10 graduate job interview questions explained
Interview questions are often not as straightforward as they sound. We’ve all had the one-off interview question that throws off the rest of the dialogue and hurts your chances of getting the job. However, despite the popular opinion that interviews are meant to confound the candidate, the function of an interview is to determine if you are the best person for the role. An interviewer’s job is to facilitate this function. On the flip side, the other function of the interviewer is to be an ambassador for the organization and answer any questions you may have so that you can determine whether the company is a good fit for you.
Questions pertaining to your past and current work experience is the best way for an interviewer to extrapolate whether your future is in the organization you are applying for. Likewise, your research for the interview and your final questions to the interviewer is the best approach as a candidate to determine whether the company is a means to your career goals and graduate job fulfillment.
Standard questions that seem to be innocuous often carry deeper meaning. It’s the candidate’s responsibility to understand this, read between the lines and develop a response appropriate to what the interviewer is looking for. Here’s a breakdown of the most commonly asked and baffling questions in a job interview that often carry an additional meaning.
Tell me about yourself
Candidates usually start to rattle off their life story when an interviewer begins with this question, but it’s not quite what a potential employer is looking for. As this is often the first query that leads the interview it’s really important to nail it since it sets the tone for the rest of the interview. The best way to respond is to introduce yourself, how you got into the field that you are applying for, and how your past experience is pertinent for the job. It’s your moment to let your professional persona shine.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
As a graduate, it can be hard to express where you will be in the next 5 years let alone the next 5 months. Even if you have an ambitious 5-year plan, it’s important to cater your response to fit the job you are applying for.
Ultimately this question is asked to see how your career goals align with the company and to determine whether the company fits in your future long term plans or if you plan to leave a few months upon hiring. Start off with your excitement for the job, your expectations for your career and the possible progression for your career, and how you plan to become a specialist in the area with more experience.
Not clear on the 5-year mark or your career path? It’s okay not to know. Show how the role can help carve out a career and aid in the development of a long-term plan showing you are committed to the job and excited for the growth.
Can you tell me why there’s a gap in your work history?
Taking a gap year to go abroad is increasingly common with most graduates. Many of us take some time off working for one reason or another. The gap occasionally can translate to potential employers in a questionable light. Companies are looking for high growth candidates. A gap in employment may be perceived as stagnation. Use your response to address the gap in a favourable manner. Show what you learned during the gap and how it can apply to the position. Demonstrate any certifications or courses you’ve taken and any freelance, volunteering or personal projects you undertook during the pause in employment. Prove your commitment to your growth and advancing of your skills and your gap year won't be an issue.
What do you know about the company? Do you understand what we do?
We often hear responses like, “I checked out your website and understand that your organization does x, y and z. But I’d love for you to tell me more about it.” Passively reading about your potential employer is not enough. You need to familiarize yourself with their products or services, see what works and doesn’t work and have ideas of your own. Understand how the company functions, how they make money and critically think about the organization. Your research preparation and thinking about the business illustrates your commitment to the role. It speaks volumes if you are invested and willing to put the time and energy which your response will prove.
Do you have any questions?
Not having any questions shows lack of preparation. It’s a missed opportunity to create a dialogue with the potential employer. On the other hand, self-centred questions regarding vacation time and benefits can signify lack of interest in the role. Like any subject the more you research something, the more you understand how things work and can come up with solutions and see problems that are occasionally overlooked. Go ahead show off your research. Ask them what sets them apart from their competition. Since this usually signifies the end of an interview, it’s important to leave the interviewer with thoughtful questions and a good impression.
What do you do in your free time?
New graduate candidates are prone to become flustered with the more personal questions. It’s important to remember you are in an interview and the interviewer poses this question is to understand whether you fit within the company culture. For example, if you are applying as a writer in a creative agency, stating any hobbies that relate to staying current in the creative and arts world is beneficial to the position. Avoid blurting out personal details that do not demonstrate you in a professional light. However, this question is also used to determine if your hobbies will interfere with the role. Remain neutral with activities and interests, and have valuable transferrable skills gained from your hobbies that are in common with the role.
Are there any other roles you are considering?
By not having any roles lined up, you don’t want to seem like you lack ambition, drive or that companies are not interested you. An interviewer poses this question to determine whether you are truly interested in the specific field or if your job search is broad and unspecific. Listing diverse applications different from the role you are interviewing for comes off as uncommitted to the potential employer’s field. Highlight your interest for the role and company, as well as the field you’ve applied for. Show that you have been preparing your applications to roles similar to that one. If you are just starting your job search, not having other things lined up is normal. Display your enthusiasm for the role, company and field in the interview to provide an appropriate response.
How many delivery drivers are there in London? How many cows are there in Canada?
These brainteaser oddball questions are meant to put you on the spot. It’s to see if you get flustered or if you can think logically through a question. It's a test of your ability of keep your composure under pressure, think on your feet and remain enthusiastic relating to your ability to handle curveballs at work
What are your salary expectations?
Salary expectations is a tricky subject to navigate. The question is an indicator of your self-worth. Your response shows your belief in your abilities and skills that you can bring to the table and how you value your work. To prepare for this inevitable question, understand what you're worth. Most likely you have a rough idea for the range in salary that is offered and how similar companies pay. Determine how much you need, where your skills and experience fall on the spectrum and aim for a salary range that is appropriate with these factors.
Why are your leaving your job?
The general consensus is to avoid negativity when answering this question and overall in the interview. Your response is very revealing to the interviewer and is a window to your professional character. Interviewers are curious whether you left for a good reason and on good terms. Discuss the possible opportunities your potential employer can offer you, that you are lacking in the current role.