Classic Interview Questions: Part I

The GradTouch team have been running through the questions that are most often asked by graduate employers in interviews. We've devised this four-part series, decoding the most common interview questions so that you know exactly what an interviewer is looking for in your answer.

Below we have put together five of the most common introductory interview questions so you can make the most of that all important first impression!

1. “Tell me a little bit about yourself” or “Talk about your CV”

What your interviewer is thinking: How do your professional aspirations, work experience, extracurricular activities and educational background relate to this position? Are you confident enough to speak about yourself for a couple of minutes?

A good place to start is by summarising your academic/work background. Answer:

Where did you go to university and what course did you do? What societies were you part of while you were there? What internships/part time work have you done in the last couple of years? What career are you looking to pursue?

Concentrate on the things you've done which relate to the position you are applying for. For instance, if a position is asking for someone with experience in marketing and evidence of leadership, be sure to mention your recent internship with Company X, in which you were marketing various events, and your time as captain of the hockey team. This will often be the very first question you are faced with in an interview, so put your best foot forward by highlighting why you such a great fit from the off.

2. “What do you know about our company?” or” What does our company do?”

What your interviewer is thinking: Do you have a solid understanding of what the company does? Do you know what you are getting into? Are you keen enough on the position/company to have done some research?

As you can probably guess, thorough research is absolutely key to answering this question well. Have a root around the company's website, look for news stories about the company's recent successes and challenges, watch/read profiles of current staff or graduates.

Make sure you put everything you read into your own words; don't just repeat 'parrot style' that you like the company's 'vibrant and creative' culture - it'll come across as a little lazy!

3. “What attracted you to this position?”

What your interviewer is thinking: Is your understanding of the role accurate? Are your skills, strengths and interests a good fit for this position? 

It's vital that you know what the job you are applying for entails - if you don't have a good understanding of the role, then it might not be as suited to you as you thought. From an interviewer's point of view this means you're probably not going to stick around for very long!

Talk about several aspects about the position that you like, and adapt them to show off your skills and experience. E.g. 'One of the things that attracted me to this position was that it offered the opportunity to manage people right from the off. In my internship with Company X I successfully managed a team of 5 to achieve (Goal Y). It's something I really enjoyed and I'd love to apply the leadership skills I've developed so far.'

Hey presto! In one fell swoop you've highlighted your recent work experience in a great company, your success and your budding leadership potential.

Avoid mentioning the salary or holiday allowance which come with the position - it'll make it seem as if you are attracted to the perks, rather than the position itself which, while that might be true, won't be what your interviewer wants to hear!

4. “What are your career goals?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?”

What your interviewer is thinking: Do you really want this position, or are you just looking for any job? If I hire you, are you going to stay with us for a long period of time? Or will you still be searching for your dream position? Are you motivated, ambitious but realistic?

Research (on LinkedIn or on the company's website) common career paths of it's graduates so that you can go in with a realistic idea of what kind of progression you could expect within 5 or 10 years.

Avoid the classic cliche answers like 'I want to be working here'- it's a bit 'sucky up-y' or 'I want to be your boss' - that's just plain arrogant.

5. “Tell me about your greatest achievement.”

What your interviewer is thinking: Can you talk about your strengths eloquently and without embarrassment? Do you have the skills to succeed here? Do you have interests outside of academia? 

Ok, this is the time where you can blow your own trumpet. Your interviewer is looking for examples of positive skills you have demonstrated in order to accomplish your goal. Have you had a sporting victory, raised money for charity or facilitated social change? Achievements like these are good to talk about where you can describe what skills were involved, as well as what you learnt and gained from the experience.

Try not to talk about your degree as an answer for this question; you want to focus on something specific to you and chances are other candidates will have a degree too. Be sure to choose something that you have achieved in the last couple of years - the more recent the example, the more relevant it is.

How To Tackle Classic Interview Questions


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