Ready to start work? It’s time to get your answers in check…
No matter what job you’re going for, you’ll hear a variety of common interview questions (from ‘tell me about yourself’ to ‘why should you get this job?’). But as a recent graduate, there’ll also be some that are specific to your situation – and knowing how to answer them correctly could be your key to standing out from the crowd.
We’ve already covered the basics of applying for graduate jobs, but here are a few of the most commonly asked graduate interview questions (and our advice on how to answer them):
What was your biggest achievement at university?
Fact: choosing an achievement is just as important as how you explain it.
So, before you answer this question – ask yourself two things: what are they looking for? And what achievement demonstrates that you can do it?
After all, you probably have a number of accomplishments, but not all of them are going to prove your suitability for this particular role. So pick wisely, then apply the STAR technique to your chosen example – focusing on the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Because not only does an interviewer want to know what you’ve achieved, they also want to know what you did to get there.
Think school. Think maths. Think ‘showing your working out’. Otherwise, who’s to say your success wasn’t just a fluke?
Right answer: ‘My biggest achievement was juggling six different assignments over one month, and passing each one with a 2.1 or above. Through effective task prioritisation, I was able to distribute my time and efforts evenly, using the difficulty level, deadline date, and length of each project as a guide. It also helped me develop the ability to work well under pressure.’
Wrong answer: ‘Four words: Ring. Of. Fire. Champion.’
What was the worst part of your course?
Translation: are you able to overcome roadblocks?
Having always been told that negativity is a no go area at an interview, it’s no surprise that this interview classic stumps many interviewees.
Do they really want to hear about what you didn’t like, or is it just a clever ruse to catch you out?
Well, it’s actually a bit of both. You should talk about the struggles or difficulties you encountered, as long as you also demonstrate grit and a strong work ethic in your answer.
In other words, don’t think of it as moaning. Think of it as overcoming hardships.
Right answer: Presentations were probably my least favourite part, as public speaking isn’t really something I’m confident in. However, I understood that as it’s an important skill to have, and it made up a fair portion of my grade, that I should to do whatever I could to improve. After a few one-on-one sessions with my tutor and taking a course in public speaking, I managed to build my confidence. It’s still not my favourite thing to do, but it’s certainly something I’m working on.’
Wrong answer: ‘I didn’t really like the 9am lectures.’
What would your friends say about you?
Ah, the perennial ‘think-outside-the-box’ favourite.
If this question catches you off guard, you’ll probably face the internal battle of what adjectives you should use. The answer? Only ones that can be backed up by real examples.
Because let’s face it, a vague list of clichés is almost as bad as lying. Instead, simply outline the key attributes needed to do the job, and think about which of those your classmates or colleagues would say you have.
For example, if you’re always taking the lead in group projects? You’re a good leader. Regularly covering shifts at the last minute? Reliable. Prone to speaking up first in a seminar? Insightful.
If you have any testimonials (whether it’s via LinkedIn, or as part of your studies), bringing those to your interview is also a great way to score bonus points.
Right answer: My classmates have seen me work in lots of different contexts at uni – and have referred to me as creative and dedicated. This was particularly evident in a recent group presentation, where my insight prompted us to cover something other groups had overlooked. Having worked freelance over the summer, a number of clients have also vouched for these attributes when reviewing my performance.
Wrong answer: ‘That I’m hard-working, loyal, fun…umm, did I say hard-working?’
How many traffic lights are there in London?
OK, not everything you’re asked is going to be related to your degree – and this wacky riddle ‘question’ is the perfect example.
You can thank Google and its Silicon Valley neighbours if you hear it, which is especially likely if you’re going for roles in the creative industries.
So what do you do? Firstly, remember that the interviewer isn’t really expecting an accurate answer. They’re not looking for a traffic light enthusiast/geographer/mathematician.
What they are looking for is someone who can use logic, reason, and problem-solving skills to pick apart the question – and essentially estimate a possible answer.
Right answer: ‘I couldn’t give you an exact number, but I’d start by trying to estimate the number of traffic lights in a square mile based on my personal experience, and then take a shot at the total size of London in square miles. Of course, there would be more traffic lights in the centre than the suburbs, but I’d say it’d be somewhere around 3500? It’d probably be quicker to Google it though.’
Wrong answer: ‘Pass.’
Graduate assessment centre group exercises
Many graduate interviews will be carried out in groups, meaning that instead of answering questions one-on-one, you’ll be judged on your ability to contribute to a range of team tasks and activities.
These types of interview usually start with an obligatory icebreaker, which involves group introductions and casual chats about who you are. To ensure you don’t draw a blank, always prepare for and practice this in advance.
N.B. Fun (work friendly) facts about yourself will almost always go down well.
Other potential tasks could include anything from case studies and role play exercises to practical tasks and questions that test your interpersonal skills, creativity, and logic.
Other questions you might be asked at a graduate interview
- Tell me about yourself
- Why do you want this job?
- What are your strengths?
- Why should you get this job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
- Tell me about a time you’ve demonstrated excellent team work skills
- What motivates you?
- Why do you think you’ll be successful in this job?
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