At Ascent, we provide free resources to help you throughout college, which may include links to third-party websites (where security and privacy policies may differ from Ascent’s). For our disclaimer, please click here.
After perfecting your resume, cover letter, and job application, you finally landed the interview for a job or internship! Landing an interview is a big deal, so make sure you take the time to plan and prepare. We’ve all had our part-time jobs at the ice cream shop, city recreation center, or pizza place, but this is the big leagues – this is the beginning of your future career.
Going into your first professional interview can be intimidating, but don’t worry – we’re here to help. Here is what Ascent found to be the 7 most common student interview questions to prepare for.
Most interviews start with some variation of the same question: “Can you tell me a little about yourself?”. It should be easy, right? According to The Muse career coach Theresa Merrill, this common question often leaves candidates stumped.
It tends to be tricky because it is so open. What should I talk about? My favorite music? Movies? Recently binged Netflix shows?
The Muse shared a way to help you answer this question without hesitation: using the present, past, and future formula.
Your present section might tackle:
If you are a recent college graduate, then your past section should include:
Your future section should cover:
In most interviews, you will likely be asked to describe your greatest strengths and weaknesses. You should prepare at least 3 items for each question – you never know; they may ask for multiple examples!
If you need help identifying your greatest strengths, ask someone that knows you well to name the top three characteristics they’d use to describe you. You can ask your parents, grandparents, friends, or a mentor.
Remember, don’t answer the question by simply stating, “My biggest strength is leadership.” Your interviewer wants to hear about specific examples when you believe that you demonstrated your strength. For example, to illustrate leadership as a strength, you might mention the group projects you led in class, being a leader on your sports teams, or serving as a member on the executive board for one of your organizations. Try and think of an example that clearly shows how your leadership led to the success of the group.
The same rules apply to your weaknesses. If you need help identifying your greatest weaknesses, it might help to ask someone who knows you well to give you a list of what they consider to be your top areas for improvement.
Pro Tip: When sharing what your main weaknesses are with the interviewer, never say, “My weaknesses are…” Instead, rephrase your response to describe what you believe to be your main opportunities for improvement. For example, lead with something like “A few areas I am currently working on are…”
Answering the question in this format demonstrates that you are already aware of your weaknesses and are taking affirmative steps to improve them. For example, if your weakness is time management, you might mention how you use Google Calendar or another free calendar tool to manage your time better. Ultimately, whether your perceived weakness is time management or something else, you ultimately want to show that you have what it takes to identify and work constructively to improve upon your weaknesses. (And remember, no one is perfect!)
As a student, you’re probably just at the beginning stages of outlining your future career goals, so it’s okay to not have this 100% figured out by the time you start interviewing for a full-time position. Below are some ideas on how you can answer this common student interview question with precision and ease.
Your short-term goals might include:
Your long-term goals might include:
Your short- and long-term goals may become more defined as you navigate through your college career – especially after taking more classes, holding internships or other related positions, and networking in college.
If you’re interviewing for a full-time position, illustrate how your broader goals relate to the company and the position for which you are applying. They don’t want to hire someone that only wants to stay with the company for six months. You don’t have to say you plan to stay with the company for the rest of your life but be realistic and if possible demonstrate how you plan to bring longer-term value to the company.
One of the most common student interview questions is around behavioral situations and the question usually starts with, “Tell me about a time…”. Indeed shares how you can use one of the most well-known interview techniques, The STAR Method, to help answer this question:
Preparing your answers around this technique will ensure you effectively describe your skills during the interview. In this particular case:
Similar to question #4, when asked situational or behavioral questions starting with “Tell me about a time…” always refer to The STAR Method:
In this particular case:
It’s important to ask yourself this question beforehand and determine why you genuinely want the position. Applying for many positions is often a reliable way to ultimately secure a job, but you should focus on the opportunity that interests you the most. Your interviewer will likely want to know what drove you to apply for their position as opposed to others. In other words, why do you want to be a part of their team?
According to Business News Daily, there are four reasons to pursue your passions in a job:
If your interviewer feels you don’t really want the job, odds are they won’t give it to you. Be genuine and always apply for the jobs that spark your interest.
Aside from the individual growth, what can you bring to the table that makes you a unique candidate? There may be others with similar education, background, work experience, or leadership skills, so how will you stand out from the rest?
We all have something that makes us unique. Highlight your relevant strengths throughout your interview to illustrate how you would go above and beyond your job duties to be an excellent team member.
According to Indeed, it’s important to prepare at least 5 questions beforehand for your interviewer. Chances are that your interviewer will cover the answers to some of your questions at the beginning of the interview when they give you a general overview of the company and the open position. You can never be over-prepared though, so coming with at least 5 questions is a great place to start.
Preparing questions to ask your interviewer is imperative, but it is even more important to ask the right questions. Don’t ask questions you could have easily gotten from the company website – that might show that you didn’t do your research. Ask thoughtful and insightful questions that demonstrate you genuinely want to learn more about the company or the person interviewing you.
Here are some examples of thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer:
At the interview stage, you’re well on your way to finally getting your foot in the door at the company of your dreams. Hopefully, these 7 common student interview questions will help you feel even more confident and prepared before your BIG interview day.
For more tips on how to prepare for phone or video interviews, please visit our blog.