Whether you’re applying to work at the campus bookstore, or interviewing for your first professional job post college, it’s likely you’ll need to conduct an interview to land the position. To help you nail your interview, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most common interview questions. Read on to find out what hiring managers are really looking for and get a head-start on preparing thoughtful responses.
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise, compelling, and shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.
2. “Why do you think you’re a fit for this position?”
Companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you guys are doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).
3. “Tell me about some of your professional strengths.”
When answering this question, be accurate (share your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear); relevant (choose your strengths that are most targeted to this particular position); and specific (for example, instead of “people skills,” choose “persuasive communication” or “relationship building”). Then, follow up with an example of how you’ve demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.
For first-time job hunters, you can use examples from work or extracurricular activities as support for your strengths.
4. “What’s your biggest weakness?”
What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. Be candid, but don’t give the interviewer a reason to reject your candidacy because of one weakness. “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option, but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!”
Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
5. “Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced and how you dealt with it.”
In asking this question, your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you respond to a challenge or conflict. A handy tip for this type of question is to answer in a three step format:
- Set up the situation and the challenge you were face with
- Describe what you personally did to resolve the issue
- Explain the resolution and what you achieved in the end
As an example: “Our team was losing money and time due to errors on invoices. I researched and implemented an automation tool that ended up saving my group 10 hours per month and reduced errors on invoices by 80%.”
For first time job hunters, use experience from school or extracurricular activities.
This blog post was written in collaboration with Koru. Koru runs immersive business programs with college students and recent grads to help them build in-demand skills, gain hands-on experience working inside top companies, and build a powerful network. If you want more tips, check out this Koru’s free interview guide.
You can also check out peerTransfer’s other other posts related to finding a job: