What are the ten most common questions asked at graduate interviews?

At the University of Kent we asked students what questions they were asked at graduate selection interviews by a variety of employers and for a range of jobs. Whereas we doubt if this survey is very reliable it does give an idea of the key questions to watch out for, and to prepare answers to, at interview.

Of course questions were sometimes asked in slightly different formats. For example,”Why do you want this job?” was sometimes phrased “Why do you want to be an accountant/social worker/journalist?”

1. Why do you want this job?computing interview

One of the most predictable questions and very important! You need to demonstrate that you have researched the employer and tie your knowledge of them into theskills and interests that led you to apply. For example, an interviewee with a smallpublic relations agency might say:

“I’m always ready to take on responsibility and feel this will come more quickly with a firm of this size. A small firm also gives the chance to build closer working relationships with clients and colleagues and I’ve found through my past work experience that this makes an organisation more effective as well as more satisfying to work in.”

Try to find some specific feature on which the employer prides themselves: their training, their client base, their individuality, their public image, etc. This may not always be possible with very small organisations but you may be able to pick up something of this nature from the interviewer.

See our Commercial Awareness page for more help with this

2. Have you got any questions?

At the end of the interview, it is likely that you will be given the chance to put your own questions to the interviewer.

  • Keep them brief: there may be other interviewees waiting.
  • Ask about the work itself, training and career development: not about holidays, pensions, and season ticket loans!
  • Prepare some questions in advance: it is OK to write these down and to refer to your notes to remind yourself of what you wanted to ask.

It often happens that, during the interview, all the points that you had noted down to ask about will be covered before you get to this stage. In this situation, you can respond as follows:

Interviewer: Well, that seems to have covered everything: is there anything you would like to ask me?

Interviewee: Thank you: I’d made a note to ask about your appraisal system and the study arrangements for professional exams, but we went over those earlier and I really feel you’ve covered everything that I need to know at this moment.

You can also use this opportunity to tell the interviewer anything about yourself that they have not raised during the interview but which you feel is important to your application:

Don’t feel you have to wait until this point to ask questions – if the chance to ask a question seems to arise naturally in the course of the interview, take it! Remember that a traditional interview is a conversation – with a purpose.

Examples of questions you can ask the interviewericeberg

These are just a few ideas – you should certainly not attempt to ask them all and indeed it’s best to formulate your own questions tailored to your circumstances and the job you are being interviewed for! Make sure you have researched the employer carefully, so that you are not asking for information which you should be expected to know already.

  • Is there a fixed period of training for graduates?
  • I see it is possible to switch job functions – how often does this happen?
  • Do you send your managers on external training courses?
  • Where would I be based – is this job function located only in …?
  • How easy is it for new graduates to find accommodation in this area?
  • How often is a graduate’s performance appraised?
  • What is a typical career path in this job function?
  • Can you give me more details of your training programme?
  • Will I be working in a team? If so, what is the make-up of these teams?
  • What is the turnover of graduates in this company?
  • What are the possibilities of using my languages?
  • What are the travel/mobility requirements of this job?
  • How would you see this company developing over the next five years?
  • How would you describe the atmosphere in this company?
  • What is your personal experience of working for this organisation?

3. Describe a situation in which you lead a team.

This is an example of a competency-based question. Many graduate positions involve people management, where you will be expected to plan, organise and guide the work of others as well as motivating them to complete tasks. The interviewer needs to assess how well you relate to other people, what role you take in a group and whether you are able to focus on goals and targets.

Outline the situation, your role and the task of the group overall. Describe any problems which arose and how they were tackled. Say what the result was and what you learned from it. Examples could include putting on a drama or music production; a group project at university; a business game or Young Enterprise scheme or being team leader in a fast-food restaurant.

This, and other skills which the employer considers essential for effective performance in the job, should have been highlighted in the job description or graduate brochure – so always be prepared to give examples of situations where you have demonstrated these qualities! While your example should indicate the nature of the team and the task, you need to focus on your own role as leader and on the personal qualities that led you to take on/be nominated for this role and which helped you to succeed in it. Leadership involves many skills: planningdecision-makingpersuading, motivating, listening,co-ordinating – but not dictating!

See our Leadership Styles page for more help with this

4. Describe a situation where you worked in a team

Another competency-based question. Most jobs will involve a degree of teamwork. The interviewer needs to assess how well you relate other people, what role you take in a group and whether you are able to focus on goals and targets.

Outline the situation, your particular role and the task of the group overall. Describe any problems which arose and how they were tackled. Say what the result was and what you learned from it.

Examples could include putting on a drama or music production; a group project at university; a business game or “Young Enterprise” scheme or working in a fast-food restaurant.

See our Teamworking page for more help with this

5. What do you expect to be doing in 5 years time?

Try to avoid vague or general answers such as “I would hope to grow with the responsibility I am offered and to develop myskills as far as I am able” or “I would expect to be in a management role by then”.

This question allows you to demonstrate that you have done your research on the career routes open to you within the organisation and so you should try to be more specific – not necessarily tying yourself down to a particular route, but showing that you have at least a general idea of where you want to go.

Use the employer’s recruitment literature to gain an idea of the career paths followed by past graduates. You may be able to supplement this by showing your knowledge of professional bodies and the steps you will need to take to gain their qualifications, e.g. in areas such as marketing or personnel.

See our Commercial Awareness page for more help with this

6. What are your weaknesses?

One interviewee, asked about her weaknesses, thought briefly and then replied “Wine, chocolate and men – though not necessarily in that order.” 

She got the job!

The classic answer here is to state a strength which is disguised as a weakness, such as “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I push myself too hard”. This approach has been used so often that, even if these answers really are true they sound clichéd. Also, interviewers will know this trick. If you feel they really apply to you, give examples: you could say that your attention to detail and perfectionism make you very single-minded when at work, often blotting out others in your need to get the task done.

A better strategy, is to choose a weakness that you have worked on to improveand describe what action you are taking to remedy the weakness. For example: “I’m not a very self-confident person and used to find it very difficult to talk to people I didn’t know well, but my Saturday job in the local library meant that I had to help people with all kinds of queries and that helped me a lot. Now I’m perfectly happy talking to anybody on a one-to-one basis and I’ve joined the debating society this year to give me experience of speaking in front of an audience.”

Don’t deny that you have any weaknesses – everyone has weaknesses and if you refuse to admit to them the interviewer will mark you down as arrogant, untruthful or lacking in self-awareness

This question may be phrased in other ways, such as “How would your worst enemy describe you?”

7. Who else have you applied to/got interviews with?

You are being asked to demonstrate the consistency of your career aims as well as your interest in the job for which you are being interviewed. So if you have applied to one large accountancy firm it is reasonable to assume you will be applying to them all.

What you can certainly say in your favour, however, is that the present employer is your first choice. You may even answer the question by explaining you have yet to apply to any other organisations for this very reason. Perhaps your application to the other firms is imminent, depending on the stage you are at in the recruitment cycle.

Give examples that are:

  • Relevant – related to the business you are presently being interviewed for
  • Prestigious. They will reflect well on the firm interviewing you
  • Consistent. Not from lots of different job areas or employment groups of less interest to you than the present opportunity
  • Successful so far. Do not list those firms who have rejected you.

See our Commercial Awareness page for more help with this

8. Why did you choose your university and what factors influenced your choice?

If you had, in fact, no real choice in where you went to University – e.g. if you had to study close to home for financial or family reasons – you can talk about the more general issues you had to consider in coming to University and perhaps lead the question round to your choice of course rather than institution.

Your actual answer is less important than the evidence of decision-makingplanning and logical reasoning skills that it should demonstrate. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate these key skills.

9. What are your strengths?

This allows you to put across your “Unique Selling Points” – three or four of your key strengths. Try to back these points up with examples of where you have had to use them.

Consider the requirements of the job and compare these with all your own attributes – your personalityskills, abilities or experience. Where they match you should consider these to be your major strengths. The employer certainly will.

For example, team workinterpersonal skillscreative problem solving, dependability, reliability, originalityleadership etc., could all be cited as strengths. Work out which is most important for the particular job in question and make sure you illustrate your answer with examples from as many parts of your experience, not just university, as you can.

This question may be phrased in other ways, such as “Tell me about yourself” or “How would a friend describe you?”

And some less common questions which have been asked in interviews

  • Why aren’t you in a more interesting business?
  • Does your health insurance cover pets?
  • Does your company have a policy regarding concealed weapons?
  • Do you think the company would be willing to lower my pay?
  • What are the zodiac signs of the board members?
  • What is it that you people do in this company?
  • What is the company motto?

10. What has been your greatest achievement?

To say that your greatest achievement was getting to University, or getting your degree, will do nothing to distinguish you from all the other candidates. Unless you have had to contend with exceptional difficulties to gain your academic qualifications – such as illness or major family problems – try to say something different that will make you stand out.

This doesn’t have to be an Olympic medal or an act of heroism. Ideally, it should give evidence of skills relevant to the job such as communication,initiativeteamworkorganising or determination:

  • Duke of Edinburgh’s gold award – especially the expedition and community service parts
  • Organising a sports or fund-raising event
  • “Overcoming my fear of heights and learning to abseil”
  • “Learning enough Spanish in three months to make myself understood when I traveled around Mexico”
  • Training for and completing a marathon .. or even a 5 Kilometre race

Other common questions (in rough order of popularity) were:

If you don’t know how to answer any of these questions, go to our Answers to 150 common interview questions and to Practice interviews where you will find detailed tips.


What are the most common interview questions?

Although there is no set format that every job interview will follow, there are some questions that you can almost guarantee will crop up. Here’s a list of the most common questions and a guide to the kind of answers your interviewer wants to hear.

  • Tell me about yourself – This is usually the opening question and, as first impressions are key, one of the most important. Keep your answer to under five minutes, beginning with an overview of your highest qualification then running through the jobs you’ve held so far in your career. You can follow the same structure of your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you’ve picked up along the way. Don’t go into too much detail – your interviewer will probably take notes and ask for you to expand on any areas where they’d like more information. If you’re interviewing for your first job since leaving education, focus on the areas of your studies you most enjoyed and how that has led to you wanting this particular role.
  • What are your strengths? – Pick the three biggest attributes that you think will get you the job and give examples of how you have used these strengths in a work situation. They could be tangible skills, such as proficiency in a particular computer language, or intangible skills such as good man-management. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at the job description. There is usually a section listing candidate requirements, which should give you an idea of what they are looking for.
  • What are your weaknesses? – The dreaded question, which is best handled by picking something that you have made positive steps to redress. For example, if your IT ability is not at the level it could be, state it as a weakness but tell the interviewer about training courses or time spent outside work hours you have used to improve your skills. Your initiative could actually be perceived as a strength. On no accounts say “I don’t have any weaknesses”, your interviewer won’t believe you, or “I have a tendency to work too hard”, which is seen as avoiding the question.
  • Why should we hire you? or What can you do for us that other candidates can’t? – What makes you special and where do your major strengths lie? You should be able to find out what they are looking for from the job description. “I have a unique combination of strong technical skills and the ability to build long-term customer relationships” is a good opening sentence, which can then lead onto a more specific example of something you have done so far in your career. State your biggest achievement and the benefit it made to the business, then finish with “Given the opportunity, I could bring this success to your company.”
  • What are your goals? or Where do you see yourself in five years time? – It’s best to talk about both short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you’d eventually like to do and the various steps you will need to get there, relating this in some way back to the position you’re interviewing for. Show the employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job you have to get where you want to be.
  • Why do you want to work here? – The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you’ve given this some thought. If you’ve prepared for the interview properly, you should have a good inside knowledge of the company’s values, mission statement, development plans and products. Use this information to describe how your goals and ambition matches their company ethos and how you would relish the opportunity to work for them. Never utter the phrase “I just need a job.”
  • What are three positive things your last boss would say about you? – This is a great time to brag about yourself through someone else’s words. Try to include one thing that shows your ability to do the job, one thing that shows your commitment to the work, and one thing that shows you are a good person to have in a team. For example, “My boss has told me that I am the best designer he has ever had. He knows he can always rely on me, and he likes my sense of humour.”
  • What salary are you seeking? – You can prepare for this by knowing the value of someone with your skills. Try not to give any specific numbers in the heat of the moment – it could put you in a poor position when negotiating later on. Your interviewer will understand if you don’t want to discuss this until you are offered the job. If they have provided a guideline salary with the job description, you could mention this and say it’s around the same area you’re looking for.
  • If you were an animal, which one would you want to be? – Interviewers use this type of psychological question to see if you can think quickly. If you answer ‘a bunny’, you will make a soft, passive impression. If you answer ‘a lion’, you will be seen as aggressive. What type of personality will it take to get the job done?

You should always have some questions for your interviewer to demonstrate your interest in the position. Prepare a minimum of five questions, some which will give you more information about the job, and some which delve deeper into the culture and goals of the company.

source: http://career-advice.monster.co.uk/job-interview/job-interview-questions/what-are-the-most-common-job-interview-questions/article.aspx


What to do on the day of an exam …… Do’s and don’ts when the big day arrives

You attended classes all semester. In the weeks and days before the exam, you studied and reviewed more intensively. Now the day of the exam is here. By following a few mental, physical, and psychological strategies, you can get an even higher score. Here are some basic tips for those crucial few hours. Clearly, what you do on this day can make or break your grade!

Physical Strategies

Sleep: Get enough sleep the night before the exam. If you’re dull-headed because of a lack of sleep, you won’t be able to perform at your best. Sleep a few extra hours instead of studying a few extra hours.

Food: Eat moderately before your exams; avoid a heavy meal. If you eat too much, your brain will have to devote energy to the process of digestion. On the other hand, if you skip a meal altogether, your brain will have inadequate fuel to function well. Aim for nutritional balance and moderation.

Alcohol: Don’t drink the night before your exam. Alcohol upsets the chemical balance in your body and affects the way your brain functions. It could also give you a hangover, which would be a serious difficulty on exam day!

Drinks: Avoid drinking diuretics that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea or cola, which could make you need to use the washroom more often.

Water: Your body and your brain need water. Research has proven that your brain performs more efficiently when well-hydrated. Drink enough water, but not so much that you need to use the washroom.

Temperature: The aim is to be as comfortable as possible during your exam so you’re not distracted by physical needs or concerns. Take a sweater or jacket along in case of excessive air-conditioning or lack of sufficient heating. Choose a seat near a window for fresh air, if possible, but also avoid the window if there’s a lot of noise outside. Arriving early may allow you to select the seat you feel most comfortable in.

Breathing: Deep breathing involves breathing slowly and deeply. Start by inhaling through your nose. Make sure your chest does not expand – if it does you are breathing in a shallow way.

Instead, expand your belly with each breath, while your chest remains unchanged. Try to reach a count of 6 on each in breath, and 6 on each out breath. When you have mastered this process, you can add a pause of 6 seconds between the inhaling and exhaling breath.

Apply Brain Gym techniques: This program of simple exercises can enhance learning and performance by improving the brain’s neural pathways. Students of all ages have achieved higher test scores after engaging in a short brain gym session. Learn more about these simple techniques and give yourself an edge.

Psychological Techniques

Positive Visualization: This is a powerful psychological technique that can be used to enhance your positive feelings and diminish the negative ones. It is based on the fact that the mind and body are powerfully interconnected. You can create changes in your heart rate, skin temperature, and brainwave patterns by the thoughts you evoke. You can use this information to your advantage before and during your exam. Imagine a positive outcome; see yourself doing well, recalling the information easily and remaining clam and in control.

Handling Anxiety: Practice deep breathing techniques if you find yourself becoming nervous or overwhelmed. By breathing correctly, you can provide your brain with fuel to help it perform better.

Arrive early: This will help you avoid unnecessary stress in the immediate period before your exam. Allow for traffic, check the weather reports for exam day, or even travel to an external exam location in advance to get an idea of how long it will take you to travel there on the day of the exam.

Avoid nervous students: While waiting for the exam to begin, avoid speaking to any nervous students and absorbing their negative energy. It’s preferable to stay confident and focused on doing well on the exam.

Bring necessary materials: Keep extra materials such as pens, pencils, calculators, rulers, or compasses packed and ready the night before the exam so you have time to locate or even purchase any misplaced or lost items. Knowing you have everything you need will make you feel calmer and well-prepared.

Mental Strategies

Review output: If you have some time before the exam, use it to review material and practice your output. Don’t try to learn new material at this stage.

Stay for the entire exam: Stay for the full length of the exam. Even if you feel you cannot recall any more, by relaxing or waiting in the exam hall, information and details might come to mind and enable you to score additional points. On exams, every point counts.

Read directions: Make sure you focus on reading the directions carefully. This is the most common avoidable mistake made by students. Don’t let it happen to you.

Read each question: Really read what you are being asked to do on each question. Don’t presume it’s the angle you’re familiar with. Reread to see what you’re actually being asked and remember that exams change all the time, so questions that appeared in the past may differ from those given in the present.

Focus on yourself: Don’t look around at how other students are doing. It may appear that you’re trying to cheat and it will just distract you from your main task which is to do as well as possible on your exams.

Budget your time: Check how much each question counts towards your final mark and spend time on each answer accordingly. If you have a choice to write your answers in any order, do the easy ones first to build up your confidence.

source: good luck exams