Job or internship interviews can be pretty intimidating if you’re not prepared. But if you know what to expect, you can ace that interview and land the job. To help you out, we’ve rounded up 20 real questions that college students have been asked at part-time job, internship and full-time job interviews and had experts weigh in with do’s, don’ts and helpful tips for how to handle each question.
Question: What is your dream job?
–Mary Meadowcroft, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Instead of picking a job, focus on the qualities of the position or field that are important to you and tie them to the position you’re applying for. Gary Miller, an assistant director of career services UNC-Chapel Hill, suggests saying something such as, “My dream job is one that allows me to use both my analytical skills and my creativity. That’s one reason I’m drawn to this position, as it seems to require strength in both those areas.”
Question: What are your strengths?
–Laura Comfort, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: The key is to understand the job description and what the employer is looking for. “Do not mention all of your strengths – focus on the ones required for the job,” says Rochelle Sharit, a career manager at Northeastern University. Your strengths could range from analytical, creative and communication skills to work and organizational skills. Whatever you pick, make sure you can back it up with an example.
Question: How would hiring you benefit our company?
–Elizabeth Lamb, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Start by connecting your skills with the ones mentioned in the job description. Next, mention something specific you have learned about the company. Sharon Jones, an assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill, suggests saying something like “I’ve talked to alumni who have joined your organization and have heard positive feedback about your training program.” Finally, explain that your strong work ethic and intellect will add value to the employer’s team.
Question: Who is your role model?
–Jessica Stringer, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Talk about someone who you aspire to be or has qualities you hope to possess. “You could say Michelle Obama and this could show that you admire her for her own career, her strength or even that she’s not afraid to show she’s fit,” says Laura Lane, an assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill. Many students say their role model is their mother or father. Though parents may not be as effective as a public figure, talk about them if it is the truth, says Lane.
Question: What are you most proud of accomplishing this past year?
–Caitlin Powell, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Miller says students should “select something that gives the interviewer a better understanding of who you are and how you will fit into the position and company at hand.” Your goal should be to highlight your best qualities and help the interviewer understand how you’re right for this job or internship.
Question: What are 3 characteristics about you that would make you a good employee?
–Marco Quiroga, GMU Answer: Take the job requirements into consideration when choosing your three characteristics. For example, if you were seeking a job as an actuary, Jones says you could discuss your aptitude for math as reflected in your major GPA of 3.5. Your second characteristic could be your interest in business, as shown by your coursework in accounting and finance. Finally, highlight campus involvement and say something like, “I have proven leadership experience, showing my potential for advancement after proving myself,” says Jones.
Question: What are your plans after graduation?
–Ellie Hoptman, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: If this question is asked at an entry-level job interview, reinforce your interest in the position with a statement like, “I’ll take a moment to celebrate and appreciate my graduation. But, I’m looking forward to starting my professional career and this position would be a great opportunity for me to do that,” says Miller. But if the question is asked at an internship interview, the interviewer may be exploring your dedication to the field or your long-term interest in the company. Make sure your answer incorporates your interest and enthusiasm for both.
Question: What can you bring to the job?
–Sydney Hess, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Lane suggests having three characteristics that you want to get through to your interviewer; these should be strengths that reflect your personality and work ethic. If you are asked this question, choose one and discuss it in detail.
Question: Why do you want to be a journalist (or something else) despite the current state of the industry?
–Elizabeth Lilly, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: This is a perfect opportunity to show you’ve done research on where the opportunities exist in the field, says Sharit. For example, the investment industry is weak, but there are many opportunities in corporate finance. There are always opportunities for the best candidates, so demonstrate why you would add value to the company through your education and experience.
Question: Tell me in one minute or less why I should hire you.
–Gloria Holbrook, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Match your relevant qualifications with the job description. For example, for a sales job, Jones suggests saying something like, “I’ve been preparing myself for a sales position through my courses, part-time job, an internship, and campus activities.” You should then describe in detail what you learned from each one. Finally, Jones says to sum up everything with a statement such as “I feel confident that I would excel in this position, which is a perfect match with my background.”
Question: Describe a time when you had to be a leader. –Jonathan Culbreath, VCU
Question: When was a time that you felt that your leadership was ineffective? –Anna Eusebio, UNC-Chapel Hill
Question: Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment. –Josalyn Williams, UMass Amherst
Answer: For each of these, tell a story about your leadership experience that follows the STAR format: situation, task, action, result. Before your interview, prepare at least five “short stories” that are around 60 to 90 seconds in length, says Miller. These stories should use the STAR format to expound on your past experience.
Question: What are your weaknesses?
–Courtney Roller, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: You need to acknowledge a weakness! The key is knowing your weakness and demonstrating how you are improving on it, says Sharit. For example, if you say “I am a perfectionist and have difficulty delegating,” you need to give an example of how you’re working on the issue: “I have been working on this issue and have begun to delegate to my staff as …. (e.g., leader of a club, editor of a paper), making sure they have clear directions from me. I’ve found that this approach provides the advantage of giving my staff more responsibility and freeing me up to work on other projects.”
Question: Please demonstrate how you would sell a particular product to a customer.
—Lindsay Ruebens, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Employers ask this question when they aren’t sure about someone’s sales potential. Jones used this question as an interviewer; she would hold up a pen and say “Sell me this pen.” Successful interviewees should pick up the pen and start, “So I understand that you are interested in buying a pen. What are you looking for?” Then get creative and talk about aspects of the pen like the strong, smooth line of the pen and the range of colors.
Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
–Francesca Rawleigh, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Demonstrate how this position relates to your goals. Sharit says employers want to see you’re committed to their organization so your response should include a higher-level position within the organization. “Make sure your goals are realistic – you cannot be director within a year. Don’t say that you plan to apply to grad school this year and go full-time next year,” Sharit says.
Question: Tell me about a time when your morals were questioned.
–Katie Teal, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: “Keep it to a simple example, about lying for someone else, about someone else being dishonest on the job and how you handled the situation,” says Emily Strader, a student employer counselor at UNC-Chapel Hill. The employer is checking how you handle yourself when asked an unanticipated question, not trying to see if you share the same values.
Question: Why do you want to work in this field?
–Andrea Soto, Fordham Answer: This is an opportunity for you to show your enthusiasm and motivation, as well as a time to demonstrate industry knowledge and the research you’ve done. Miller suggests referencing specific areas of the field that interest you and connecting them to your strengths.
Question: How would your best friend describe you?
–Amelia Moore, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: First, demonstrate personality traits that would be beneficial on a job, such as reliability, and loyalty. “Also, a key trait would be being a good listener – which is crucial for success in friendship and in work,” Sharit says. Second, highlight an interest that shows your non-professional side. This gives the interviewer an opportunity to see another dimension of you, such as being an athlete, artist or movie lover.
Question: Where do you see yourself working within Company ABC?
–Rebecca Kang, UNC-Chapel Hill Answer: Make your answer honest but flexible. Miller suggests saying something such as, “I’ve really enjoyed learning about Department X and Department Y and feel I could be a strong contributor in either. But, I’m very excited about the organization as a whole and would love to talk about the opportunities you have in other areas, as well.” Sources: Gary Miller, Assistant Director, UCS at UNC- CH Sharon Jones, Assistant Director, UCS at UNC- CH Laura Lane, Assistant Director, UCS at UNC-CH Rochelle Sharit, Career Manager, Northeastern University Emily Strader, Student Employment Coordinator/Arts Counselor at UNC-CH