5 Tough Job Interview Questions Answered

Be prepared when the recruiter asks, “Why do you want to leave your current job?” and other questions designed to separate great candidates from everyone else.

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Never mind that there are 10.4 million job openings. Job seekers still have to answer a lot of the same questions, experts say, such as “Why should we hire you?” and “Tell me about a boss whom you struggled with in the past.”

With 55% of US workers looking to change jobs, employers are paying a bit more attention to these answers than usual. Hiring managers want to make sure a job candidate wants to join their company for the right reasons, says Sondra Levitt, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. “They are trying to determine whether a job candidate just wants to leave their current employer or if they have aspirations to work for their company and are excited about the position,” she says.

Despite the current labor shortage, preparing for tough questions is still an essential part of the job interview, says David Meintrup, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. “Many of these questions are trying to uncover where a candidate hasn’t had the best work experiences in the past—like a bad boss, a conflict with a coworker, or whether there was a fit with the work itself,” he says.

Here are five tough interview questions you will likely be asked, and experts’ recommendations on how to answer them.

Why do you want to leave your current position?

You will want to stay as positive as possible when you answer this question. “Instead of going through a laundry list of what is wrong with your current job, focus on two things that are out of balance that you are trying to rebalance in a new role,” Meintrup says. Jeff Durr, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s Healthcare practice, says a lot of employees are having a COVID epiphany, so it’s OK to be honest and say, “I don’t think this is what I want to be doing with my life.”

If you want to keep your answer positive, you could highlight the growth and development that the new position offers you, Levitt says. “Focus on what excites you about the new position and don’t mention why you are leaving, because you don’t have to,” she says.

Tell me about a boss whom you struggled with in the past.

Again, you will need to stay positive when answering this question. “You want to be honest about the situation, but you don’t want to come across as petty or small,” Durr says.

Talk about your manager’s good qualities and then mention one or two things that you would like to change about your boss, Meintrup says. “Minimize the negative and express all the good things about your boss or your position,” he says.

Why should we hire you?

This is an opportunity to talk about your skills, experience, and background, and how you will help the organization be more successful, Levitt says. To effectively answer this question, you will need to research the company, its mission, values, leaders, and clients, and then use that information to build your case as to why you are a good fit, she says.

What is your desired work location?

With companies still figuring out their return to the office, this has become an increasingly popular interview question. “Companies often ask this question first, and more job descriptions are including whether a position is hybrid or fully remote,” Levitt says.

Even if the job is listed as hybrid, you don’t always know exactly what that means. You could be required to be in the office a certain number of days per month or certain days of the week, Levitt says. To find out more about the company’s policy on hybrid versus remote, Meintrup recommends doing an informational interview before the actual job interview to learn more about the company’s future plans. “The company may be hybrid now but planning to go fully in-person in 2022—you wouldn’t know that as a candidate, but you could find out about it during an informational interview,” he says.

What is your target salary range?

Although 21 states and 21 localities have laws preventing employers from asking about salary history, employers may still ask about your desired salary range. Instead of providing a range, you could ask the hiring manager what the company has budgeted for the position, Levitt says.

If they insist on an answer, do your own research and offer a wide salary range. Levitt suggests saying, “Not knowing everything about this position, here is the salary range based on my background, education, and experience, and what I understand about the position right now.”

In a tight labor market, the best way to secure the best salary is to get a competing offer, Durr says. “Bringing them a credible threat of another offer will likely get them to sweeten their own,” he says.