Preparing for a job interview can be tough, especially if you’re a recent graduate. Fortunately, most interviewers ask similar questions, so you can plan your answers in advance.
Before your interview, take some time to go over the possible questions and come up with some good answers. Practising them out loud is a great way to boost your confidence – just make sure that they don’t sound rehearsed on the day.
Here are some examples of the most common questions you’ll face.
Tell me about yourself.
This is something you will be asked frequently at interviews, and is often one of the hardest things to respond to. Instead of rambling on about your entire employment history, take some time to plan something brief to say that shows exactly why you’re a good fit for the role.
Our tip for this question is to tell a story that explains how you became interested in the industry, what your goals are, and how this role fits into your plan. Pad out the story with some accomplishments and add a bit of your own personality, and try to make it memorable.
Here’s an example: “My parents built our family home when I was young. This sparked my interest in construction, and I am keen to manage major projects one day. I’ve just finished my degree and now I’m looking to get the experience I need to fulfil my dream.”
What are your strengths?
While it can be tempting just to rattle off a long list of skills when answering this question, you’re more likely to bore the interviewer than impressing them. Anyone can claim to be good at something – what you need to do is prove it.
Come up with three honest strengths that are relevant to the role and then provide concrete examples to back up each one. For instance, if you’re good at seeing projects through to completion, talk about a specific project and why your input was so important.
What are your weaknesses?
The classic companion to the strengths question, and just as tricky. You should never answer this with “I have no weaknesses”; neither do you want to give yourself a back-handed compliment such as “I work too hard”.
The interviewer’s goal in asking this question is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. Pick something you know you need to work on and then show how you’re already trying to improve. This demonstrates that you’re able to identify your weaknesses as well as your willingness for self-improvement.
For instance: “I’ve always struggled with public speaking, especially when giving presentations to large teams. I’m trying to find more opportunities to present during smaller meetings as way of working myself up to larger audiences.”
Why do you want to work here?
Out of all the questions on this list, this one is the hardest to answer without preparation. As you research the company, make notes about what appeals to you about it. Then, when you give your answer, you’ll not only demonstrate that you’ve done your research, but you’ll have several talking points to choose from.
You should mention the things that make the company unique in the industry and why you were drawn to its specific approach or mission. The more personal your answer is, the more likely it is to resonate with the interviewer.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is used to get an idea of your ambitions and goals. Be honest in what you hope to achieve, and then talk about how this position will help you get there. Even if you’re not really sure what you want to be doing further down the line, you can talk about how this role could help you better understand the industry and help you find your path.
Avoid mentioning that you see yourself working for that company in particular – at best, you’ll come off overconfident, at worst, sycophantic. Talking about the traits you’re looking for in a future role first, then coming around to how this role measures up is a much better tactic.
How many ping pong balls fit in a jumbo jet?
Brainteasers like this one are common in quantitative roles. The idea here is to see how you approach a problem, rather than how fast you can calculate the volume of a jet.
It’s important to remember that your final answer isn’t as important as showing how you got there, so you need to explain your process. Blurting out “375,405”, even if it is the correct answer, will get you less credit than talking through the problem and demonstrating your skills in logic and reasoning.
What typical defects would you expect to find in a 1960s building?
In a competency-based interview, the interviewer will ask technical questions about your industry as a way of gauging your knowledge and skills. In some cases, this can take the form of a written test, but more often it will be part of the interview. You can always ask whether the interview will be competency-based when you are scheduling it.
The best way to prepare for such interviews is to go over the job description and consider the specific areas of knowledge they may want to test you on. If you get stuck on a question, talk it through, as you would with the quantitative ones. This is a good way to show your problem-solving skills and prove that you won’t crumble under pressure.