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Seven Most Common Interview Questions for New Graduates

Apr 15, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 7 Comments

Some college graduates have been through a dozen or more job interviews before they get a diploma. Others have less experience—and for some, a job interview is a completely new experience. No matter how many job interviews you’ve been on, you can still get questions you were unprepared for. Here are a few common interview questions you can expect as a new graduate—and an idea of what information employers are really looking for when they ask them.

Why do you want to work here?

Many interviewers ask this question of college graduates—and they’re looking for evidence that you aren’t just applying anywhere. They want to know that you’ve looked into the company, that you know how your skills and interests fit with the company’s mission and culture, and that you really want them—not a different company. Companies want their employees to be excited about working there—not just biding their time while waiting for a better opportunity to come up.

What questions do you have for us?

This is almost always asked at the end of the interview. There’s a good and bad way to answer this. The good way involves asking about training, career development, and other opportunities that demonstrate your possible commitment to the company—as well as about the work and the company itself. The bad way involves asking about vacation time, pensions, and other benefits—these may make a big difference in why you want to work there, but employers want to know that you’re interested in the job and company itself, not just the perks.

Man Interviewing Woman

Prepare for the interview by having an idea of the most common interview questions—and which ones you’ll be likely to face.



Describe a situation in which you were a leader.

This type of question asks college graduates to describe examples of times they’ve performed a task or generated a result. They want to know about your approach to planning, organization, leadership, and so on. Have a prepared statement walking them through the situation, your role, and the group’s mission—as well as how you handled problems that came up. You can get an idea of which situations they might ask about by taking a look at the posted job description and noting the type of skills they’re looking for—such as leadership, creativity, teamwork, or analytical ability.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This isn’t the place to talk about your secret goal of becoming a musician or freelance graphic designer. Try to demonstrate that your career goals fit in with what the company can do for you. Research the types of career paths open within the organization for roles such as the one you’re applying to. You don’t necessarily have to commit to a specific route, but give them a general idea that shows that you want to go somewhere the company can take you.

Describe a weakness of yours

Most people describe a strength and present it as a weakness—such as “sometimes I work too hard for my own good.” Most interviews are wise to this answer by now. A better way to answer this honestly is to discuss a real weakness—but include a description of how you’re working to improve it. Even more effective would be to describe a quality that used to be a weakness of yours, but that you’ve managed to improve through hard work and dedicated self-development.

Describe your strengths

This is an easy question to answer. But it does take some strategy to make best use of it. Think of three or four of your most prominent strengths and talents—and try to demonstrate them with examples of when you used them with success. In addition, take a look at the job description and try to put forward strengths that fit with what they’re looking for in an employee. This is what the employer is looking for when analyzing your answer to this question.

Where else are you applying for jobs?

Be careful here. Employers are looking for a focused job search—they want to see that you’re not just applying to any job remotely related to your interests. If you are applying to companies in several different industries, limit your answers to those within the industry or those with similar job descriptions. And be sure to indicate that the company you’re currently interviewing with is your first choice.

Getting a job isn’t easy—in this job market, just getting in the door for an interview is a big achievement. Prepare for the interview by having an idea of the most common interview questions—and which ones you’ll be likely to face. Have answers planned that could fit well in a variety of different related questions—have several ideas of accomplishments and examples of your strengths and experience. And know the job description—and how your answers fit with what the company is looking for in an employee. If you take the time to prepare this way, you’ll have a better chance at getting the job.



Troy Jenkins Over a year ago

Some really helpful hints, some that seem simple, but still very powerful. Good wealth of info here. Thanks.


Beckybburger Over a year ago

Great Article with good advice. I think it is good to be reminded to be interested and knowledgeable in the that you have done your own research and you know the company/job you are pursuing.

jen gersch Over a year ago

Good far as questions, I always come with a list..and one's relevant to the particular company I am applying for

eslconsult Over a year ago

The best thing to do is prepare. Start by writing out a response, not that you should go about memorizing it but rather draw from it as a foundation or basis to talk about you and your experiences and skills.

Michael Keathley Over a year ago

The first two are pivotal. I've chaired about 60 hiring committees, and I've seen candidates win or lose the job offer based on a solid or weak reply to these two questions. Worse yet is no response. The impression is that the job and company interests the candidate so little, they can't think of anything to say about it? Or maybe that they have so little understanding of what the job is, they have no questions? As others have commented, it's much better to go in prepared to answer some of these standard questions.

Review these in your mind, but don't be over-rehearsed. Just know how you want to frame your narrative and be natural when you do it.

Ben Pfeiffer Over a year ago

Great tips Michael, thank you!

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