The hardest job interview questions – and how to answer them

Congratulations! You retooled that resume of yours and landed an opportunity to show a company who you are. In other words, you landed an interview!

While interviews can certainly be daunting, one way to alleviate some of the tension you’re feeling is to take some time to make sure you’re thoroughly prepared. Every veteran understands the integral role that preparation plays in success, and I’m sure you’ve probably heard the saying, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” 

To help make sure you’re as prepared as possible, we’ve outlined some of the most simple (yet daunting) interview questions out below. Make sure you do your research on the company and practice your answers, and you’ll be on your way to receiving an offer.

Tell me about yourself.

This is almost always going to be the first question you hear in an interview. While it’s a simple one, it’s not necessarily as easy to answer as you may think. You’re going to want to take a balanced approach in highlighting your personality, interests, and skills without going into too much detail.

Your answer to this question will be similar to an elevator pitch about yourself; when answering, you’re trying to pique the interest of the listener. Make them want to know more about you.

Here is a list of a few things you might want to include:

  • Where you’re from and what interests you have (Try to incorporate interests that are relevant to the job for which you’re interviewing.) 
  • Military experience and highlights: service terms/places, rank, achievements/honors 
  • Degree if you’ve earned it or are in the process of earning it 
  • Additional strengths or work experience that might make you the right person for the job
  • What interests you about the field of work

Remember, this is supposed to be reminiscent of an elevator pitch, so it should only be about 30 seconds to a minute max. Therefore, it’s best to pick three to five bullet points, not memorized, to talk through that you feel exhibit your strengths.

Which of your skills and experiences would be relevant to this role?

The key to this answer is transferable skills, things like; communication (written and verbal), problem-solving, conflict management/resolution, teamwork/collaboration, technical skills or ability to learn/leverage technology, working well under pressure, meeting the expectations of a project or goal, discipline, time management, etc.

Employers love to hire veterans because of their loyalty, commitment, discipline, and ability to navigate high-stakes situations in partnership with others, so veteran candidates should lead to those strengths.

What would you say is your biggest weakness?

A variation of this question could also be “Tell me about a time you failed and how you handled it.” When interviewers ask this question, they’re most likely seeking to understand how you handle shortcomings, failures or conflicts. 

A couple of rules to keep in mind when answering this question are: 

  • Pick a real weakness, not a fake weakness that’s is really a strength.
  • Make sure it’s not a weakness that would impede your ability to do the job.
  • Most importantly, discuss the strategies you use to mitigate this weakness. Interviewers want to hear about how you overcome weaknesses or challenging situations.

Everyone has a weakness, but your ability to translate yours into a learning experience will be key to a successful interview.

Technical questions - coding, design, software, analytical skills, etc.

In an interview, it’s always good to have a bank of stories or anecdotes that you can use to showcase your skills and attributes. For example, if you’re trying to illustrate your acute leadership, tell a story about a project, mission or team that you’ve led in the past and how you influenced the outcome of the situation. This gives the interviewer a tangible illustration of your skill rather than just an abstract statement.

Other considerations

Because there are thousands of potential interview questions, this final section isn’t meant to address one specific question, but rather the thousands of other potential interview questions out there. 

You don’t want to have the answers to your questions memorized and rehearsed; it’s much better to have done some self-reflection so that you can fall back on what we at Hiring America call “pillars of strength.” That way, it’s much easier to pivot if you are asked a question that you didn’t directly prepare for.

You should decide on three to four pillars of your identity that you believe would best serve a team. After doing so, try to pin down a few anecdotes that you feel are most exhibiting of your chosen “pillars.” Significant moments in your life such as points of pride, instances of success and moments of clarity/direction/confidence generally serve as a good jumping off point. 

Write about these experiences in detail to make sure they’re fresh in your mind. You’ll be ready to put your best foot forward when you walk into the interview room.