Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant at the Careers Service
Interviews are a common part of applying for jobs, but many students and graduates feel nervous about what they could be asked.
Generally, there are three types of interview questions. These tend to be specific to different sectors and won’t apply to all roles or interviews.
- Technical questions: specific to the role, and may include a practical, competency-based element, often based on the list of essential criteria outlined in the job description.
- Situational questions: you will be given a hypothetical scenario and asked how you would to respond to it.
- Creative and off-the-wall questions: don’t have a ‘right answer’, but instead require you to explain the logic or reasoning behind your answer.
We’ve put together seven of the most common questions that students and graduates may be asked in interviews, as well as hints and tips on how to ace your answers.
- Tell me a bit about yourself.
This is often the opening question in an interview, and it is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Give an overview of your education and work history, skills and achievements, clearly and concisely.
Avoid talking for too long. Be brief and give your interviewer(s) the opportunity to ask questions about the things you have said if they want more information.
- What is your greatest weakness?
The most important thing to remember when answering this question is to be positive but honest. This question allows you to demonstrate your self-awareness. Select a genuine weakness (something you struggle with, or have struggled with in the past), but avoid anything that would be detrimental to your application. You should also avoid clichés such as ‘perfectionism’.
Explain how you are working on, improving or overcoming this weakness. Demonstrate your self-development and your desire to upskill, learn and develop. Taking the Profiling for Success assessment may help you prepare for strengths and weakness questions, by helping you to identifying your skillset.
- Tell me about a time where you encountered a problem.
This question lets you demonstrate adaptability, working under pressure, problem solving and organisation. Talk about how you resolved the issue, and what actions you personally took to fix the situation. Use the Context Action Result (CAR) model to explain the situation – what were you doing and what was the problem, what did you do to resolve it, what were the results of your actions.
Avoid using an example where you relied on outside help and did not actually help resolve the issue yourself.
- What can you bring to the company?
Use your research to talk about how your skills and experiences match the company’s goals, projects and values. Mention what parts of the job description interest you. How do your achievements demonstrate that you have the necessary skills for the role? What other skills and qualities can you bring to the role or company, which they may not have asked for?
Make sure your enthusiasm for the role shows too. Mention how your values align with the organisation’s, and briefly state why you want to work for them over their competitors.
- Tell me about a time where you had to persuade someone to your way of thinking.
This is an example of a competency-based question – the interviewers want to know how you have performed in the workplace previously. Demonstrate your negotiation and communication skills. If you can, use an example that is relevant to the role you are applying to and use the CAR model to explain what happened. Don’t be afraid to say how you would do things differently if you were in the same situation again.
- If you had a couple of hours free at work, what would you do?
Think about what the options would be for filling your time and demonstrate your good time management. You might be able to get ahead on another project, network with colleagues, do some training or develop a skill that will maximise your effectiveness at your job, or you could offer to help a colleague or another team.
Avoid suggesting you would treat the time as a break and instead point out how you would use the time constructively to benefit the wider team and organisation.
- Tell me about a recent business story that took your interest.
This question is an opportunity to demonstrate your commercial awareness and show off the research you did before the interview. Think of a news item you read about the company or sector and explain why it interested you.
Don’t forget that as a graduate you can continue to access the Careers Service for up to two years after you finished your course. This includes Shortlist.Me virtual interview practice and interview simulation appointments. Make sure to read our interview pages and Prospect’s how to prepare for an interview too, to help you perform your best.