyond.


1. How Do You Think Your Co-Workers Would Describe You, Both Good And Bad?

What They Want To Know:

How self-aware are you? How much do you favour personal growth over the preservation of your existing habits? How much are you committed to adopting a growth mindset? This question probes for your willingness to proactively seek feedback from your colleagues and supervisors, then use the answers you receive to improve your performance.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“Who cares?” or “They probably think I’m kind, nice and hard-working.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“My former colleagues have said that I’m easy to work with and display a “can do” attitude. A less positive side of me that a former boss has pointed out is that I can bristle when overwhelmed with work. It was a very useful piece of feedback and I’ve since used it to resolve issues through effective communication, so that overwhelm doesn’t occur.”


2. How Would You Spend A $1 Million Marketing Budget? How Would You Measure ROI?

What They Want To Know:

This is known as a “case study” question – and a version of it may be asked for HR, sales or technical roles. The interviewer gives you a hypothetical business problem and asks you to rely on your experience and skills to drive an outcome. This is about showing a clear knowledge of the company’s goals and interests, as well as a smart critical eye.

Get very specific and don’t be afraid to ask questions of your interviewer for clarity. Remember – this video interview question is designed to unearth HOW you think – not WHAT you come up with.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I’d split the budget evenly between all major lead acquisition channels.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“As most companies have found, segmentation and personalisation in marketing are the most effective drivers of revenue. I would begin by investing a portion of my marketing budget in data analytics, then leverage the data to increase the efficiency of all major lead generation channels. I’d then revisit the data to ensure that I’m achieving ROI.”


3. Why Do You Want To Work In This Industry?

What They Want To Know:

If you’re asked this question during a video interview, remember not to get carried away with the surface-level aspects of the role. It’s designed to make sure that you understand the brutal realities of the job, and stick around when the going gets tough.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I want to work in fashion because love to shop for clothes.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“My interest in fashion, and in your brand, in particular, stems from my unique take on the industry. For most people, fashion is just another word for the clothes that they wear. For others, it’s a means to manufacturing an elevated identity. For me, fashion – when done well – adds to well-being and mental health by helping us create a positive, healthy self-image. I see a broader good in your company’s mission.”


4. Why Do You Want To Leave Your Current Job?

What They Want To Know:

First of all, let me say this – this video interview question is a waste of time. It doesn’t do anything beyond testing your ability to provide a politically correct answer. Yet, employers feel compelled to ask it because it provides them with a degree of subconscious comfort. Don’t badmouth your past employers and focus on the positives – and you’ll be fine.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I can’t stand my boss.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I’ve learned so much in my current role, and have made a huge amount of difference to the organisation, but now I’m looking to broaden my horizons and to sink my teeth into fresh challenges.”


5. Do You Have Any Questions For Me?

What They Want To Know:

Realistically speaking, by the time you get asked this question, you should be familiar with broad, base details of the role. This is your chance to ask more nuanced, detailed questions about the company’s plans and challenges – and, in doing so, demonstrate your ability to help with their execution.

Example Of A Bad Answer:


Example Of A Good Answer:

“Yes, I do. I applied for this role because I love what you’re doing in the market. I’d love to understand what the near future holds. What do you see the team/company/department achieving in the next few years?”


6. What Did You Most Dislike About Your Last Job?

What They Want To Know:

Ha, just like the “Why Did You Leave Your Past Employer” question above, this question baits you into badmouthing your employer. Theoretically, it’s designed to unearth underlying resentments and conflicts. In reality, as I mentioned above, it simply encourages political people to be political.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“My boss was a jerk.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“That’s a tough question to answer. I’m grateful for my time with this company; I’ve had the privilege of working, and learning from, some remarkable people. I’ll be entirely honest with you – it was a culture mismatch. I’m a very action-oriented, data-driven person. Lately, I’ve been finding myself spending hours in meetings that rarely led to any actionable steps. I wanted to be part of a team where I’m measured by the results I achieve.”


7. Why Were You Made Redundant?

What They Want To Know:

This question has been more popular during the layoffs of the COVID crisis. It’s a tough question to answer because many employers aren’t told exactly why they were made redundant. The best way to tackle this question is to answer as honestly as possible.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“It was politically motivated decision.”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“As I’m sure you’re aware, the economy has been in decline and my company felt the effects of it. I was part of a large staff reduction and – quite honestly – that’s all the insight I have. I am certain, however, that the decision to make my role redundant had nothing to do with my job performance – this is clear from my achievements. For example…”


8. Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

What They Want To Know:

What they really mean is: “If I hired you today, will you jump ship as soon as a better opportunity comes along, or when times get tough?” You can calm the employer’s nerves by indicating that you hope to stay with the company for a while and establish yourself as someone who helps the company succeed.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“I hope to be retired in Mexico – a-ha.” or “Relaxing on a beach in Maui.

Example Of A Good answer:

“Great question, thank you. I think about the future a lot. In the next five years, I hope to hone my leadership skills so that I eventually develop and lead new projects, represent the company externally to key stakeholders, and am seen as someone with deep expertise in cybersecurity.” You can also gently point the question back at the interviewer, and ask where they see the company in five years. This presents an opportunity for you to form an early connection.


9. What Salary Are You Looking For?

What They Want To Know:

The ghastly salary question. Salary negotiation is an art and an art form, and is beyond the scope of this article. However, I do encourage you to study this guide to salary negotiation from HBR before you start interviewing.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“You go first. How much were you planning to offer?”.

Example Of A Good Answer:

“I’d expect to be paid the appropriate range for this role, based on my 15 years of experience in sales. I also think a fair salary would take the high cost of Sydney rents into account.”


10. If You Had To Live Your Life Over Again, What One Thing Would You Change?

What They Want To Know:

This is one of those “culture” interview questions. Your answer to the question isn’t that important; it’s designed to provide the interviewer with a sea of detail that they’ll zero in on in their follow-up questions.

Example Of A Bad Answer:

“My decision to be a salesperson!”

Example Of A Good Answer:

“Although I’m very happy with my career and life in general, having the benefit of hindsight tells me that I should have gone to university earlier. Finishing my Masters of Finance degree was a pivotal point in my life, and if I did it earlier, I would have had more opportunity to hone my skillset.”


I really hope that the answers above have been useful to you. All the best in your job search and remember – video interviews are not as terrifying as they seem.

tell me about yourself

Have you ever been tripped up in a job interview with the question “tell me about yourself”? Of course you have.

This, and the other classic – “what makes you unique?” – are the metaphorical steak and chips on a bored recruiter’s menu. True staples.

The question seems quite easy, but its innocent exterior betrays its sinister nature.

You see, the question is evil because it doesn’t give you a framework for a response. This lack of framework can trick you into giving a long-winded, boring answer that sells you well short of the mark.

Today I’ll show you how to structure an effective answer to an interview question like “tell me about yourself”.

First, it’s important to understand why employers ask this somewhat tricky question in job interviews.

For some, it’s an easy way of structuring the upcoming conversation (they will use your response to guide the direction of the interview).

For others, it’s a test that probes for your ability to communicate succinctly and professionally.

Despite these differences, the “tell me about yourself” interview question has one overarching purpose: to see whether you can demonstrate how your background solves the interviewer’s commercial problem – if at all.

Let me share with you some tips that will ensure you say everything you need – and nothing you don’t.

interview question tell me about yourself

1. Keep It Professional.

Knowing where to draw the line between the personal and professional can be tricky. Although personal details such as marital status, children and hobbies may be core to who you are, they are not factors that determine your ability to perform the role. It’s best not to mention them until the interview is winding up, and only if appropriate.

There is, however, an exception to the rule. If your personality and passions have directly influenced your career success, then these could work in your favour, creating a vital point of difference between you and other candidates.

For example, if you’re a CIO who grew up with computers and is passionate about the latest in technology, then this is definitely worth including in your response.

2. Customise Your Answer.

Do your research. Re-read the job description and make sure your strengths and abilities align with the required skills. Most importantly, back it up with examples, preferably from recent experience.

Also, having a look at the company’s ‘About Us’ page as a good way to get a feel for corporate culture. You need to demonstrate to your interviewers that your skills, experience and values offer the right fit for them.

3. Tell A Story.

Everyone loves a good story. The best stories clearly match your professional journey with the company’s brand and need. To be clear, this isn’t a free pass to go through your career history role by role! Pick highlights that are relevant for the position.

Instead, identify what the organisation needs from the role and look for recurring themes and past successes in your career that you feel meet this need. Many find it useful to frame their response within a present, past and future structure. Others prefer to focus on strengths and abilities within the context of past successes.

4. Keep It Short.

It can be daunting to condense years and years of experience into a short and snappy response. However, your answer does not need to encompass your entire career. It should convey the crux of your value proposition and just enough detail to capture the interviewer’s attention and prove that you are a high contender for the role. As a rough guide, keep your answer between 60-90 seconds.

5. Sound Authentic.

Give yourself a framework to work with but try to avoid memorising a script as this can sound unnatural. Practice your answer, preferably with family or close friends. You may find that this exercise will help clarify what you have to offer and may even help in answering other questions.

Sample Answers To “Tell Me About Yourself.”

To give you a rough idea of what a good response sounds like, here are some we prepared earlier:

Example Answer #1:

I’m currently a Financial Controller for a boutique property investment company where I recently completed a project to automate processes, reducing month-end by three days. I’ve always had a head for numbers, so I after graduating with an accounting degree I joined the graduate program at Deloitte. After working in audit for five years, I joined the finance team of blue-chip real estate investment company where I gained more commercial experience, primarily in the M&A space. I’m now looking for a more strategic role that offers more scope for enabling commercial growth, as I feel this is the direction I’d like to go.

Example Answer #2:

I’ve always had an interest in healthcare. My father was a doctor in a nursing home, and he used to take me with him to work sometimes and I’d chat to all the residents. So, after doing a business degree at university, I got a job in administration at a regional hospital. Over the next 15 years, I worked my way up to senior leadership roles in the healthcare sector in the private and public sectors, where I’ve been very focused on balancing patient care with more commercial outcomes. I’m currently looking for a leadership role in the private sector, where I use my experience in the public sector to secure funding and ensure patients get the best care possible.

I hope that this article has been helpful to you. If you’d like to browse the bios of interview coaches who can help you master your answer to the question “tell me about yourself”, click here.