Academic qualifications and relevant work experience take all the limelight when it comes to job seeking, but how we prepare for and answer interview questions could have a significant impact on the outcome. When several candidates of similar educational and professional backgrounds apply for the same position, which happens quite often, the decision usually comes down to how they respond to questions the interviewers ask them.
In fact, when it comes to entry level questions, the interviewer is probably looking for the communication skills, comprehension skills and confidence the candidate exhibits, and not some specific piece of knowledge. And you will be able to answer those questions confidently and effectively if you already know what those questions might be. So here are some of the most common entry-level interview questions to help you prepare for your next job interview.
1. “Tell us something about yourself”
This one usually comes somewhere in the beginning of the interview and is a great opportunity to set the tone of the whole interview. As cliche as it may sound, it helps if you practice an ‘elevator pitch’ to present yourself in a positive light and convince the interviewer of your knowledge and skills set. You can even use this brainstorming process to write an effective cover letter since the fundamental objective of both your elevator pitch and the cover letter is to convince the employer or recruiter to give you a chance to prove yourself. Keep the introduction short and precise to get the interviewer interested, and don’t dwell on any one point for too long or the interviewer may lose interest.
2. “Why did you decide to study this major?”
In an entry-level interview, students have to be confident and self-assured about the path that they have chosen. The interviewer is probably looking for well-thought-out, logical reasoning for you’re selecting the major. Either the specific field interested you, was really challenging for you, was something that had bright future prospects, or all of those. Whatever reasons you have, just be honest and don’t try to make up answers at the interview.
3. “Why are you interested in this role and what are your expectations?”
To answer this question focus on the positive things that you have heard or read about the company, and on why you want to become part of the company. Think of this question: what will becoming part of this company do for you? Avoid using cliches like “I want to make a difference” or “this will be good for me”. Instead, tell the interviewer how the position aligns with your career goals and ambitions. Linking your goals to the description mentioned in the job ad gives weight to your answers, and shows that you’ve actually gave it some thought before you applied for the position.
Be honest about your expectations from the company. As a fresh graduate you want to be able to learn as much as you can in your first job. Highlight how you believe the company can help you grow your strengths and help you overcome your weaknesses. However, do not focus only on what’s in it for you. Try to also highlight how the company will benefit by adding a dynamic, eager-to-learn college graduate to their team.
4. How would your former boss/coworkers describe you?
This was not a typical entry level interview question back in the day, but that has changed. These days, employers expect applicants to have acquired at least some work experience during college. They are looking for candidates who are trustworthy and credible, and one way to gauge that is to form an opinion based on how the candidate’s former supervisors and coworkers rate him/her.
Here’s another way to look at this. When you tell someone how others describe you, you are naturally inclined to focus on what you think are important qualities. In this way, you reveal what you think are qualities that an ideal candidate should have.
Do not make up an answer, especially not during the interview. Prepare for it by thinking about how your supervisors or managers have described you in the past. What qualities did they focus on? Why did they commend you?
5. Give an example of a situation where you demonstrated initiative, leadership teamwork?
Situation based questions are some of the most common interview questions that interviewers use to assess you. They are not looking for a long story but how you addressed the crisis situation by demonstrating leadership skills, initiative or team work. Instead, use this systematic approach to deliver a well-structured answer:
Prepare a few of these examples beforehand so that you do not have to ramble on the topic during the interview.
Some more examples of good interview questions around situations that could likely come up and you could prepare for are:
● Give an example of how you met a looming deadline
● Elaborate a situation where you explained a concept to a co-worker or classmate
● Describe a situation where your work was criticized. How did you respond?
● Can you recall a situation where you disagreed with your co-worker? How did you handle the situation?
These questions are quite pivotal in the hiring process as they not only bring your skill set to the forefront, but also highlight your interpersonal and communication skills.
6. What do you know about our company?
Remember that the hiring manager is always on the lookout for candidates who have done their research and have at least some basic knowledge about the company they are applying to. Make sure you find the company’s website and go over their mission statement and core values. Give some thought to how your education, career goals, skill set and personality traits match the position in question. If this question is asked, it’s a good opportunity for you to ask your own questions about the company so that the employer knows that you are curious and interested in the position and the company. Just make sure these are not answers that could have easily been found online or elsewhere, because that would mean that you did not even bother to do your basic research about the company.
Interviews can be stressful, but if you walk in fully prepared, it will be a breeze. Be confident, be nice, and know that you don’t have to answer every single question perfectly. More than anything, employers or recruiters conducting entry level interviews are looking for confidence and the willingness to learn and grow. Once you are prepared for these common interview questions and answers, getting an internship or entry-level job is a piece of cake.