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Tough Interview Questions and How Best to Answer Them

Updated: May 25




If you follow us on LinkedIn, you might be familiar with the "Ask Our Team" campaign we executed over the past year. The campaign aimed to provide our network with real-life examples, career resources and tools based on Capitol Careers' Partner, Maureen O'Brien's extensive experience in the industry.


We have compiled all of these questions and answers in this blog post to serve as a one-stop shop resource for job seekers.


Question: What did you learn career-wise during the pandemic of 2020?


How to Answer: If you've found yourself unemployed due to the pandemic and are asked how you have been spending your time, the hiring manager is looking for evidence that you have been proactive and adding to your skill sets. Many professionals found themselves learning new time management/organizational skills, or how to structure a daily routine when forced into a 100% remote environment. It's important to highlight specific things you developed personally to stand out against competing interviewers for your next role.


When interviewing for new opportunities, employers will make note of how you spent time to grow professionally rather than retreating unemployment as an extended vacation.


Question: What is your biggest weakness?


How to Answer: Choose a weakness that you have worked on and can pull real-life examples of how this weakness has improved over the years.


Always choose a weakness that of course is true, but be cognizant of the duties of the opportunity as you don't want the hiring manager to become concerned about your ability to succeed in that particular position.


Again, a weakness can be shown as a learning experience and how you've grown as a professional - in face, you no longer view it as a weakness anymore and can provide context around how this trait positively impacts your career.


Question: Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult manager or employee.


How to Answer: You should always speak positively about past experiences. Provide details around how the situation ultimately resulted as an educational experience - explain what was learned and how it helped you grow as a professional.


Use the STAR acronym when coming up with a response: Situation > Task > Action > Result.


Explain the Situation you experienced, the Task that was given to complete (for this situation, the "task" is a difficult manager/employee), the Action you took to overcome it, and the Result.


Question: How would your colleagues describe you as an employee?


How to Answer: Be honest and positive - try to tailor your answer to as it pertains to the role you are applying for. If you will be joining a large team, provide specific examples of how you are good at collaborating and have successfully executed projects while working with others.


Question: Where do you see yourself in 3 - 5 years?


How to Answer: When a hiring manager asks this question, they are trying to get an idea of your long-term career goals and if the position you're interviewing for aligns with those aspirations.


Your overall goal in your response should be to succeed in the role that you are currently interviewing for and to make the company a long-term home - and once you prove to the employer an ability to learn and grow in the position, you hope to gain additional responsibilities.


Keep in mind that when you focus too much on growth, it can make a hiring manager weary that "climbing the ladder" takes precedence over the desire to positively impact the company in the role you are interviewing for.


Question: How do you handle stress?


How to Answer: Take a step back and think about what is causing you stress - for example, "when my workload becomes overwhelming one week compared to weeks prior."


Your potential solution to handle a stressful week could be:

  1. Put a plan in place

  2. Prioritize the urgent, timely tasks

  3. Break up your day, hour-by-hour... and remind yourself to take mental breaks

Preparation is key to eliminating stress. The stress that comes with feeling overwhelmed can inhibit someone's ability to accomplish the tasks that need to get done.


It's important to remind ourselves that we can't control the unexpected things that can happen, but we can control how we handle them.


When you partner with us, our mission is to develop a long-term, working relationship that will positively impact your career. We hope these real-life examples are helpful in your job search and interview prep.


Have any questions you’d like us to answer? Include a comment below and ask away! We are here to help in any way we can.


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