Graduate Interview Advice
Typical graduate interview questions explained
As a graduate you are likely to be asked a series of standard questions in your job interviews. Understanding these questions, the motivation behind them and the expected answer will give you, as graduates, the opportunity to accurately illustrate your personality, skills and overall suitability for the role. Here are the most common questions asked by graduate employers:
Can you define the role, its duties and responsibilities?
This might seem obvious but you should be able to describe the role without any effort. Most of the information should be in the job specification. Do some research on the company and job title, look for any testimonials or reviews from employees in similar positions online.
Why do you want this job?
This question is always asked. Make sure you pivot back to the job specifications, the duties you will perform and how those duties fit in with your plans for the future, the further development of your skills, and their relationship with your experience. You must provide examples for the employer; this adds weight to your argument and makes your answers more convincing.
Why do you want to work for the company?
This is an excellent opportunity to elaborate on the things you have mentioned in the beginning of the interview. Things like company reputation, clients, training, career development or continual innovation should be mentioned. Every candidate will have access to their website so you should use additional sources such as news outlets and employee reviews as a good source of information for large companies. You could also touch on the company's future plans, how they fit within the sector, who are their competitors and clients, figures; size, turnover, profit. State that you relish the challenge of assessing problems and be prepared to answer how you might contribut to specific projects.
How long do you intend to stay with the firm?
This question is meant to assess your long term commitment. If you are unsure about the length of time you intend to stay in the company you should answer something like, “as long as we both feel
I’m contributing to the company and developing my skills.”
What other companies have you applied for?
This purpose of this question is to determine if you are trying to follow a specific career path. So it is perfectly fine, even an advantage to say that you have applied to similar positions with competitors. The second thing to do is highlight that they are your preferred employer and explain why. This might also explain why you have not applied for any other opportunities as you are awaiting the for the results of this interview first. Make sure that the companies you have mentioned are relevant to your career choice, aare strong reputable businesses and don't mention the ones that have rejected you. .
Some other questions the employer may ask:
How many other graduate jobs have you applied for?
Why haven’t you applied to more companies?
Why have you applied for so many jobs?
How many interviews have you had and why haven’t you had more?
Have you had any job offers and if not why not? If you get offered another role will you take it?
Although these are unlikely to be asked, you have to be careful and make sure your answers coincide with the idea that you are working hard to get similar jobs within the same sector, for a good company. Ideally you have made quite a few applications, writing directly to companies, receiving good feedback and have had some interviews or have some lined up. If you have been turned down, it’s better not to mention this unless you can say something constructive like they employed someone with more experience. Once again, relate this to the notion that this is your company of choice and you would consider roles with other companies but only if you are unsuccesful with this application.
When can you start?
Honesty is the best choice with this one. You want to show that you are keen, but if you have booked a holiday or need some time, there is no harm in stating it and asking for one or two weeks down the line.
Questions about your personality
Tell us about yourself.
The ambiguity of this request requires thorough preparation. The interviewer is interested in assessing your personality type and whether or not you are compatible with the team and the role. It’s easy to spend a long time on this one, so prepare a brief and succinct answer before the interview, relating to the nature of the job and what type of personality would suit it best.
Can you talk us through your CV?
This is a great chance to really sell your experience. Work through in reverse chronological order; highlight achievements in the roles, even if they do not relate to work experience or academia. They may have not read your CV properly and have missed parts.
What do you look for in a job?
Make sure that you relate back to the job in question. Highlight the elements of the job that best suits your aspirations and incorporate them in your answers. Employers like to hear things like; I am looking for a job that challenges me. It is also worth mentioning training and career prospects.
What are your strengths? How would your friends describe you?
These questions will get asked one way or another. Be prepared and start marketing yourself. Make a list of your strenghts before the interview and try to relate them to the job spec - 3 or 4 should be fine. Here are some ideas, good interpersonal skills, dependable, reliable, strong leadership, inquisitive, cooperative, decisive, outgoing, punctual, and competitive.
What are your weaknesses? How would your worst enemy describe you?
This is probably the most talked about interview question. Some may consider it pointless but employers still ask it. Never say you have none, because that would be an obvious lie. Pick a weakness that is harmless or that you are working on and sell it a still developing strength.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
This is quite simply a test on your interest in the job, career and company. Try to come up with something related to your career or the company. Always try to come up with something, even if you are unsure what you want to do. You will need to research the company and career paths before the interview. Check out graduate profiles and see the route they have taken to their current position, the industry and qualifications they have chosen.
Skill and competency based questions:
Why should we hire you?
The answer to this question should highlight your experience, knowledge, skills and that you are a strong asset to the company.
Describe a situation in which you have led a team.
Even through you might not be leading a team, employers look for candidates with potential, they are thinking long term and this is a very popular questions.You should showcase a strong relationship with people, they want to see examples where you prioritize, delegate, and manage others in order to reach a target or achieve a goal. Explain the situation within the STAR format (Situation description, Task to be performed, Action taken and Result obtained). Define your role as a leader. Examples of leadership roles you could use would be captain of the footbal team, school prefect, council member.
How do you prioritize tasks?
Important here is to prioritize in a logical order. Decide which tasks are urgent and which are important. Planning ahead should be showcased within your answer. You might also want to exemplify your teamwork abilities, in the form of liaising or consulting with your team members in order to success in tackling the issue.
When you are faced with a difficult problem, how do you go about resolving it?
You must demonstrate you go through a reasoning process; you need to explain that you plan and research how to resolve an issue. Examples should emphasize the research stage and the effectiveness you have displayed when carrying out the task. You should also include time allocation strategies and ways in which you have used resources.
What motivates you?
The nature of the job dictates the way you should answer this question. Keep in mind that employers try to gauge your suitability for the role, and exemplifying a point irrelevant to their goal will not get you closer to the job. Help the interviewer understand what motivates you whilst relating to the job specifications.
What has been your greatest achievement?
This question usually hints towards achievements outside of work. Many recent graduates say getting a degree, but it’s highly likely that everyone else going for this role will have one. You need to make sure that you are going to mention something else. Ideas include:
· Learning a language
· Completing an event which required training, a marathon, getting a medal in a competition.
· Organizing a charity event.
· Leading a university team to success.
University related questions:
Why did you choose your university and degree?
If your degree relates to the job then linking it to your career path is the way to go. If not don’t worry, you can still say that you intend to follow one career path but have learned that this career is one you would like to pursue. You can reflect on transferable skills from your degree to the opportunity.
What skills did you gain from university?
It is very important to relate to extracurricular activities when answering this question, as well as you coursework. Including teamwork examples, time management, motivation and leadership related examples would be recommended. Remember to use the start format and explain the situation, the goal and actions taken by you as well as the results.
Why do you think your degree is applicable to the role?
If your degree is related to the industry or job then the answer is straightforward. If it’s not, don’t panic, there are always transferable skills; presenting, report writing, analysis, computer skills. You can always pivot and emphasize that your specific degree gives you a different perspective than other candidates.
Have you got any questions?
This is always going to be asked and it’s key to prepare them before the interview, this shows the employer that you take the opportunity seriously and you are really interested in the job. It’s fine to write them on paper and take it in with you to jog your memory. Many of them will get answered in the interview and if opportunities arise to ask questions throughout the interview, go for it.
It’s best to tailor your questions to the job role and company. Be careful not to ask anything that you should know from research before the interview.
Here’s a few examples of questions that you can ask:
What would an average day be like?
Where will the job be based?
Are there any social clubs for employees?
How would my work be monitored and how often would I be appraised?
What career paths have other graduates followed in this company?
Do you have more information on your graduate training programme?
Will I have any opportunity to use my foreign language skills?
Will I be working in a team? If so, what is the make-up of these teams?
What are the company’s development plans and targets over the next five years?
Am I likely to hear back from you?
What are the company benefits for graduates?
Do you support study for external qualifications?
Other potential interview questions for graduates:
What types of people do you like/not like working with?
Tell us of a time of when your work was criticized.
Give us an example of when you were frustrated and how did you deal with this?
How do you handle conflicts of interest in the workplace?
Have you ever disagreed with management and how did you deal with this?
Do you prefer to work in a team or by yourself?
How will you monitor your personal work performance?
Can you think ‘outside of the box’?
What are your feelings on working long extended hours?
Have you ever felt out of your depth at work and how did you cope?
Describe your perfect job?
What do you do when you are late for work?
If you could go back and change something about your career/education what would it be?
What can you bring to this company?
How to you deal with setbacks?
Who are our competitors and what do you think of them?
Describe a situation in which you used initiative.
What was your biggest setback? (How do you deal with adversity?)
Tell us about your university project?
Describe a situation where you had to plan or organize something.
Where do you fit in a team?
Give an example of a time when you hit a deadline
Give an example of a time when you failed to hit a deadline