Getting Hired

Common interview questions for graduates to prepare

As a recent graduate, it's natural to feel nervous about your first interview. Here are the most common questions and model answers to help you prepare.

As a recent graduate, you may be feeling excited and nervous about your first graduate job interview. It's natural to feel anxious about impressing potential employers, having to answer interview questions and standing out from other candidates applying for the same graduate job.

To help you feel more prepared and confident, we've compiled a list of 18 common job interview questions that you may encounter in your graduate interview process. By reviewing these questions and practicing your answers beforehand, you'll be able to showcase your skills, experiences, and fit for the role and company.

The example answers provided are meant to give you an idea of what a strong response might look like, but remember to customise your own answers to fit your unique background and experiences as well as the job description and company culture.

Tell me about yourself

"I am a recent graduate from [XYZ] University with a degree in [ABC]. In my studies, I gained experience in [DEF], and I am particularly interested in applying those skills in a role at your company. Outside of my studies, I have been involved in various extracurricular activities, including volunteering at a local non-profit organisation and participating in [sports, arts etc]. These experiences have allowed me to develop strong teamwork and leadership skills. I am excited about the opportunity to join your team and contribute to the company's success."

Why do you want to work for our company?

"I have always been impressed by [Company's] commitment to innovation and its strong track record of success in the industry. I am particularly drawn to the company's values [of X & Y], which align with my own personal beliefs. Additionally, I believe that this role will allow me to utilise my skills and make a meaningful impact on the company's growth and success. I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of a team that is making such a positive impact in the field."

What are your strengths?

"I would say that my top strengths are my ability to communicate effectively, my strong problem-solving skills, and my ability to work well in a team. In my previous experiences, I have consistently received feedback on my strong communication skills, both written and verbal. I am also able to think critically and approach problems with a creative and analytical mindset. Finally, I believe that my ability to work well with others is a key strength, as I enjoy collaborating and contributing to a team environment."

What are your weaknesses

"One of my areas for improvement is time management. I have a tendency to get caught up in tasks and projects, and I sometimes struggle to prioritise my responsibilities and meet deadlines. To address this weakness, I have been working on setting clearer goals and using tools like calendars and to-do lists to stay organised and on track. I am also actively seeking feedback from my colleagues and mentors to help me improve in this area."

How do you handle stress or pressure?

"I believe that it is important to stay calm and focused under pressure, and I have developed a number of strategies to help me do so. For example, I try to prioritise tasks and break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces. I also make sure to take breaks and engage in stress-reducing activities like exercise or meditation. Additionally, I try to maintain a positive attitude and seek support when needed."

Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge and how you overcame it.

"One challenge I faced was during my internship at XYZ Company, where I was assigned to lead a number of group projects with tight deadlines. During one project, a team member was consistently not pulling their weight, which was causing the rest of the team to become frustrated and fall behind schedule. I decided to approach the situation by setting clear expectations and deadlines with the team member, and offering additional support and resources to help them meet their responsibilities. Through effective communication and problem-solving, we were able to complete the project on time and to the satisfaction of my manager."

Why should we hire you?

"I believe that I am the best candidate for this role because I have the key skills and experience necessary, as stated in the job description, to succeed in this position. In my studies and previous work experience, I have gained a strong foundation in [relevant skills and knowledge]. In addition, I also possess strong [other relevant skills or strengths], which I believe will make me an asset to your team. I am a proactive and solutions-oriented individual, and I am dedicated to producing high-quality work. I am excited about the opportunity to join your team and contribute to the company's success."

How do you handle difficult conversations or conflicts with team members?

"I believe that it is important to approach conflicts with a solution-oriented mindset, and to communicate openly and honestly with team members. In the past, when I have encountered conflicts with team members, I have tried to listen to their perspective and understand their concerns. I then work with the team to identify potential solutions and come to a mutually beneficial resolution. I also make sure to be respectful and professional in all of my interactions, even when facing difficult situations."

How do you prioritise your tasks and responsibilities when faced with competing demands?

"I use a variety of tools and techniques to help me prioritise my tasks and responsibilities. For example, I use a to-do list to keep track of my tasks and prioritise them based on their importance and deadlines. I also communicate with my manager and colleagues to understand the priorities of the team and I adjust my workload accordingly. Finally, I try to be flexible and adaptable, as I understand that priorities can shift quickly in a fast-paced work environment."

Can you share an example of a time when you took initiative in your previous job or academic project?

"One time when I took initiative was during my internship at XYZ Company. I noticed that the company's social media presence was not being consistently updated, and I saw an opportunity to improve engagement with our followers. I developed a social media strategy and presented it to my manager, who approved it. I then implemented the plan and saw a significant increase in likes, comments, and followers on our social media channels. My manager was impressed with my initiative and I received a bonus at the end of my internship as a result.

How do you continue to learn and grow in your career?

"I believe that continuous learning is important for personal and professional growth. In the past, I have pursued ongoing learning opportunities through workshops, online courses, and industry events. I also try to seek out new challenges and responsibilities in my current role, as these provide opportunities for me to learn and grow. Finally, I actively seek feedback from my manager and colleagues, as I believe that there is always room for improvement and that learning from others is an important part of the growth process."

How do you handle feedback, and how do you incorporate it into your work?

"I welcome and value feedback, as I believe that it is an important part of the learning and growth process and a great way to increase my own self awareness. When I receive feedback, I take the time to listen and understand the perspective of the person providing it, asking them to explain further or provide examples to help with my understanding. I then reflect on the feedback and consider how I can apply it to my work. Finally, I try to be proactive in seeking out feedback, as I believe that it is an important part of continuous personal and professional improvement."

How do you contribute to a positive team culture?

"I believe that a positive team culture is important for the success and enjoyment of team members. In the past, I have contributed to positive team cultures by being a reliable and supportive team member, and by being open and respectful in my interactions with others. I also try to be flexible and adaptable, as I understand that team dynamics can change and it is important to be able to adjust and work effectively with others. Finally, I try to foster a collaborative and inclusive environment by actively seeking out the perspectives and ideas of my team members."

What are your long-term career goals and how does this role fit into those?

"My long-term career goal is to [specific long-term goal]. I believe that this role at [Company] will provide me with the opportunity to [specific ways this role will help you achieve your long-term goal]. I am excited about the chance to learn and grow with this company, and I believe that the skills and experiences I will gain in this role will be valuable assets in achieving my long-term career goal. I am committed to putting in the hard work and dedication necessary to succeed in this role and to achieving my career goals."

How do you work with and motivate a team, especially during times of high stress or pressure?

"I believe that effective communication and clear goal-setting are important for motivating a team. When working with a team, I make sure to clearly communicate expectations and deadlines, and to provide regular updates and feedback on progress. I also try to foster a positive and collaborative team environment, and to be supportive and encouraging of my team members. When faced with high levels of stress or pressure, I try to stay calm and focused, and to encourage my team to do the same. I also try to provide regular breaks and opportunities for myself and other team members to recharge and refocus."

Can you share an example of a situation where you had to adapt to a new or changing environment?

"One situation where I had to adapt to a new environment was when I started my first internship after graduation. I was transitioning from a structured academic environment to a more fast-paced and dynamic work environment. I had to quickly learn the company's processes and systems, and to adapt to a new team and culture. To succeed in this new environment, I made an effort to be proactive in asking questions and seeking out resources and support from my colleagues and manager. I also tried to be flexible and open to learning new things, as I understood that there would be a steep learning curve in my new role. Through hard work and determination, I was able to successfully adapt to the new environment and thrive during my internship.

How do you approach problem-solving and decision-making?

"I approach problem-solving and decision-making by first identifying the root cause of the problem and gathering as much information as possible about it. I then consider a range of potential solutions and evaluate their pros and cons. I try to be open-minded and consider different perspectives, and I also seek out the input and feedback of my team members and colleagues. Once I have gathered all of the necessary information and considered all of the options, I make a decision based on what I believe is the best course of action. I also make sure to communicate my decision and the reasoning behind it to my team and any relevant stakeholders."

Do you have any questions for me?

This is one of the most common interview questions for graduates and can often catch graduates off guard. Whilst it may seem simple, there really is a wrong answer and that's to simply say "no, you've answered all of my questions already". This is unlikely to leave the interviewer with a positive impression and will indicate you're either not overly interested in the role or company, are unable to think with real depth on the conversation to come up with any questions.

Asking about salary expectations, holiday entitlement, remote working arrangements or any other simple questions is unlikely to leave a better impression than asking nothing at all either.

The best candidates will ask questions referring back to an earlier discussion point, questioning that based on some prior knowledge they may have of the industry. You could also ask something which wasn't covered during the interview, but which you're interested to explore based on something you may have read in the news.

Questions should be challenging enough to really make the interviewer think, and asked with genuine intrigue to show you're not asking for the sake of it, but because you're genuinely interested in the answer.

There's no model answer here, but go prepared with 2-3 really strong questions and it'll instantly help you stand out against other candidates interviewing for the same graduate job.

By reviewing these common graduate interview questions and practicing your answers beforehand, you'll be well-prepared to showcase your skills and fit for the role and company to the interviewer. Remember to customise your answers to fit your own background and experiences, and to stay authentic and genuine in your responses. Good luck with your job search and interviews!

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