Get prepared for your graduate interview with these common interview questions and answers.
Having an interview is one of the scariest things ever. It can be super nerve-wracking sitting in a room where people are staring at you and grilling you, especially when you just want to do well and get the job.
Being confident in a job interview is attractive to prospective employers, while everyone gets nervous in interviews and that’s completely normal (and no good employer should mark you down for nerves), being able to answer the interview questions clearly and confidently will get you points.
While interviews can be unpredictable, it’s not always a complete guessing game as there are some questions that are almost certain to come up, regardless of what job you’re applying for.
If you do have a graduate interview coming up, get familiar with these questions and prepare answers to them so you won’t be totally thrown off if they do come up in your interview. While employers like to throw in rogue questions here and there, being prepared for the ones that are almost always going to come up can help you to smash your interview and secure a second interview, or even better, the job.
Common graduate interview questions and answers
1. Tell me about yourself
You may be surprised that the first question interviews will almost always ask is about you personally, and not about the job.
This is quite a broad question, so try and keep it relevant. Tell the interviewer what uni you went to and what degree you did and any relevant skills you’ve picked from your CV. Eg “My name is ___ I just graduated from the University of Manchester with a 2:1 and I studied Marketing.” Then lead into your interests career-wise and what’s brought you to the interview.
2. Why do you want this job?
A hard question, as realistically the answer is probably to have a job. However, interviews want to know why they should hire you over anyone else so this is your chance to delve into your interests in the field and any relevant experience you might’ve had that will make you suitable for the job. Make sure you tell them how much you’d love to get into this particular sector and why, if you seem passionate about the field and have hobbies in your spare time that show this, this is a big bonus over someone who has just applied for the sake of applying for a job.
3. Why do you want to work for us?
This is your chance to show that you’ve done your research, which is crucial for landing a job. Talk about the company and everything you know about it. If they’re a well-known company you can say that it’s always been your dream to work for them or that you’ve used their products for years. If it’s a smaller company or start-up say how much you want to work for a start-up and help them to grow.
You can also talk about things like the company culture or values and say that it seems like a great place to work and you think you’d be happy there and would fit in with the team.
4. What are your greatest strengths?
This question is to show awareness. The interview will want you to pick out 2-3 skills that you know you’re good at, that will help you to succeed in this job. While it can seem embarrassing, the interviewer will want to see how confident you are at listing your talents and now’s the time to be honest.
These can be transferable skills, such as organisation, listening, or attention to detail or things that are super-specific to the job, such as communication (like talking on the phone or writing) or analysing data. It can also be skills that show that you’re the kind of person who will fit in well to the workplace, such as being empathetic or a people person.
5. What are your greatest weaknesses?
This isn’t a trick question. Like the previous question, interviewers want to see if you can pick out areas of improvement within yourself. The best way to manage this question is to provide examples, but also show how you want to improve too. For example, “public speaking but I had lots of practice on my presenting skills in my final year of uni, so I’m getting better”.
For this question, it’s best to avoid listing skills that are directly beneficial to this job. So, if you’re applying for a job that’s going to require a lot of writing, you don’t want to say that it’s something you struggle with. Instead, focus on skills that maybe you won’t need straight away or for the role at all, like presenting or making phone calls (if your job doesn’t require it).
Really, interviewers are just looking for you to be able to pick out some things that you’re not great at, but could easily improve on during your time at the company.
6. What is your greatest achievement?
While this is a broad question, you should try and keep it relevant to the job. As a graduate, you’re not going to have loads of experience within the workplace, so try and lead this back to uni. A good place to start is your dissertation, as this would’ve taken a lot of time and research and is most likely on a topic that you’re passionate about (even if it’s not entirely relevant to the job). Not to mention being able to say that you worked hard on something and got the grades to prove it is definitely something to be proud of.
Other options are committees or projects that you worked on while at uni, for example organising events or volunteering. Whatever you choose, if it demonstrates hard work and leadership, it’s going to reflect well on you.
Try and avoid the cliche of graduating from university- remember that the majority of candidates will have done the same and unless you had to overcome significant obstacles to get there, it’s not that amazing to employers.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Again, this isn’t a trick question. Interviews want to see if you’re ambitious and career-driven and have really thought about your future. In all honesty, you probably won’t know exactly where you want to be but you can definitely use this question to your advantage.
This is the opportunity to talk about your career, not personal achievements like getting married or travelling (but that can come into it if you word your answer correctly), for example, “managing my own team and travelling the world.” While employers want to know about your career goals, personal goals like travelling or buying a house require hard work to get there so let them know that’s what you intend to do over the next 5 years.
You can also add in a line about the company and how you’d like to help them execrate in their goals over the next few years, as this will really impress employers.
8. What are your hobbies and interests?
This is the time to talk about what you like to do in your spare time, as employers want to get to know a bit about your personality. While this is the time to talk about your general interests outside of work, you can definitely use this question to talk about things relevant to the job too, for example, if you’re applying for a social media position you can say that you enjoy spending time on social media and analysing the latest trends. Your hobbies might even align with the mission of the company too, which is a bonus.
9. What would your friends say about you?
This is a bit of a think outside of the box question, but don’t let it throw you off. You can answer this simply by saying “they’d say I’m the leader” or “they’d say that I’m the one they come to when they need honest advice”. Both of these show that you’d be good within a team, or good at giving feedback. Try and avoid personal attributes, such as funny, hard-working etc. as these are cliches.
10. Can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with a difficult situation and how you handled it?
You can answer this question to referring back to a time in uni, or on your placement year if you did one. The interview will want you to pick out a time where you had to deal with something challenging (eg a group presentation where someone wasn’t pulling their weight) and how you effectively dealt with the situation.
In any job, you’ll probably have situations that go wrong that need resolving quickly, so the interviewer wants to know how you handle tricky situations and if you’ll be able to handle them if you get the job.
This could also be a situation that happened in your part-time job, such as dealing with a difficult customer but continuing to provide good customer service. It doesn’t matter if it’s not super relevant to the position you’re applying for, as the employer wants to see transferable skills.
11. Tell me about a time you demonstrated (skill)?
This will probably be a skill relevant to the job you’re applying for, such as customer service or leadership. Again, think back to your part-time job or group coursework in uni and pick out an example. This question is almost certain to come up, so definitely think of examples that have happened before your interview so you’re prepared and won’t have to spend ages thinking about it.
12. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
Most people will encounter stressful situations at work and find it tricky to deal with. The interviewer wants to know that when these situations arise, you’ll be able to handle them and rise to the challenge. You could say that you need to take a step back to take a breather, then work on prioritising what’s important in order to work around the problem. You could also include some examples of stressful situations you’ve been in at work or uni and how you handled them, to show that you’re used to working around stress.
12. Do you prefer working independently or within a team?
This is kind of a trick question, as unless you’re working as a freelancer you’re probably going to be doing both at whatever job you apply for. Be honest and say which one you prefer, but show that you’re happy to do either “eg. I think I really excel within a team as I love bouncing off of other people’s ideas and collaborative working, but I find it easiest to focus and prioritise when I’m on my own”. Again, include examples of where you’ve worked well both on your own and in a team.
13. Why did you apply for this job?
This is your chance to say how much you want this job in particular. Whether it’s because you love the company and their values or you love the company culture. You could also say that you think you’d be good at it based on your skills, and it seems like the perfect step into the field that you’re after.
14. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Make sure that your answer aligns with the values of the company. So, if the company is big on having a relaxing and laidback vibe within the office, this is what you want to say you prefer. You can do your research on LinkedIn and Glassdoor to find out more about the work environment at the company that you’re applying for.
15. What are your goals?
This is your chance to show that you’re ambitious and career-driven. Talk about your long-term targets and wishes for your career and progression. Employers like to see that you’ve thought about your future and even better, thought about your future at the company.
16. Describe yourself in 3 words?
This is a bit of a scary question and it can stump a lot of graduates in their interviews. It’s not a trick question, so try and prepare for this question before you enter the interview room so you know what to say. You can use this question to highlight your personality in a way that will fit in in the workplace, for example, creative, collaborative, empathetic, determined, ambitious, positive, friendly, thoughtful, caring, driven, adaptable or reliable.
17. What motivates you?
While the obvious answer may be money, it’s best to avoid mentioning that for this type of question. Instead say things like developing your career, growing as a person, a great work culture, overcoming challenges and fears or your goals.
18. How many traffic lights are there in London?
This type of question can definitely catch you off guard. The interviewer doesn’t want the exact answer, but they do want to see you approach the question with logic and demonstrate good problem-solving skills. Definitely Google potential ways to approach this question before walking into your interview!
19. What are your salary expectations?
The dreaded question. As graduates this can be tricky to navigate as this will be your first full-time job, so you don’t have much to go on. Research graduate salaries for your industry and look on Glassdoor to see if you can find out more about the type of salaries at the company you’re applying for.
20. Do you have any questions?
The answer should always be yes! Some good questions to close on are “what’s the progression like”, “what would I be doing on a typical day” or “what would my first week look like”. Having no questions for the interviewer shows that you’re unprepared so always write down a few before you go in.