5 Answers to Key Interview Questions You Should Practice Now
As you go through your college years, you will start to have more and more interviews in various capacities. Depending on the person, interviews may come in the form of full-time careers, part-time experience or even taking on a student employee position. Regardless, preparing for that interview is important so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of who ever could be your potential supervisor.
There are lots of resources online that can help you prepare for an interview in general, but this post is more specifically targeted to preparing for the questions you are most likely to hear during the interview – along with some general tips towards the end as well. The best way to prepare for questions is to practice, either with mock or real interviews.
Your first interview should not be the one where you are applying for a job after graduation, you need practice and you need to be rehearsed (yet sound casual). Use these questions, along with your own practice, to help you get there.
Why are you applying for this position?
This will likely come early into the interview and should not be too hard to answer. You have a reason you are applying for the job and why you took the time to come in for an interview. Don’t say “I need money” or similar answers, even though it is a reason for most applicants for most jobs. This is your chance to shine and to add a personal story, make a connection with the company, and to expand on what is already expected (wanting experience, money, and so on).
Bad answer: “I applied because I just graduated college and need a job so I can make money.”
Good answer: “I saw the posting online and researched a bit about your company. I liked what I saw and felt I could fit in well here, and in this position. I have done business with this group before on a personal basis and would love to help other customers since I know what a lot of them are looking for. My family grew up on your product, this is the right fit for me.”
Why did you leave your last job?
You may not have a last job, but even in those cases you’ll be asked to think of a part-time job or some kind of experience in school to somewhat relate to the question. While you certainly want to be honest, you don’t want to be completely open about why you left either.
Bad answers: “I was fired because [any reason]” or “I didn’t like it, so I quit.”
Good answer: “It wasn’t the right fit for me at the time, and while I enjoyed it, I felt it was time to try something else and expand my reach and experience. I’m looking for something more long term where I can see myself working for years to come.”
(Your answer will depend on what type of job you left and are now applying for and how they relate, but it is always key to emphasize your commitment to this new position while talking about leaving your last job.)
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Interviewers will phrase this differently, and really good interviewers won’t ask this at all, but you should be prepared with a couple strengths that you actually are good at and relate to your position as well as a couple weaknesses that can be turned into strengths or have a positive story behind them.
Bad answer: “I’m a strong talker and planner, but I don’t show up on time and I’m not really a people person.”
Good answer: “I feel I am skilled in time management, scheduling, as well as organizing my life to stay focused on tasks assigned me. I could improve with delegating more tasks and supervising others.”
(There is no “good” way to highlight a weakness, because it is a weakness. I do believe honesty is key here. Just hope you have a good interviewer that won’t give you this uncomfortable question.)
Explain a time when you…
This can be followed with “had to resolve conflict,” “worked well in a team situation,” or many other possible scenarios. This is once again your chance to add a personal element to the interviewer and tell a story. Have a couple different periods of time in your life in mind going into the interview to quickly pull that out of your memory to talk about it. Don’t take too long to come with something or make it look like you’re making a story up, though!
Bad answer: “I… uh… resolved conflict when I was in school and working on a group project to get an A.”
Good answer: “Last semester, I was in a difficult group setting for a class I was in and we had to resolve differences and conflict with each other to finish the assignment. I helped mediate the conflict to unite each group member and we came through the class and assignment with an A grade.”
Why should we hire YOU?
Interviewers often like you to do their job for them and ask you why they should choose you for a position within their company or organization. When they emphasize the “you” in the question, this is your cue to sell yourself. Imagine you are a product, on a shelf with every other candidate applying for the same position as you are. Sell yourself as that product, highlight what you can bring to the table, your unique experience, etc.
Bad answer: “I’m experienced, I know your company and I can be a hard worker if given the chance.”
Good answer: “I have experience with [company A] and [organization B], I created [this] and [that] and I have been researching and working with your company throughout the past several years. I look forward to continuing my long history with your company and hope to be given a chance to prove to you that I am the right person for the position.”
Keep in mind that these are generic questions for just about any interview situation. Based on your major and what field you are going into, your questions may be more or less specific and you should prepare for career-specific and knowledge based questions as well.
The best thing to do is to practice. Go to your career center and set up a mock interview, have some friends interview you or even talk to professionals you already know well to see what they would ask you if they were interviewing you.