50 Classic Graduate Job Interview Questions and Answers​

Graduate hiring managers know that this is likely to be your first job interview and you’re going to be nervous. Remember, this is okay. Over the years, I have hired people who’ve made a complete mess of their job interview, but because they showed the right attitude to learning, they were hired.

The Problem

The problem with the internet today, everyone has access to apply for graduate programs all over the world. As a result, companies are receiving thousands of applications for graduate programs each week. It is very likely, your first interview will be with the company’s applicant tracking system, the second with their psychometric tests, the third is likely to be in a group interview, and only the fourth interview meet the hiring manager. 

The Good News

The good news. The applicant tracking system has ruled you have the type of profile that the company wants to hire. The psychometric tests that you have passed show you’re the right type of candidate for the company. The only thing left is the interview process. Generally, companies will require graduates to meet multiple members of the team. While it is virtually impossible to predict every question that those team members are going to ask, it’s not very difficult to predict the majority. 

Interview Preparation

Across this website, we’ve talked about job interview preparation. When you’ve done a few thousand interviews, it’s easy to tell the candidates that have prepared and those that have not. As a result, I would highly recommend that you check out job interview preparation here. In this section, we are going to focus on job interview questions and how to answer those questions correctly. 

Tell Me About Yourself

This is a very standard job interview question whether you’re interviewing as a graduate or an experienced hire. To make the most of this question, you should keep your answer to the point, however, make sure you talk about both your studies, hobbies and any key achievements that you’ve had to date. As a closing paragraph, make sure you explain in detail why you want to work with the company.

This is also a great time to get a few critical facts about the company across the hiring manager. Nothing will show great enthusiasm for a company than knowing plenty about it. If you need help preparing a short presentation, there is help here that you can adapt to your specific needs. 

I Noticed From Your CV, You’ve Played Football, Rugby, Sailing, Rowing……….?

Remember hiring managers want to hire graduates like themselves. If the hiring manager ever brings up this question during a graduate interview, the chances are, they’re also interested in the sport and will be more than happy to talk.

This is an excellent opportunity to build rapport with the hiring manager and get your interview off to a flying start. Remember to ask the hiring manager if they’ve ever played. It’s a great interview opener to get the hiring manager talking about their experience and might find that you know similar people. 

Where Else Are You Interviewing/Applied To?

Internal recruiters and hiring managers will often ask this question to check that you can demonstrate a good consistency for your career. If you’ve applied to a law firm, it’s reasonable to assume that you’ve applied to all the big law firms.

If, however you tell a law firm that you’re also interviewing to become a sales manager, it could show that you’re not serious about a carer in law. When answering this question, it’s a great idea to say that “you’re waiting to find out the results of this interview, before choosing where to apply next.”

If you’re going to give a list of companies, make sure they’re relevant (related to the business), have similar prestigiousness (Apple does not have the same prestigiousness as Nick Jones’s Computers) and have similar Job titles (it will not look good for employers to find out that you are looking at a selection of different job titles).

Why Did You Choose Your University?

This is a question will often come up if this is your first job after University. There is no correct answer as the interviewer is trying to see how your brain functions concerning decision-making and thought process. To answer this question, you need to provide a good well thought out answer that makes sense to the average person. There must have been something professional that was dragging you towards this University.

An answer containing “it had the best nightlife” probably is not going to help you in an interview situation. 

Why Did You Decide To Choose This Career?

This is a question that does come up mainly in graduate interviews. With this interview question, the interviewer is trying to work out how your brain works and whether you can come up with a logical reason to why you choose this specific career path even though you have little if any work experience. 

Too often, and not just graduates, candidates think they want a specific career, however, once they’ve started working change their mind as it’s not for them. This a colossal waste of everyone’s time and thus this question tries to understand whether you have put any thought into this process.

The advice here is to make sure that you provide a short, concise answer that explains both what it’s like to work in their industry and that you have the skills to do this job. This will take some preparation, but it’s something you should be easily able to talk about before you walk into the interview room.

What Has Your School/University Taught You That Can Be Used In Your Career?

Another great question that will often be used in Graduate interviews. To give a professional answer to this question you need to make sure you keep yourself away from the clichés that we’ve all heard before.

“College taught me to work hard when I was studying for an exam.” Yes, this is a right answer, but we have all heard it a million times. By providing this answer, you’re not exactly separating yourself from the crowd. There are a selection of great answers here; however, my top would be – “My education was not only focused on learning inside the classroom but also directed to skills that would be useful outside of the classroom.

An example, communication skills which I practiced at our employment networking events, or presentation skills which were used to present information that we have collected and analysed.” 

What Would You Change If You Lived Your Life Over Again?

This question is aimed at finding out whether you’re happy with your life’s choice. It’s generally a good idea to mention that you’re pleased with the choices that you have made so far, but also make a point to include a crucial turning point or significant opportunity that you have missed during your life.

If you cannot think of an example of a significant missed opportunity, a great answer could include “that you wished you had done more work experience in the chosen career given that this is what you want to do for the rest of your career.” 

How Would Your Professors Describe You?

This question is all about the reference check and whether your professor will give you a reference check.

Most hiring managers will ask this question, and thus I would recommend that you get yourself a reference from your professor a college before you leave. This way you can present it to the hiring manager when asked. 

How Has Your Education Prepared You For Your Career?

For most candidates, this is often a tough question to answer. Today, candidates do not study the same topic that they’re interviewing for. On a personal note, I studied Geography before moving into Head-Hunting.

Yes, there are exceptions, such as finance or law, but the rest need to focus on the behavioral examples in your educational background which specifically align with the required competencies for the career.

As an example, your answer could contain something along the lines of, “My education has allowed me to focus on not only learning the fundamentals but also given me lots of opportunities to practice the theory during role plays within classes. As an example, recently I took the lead role in an analysis and presentation class where we analysed the………. 

What Do You Think Is Your Greatest Weakness

This question will be asked during any graduate interview as it asks you to look at yourself objectively and think about your weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses and generally, anyone who says they don’t have weaknesses, cannot look at themselves objectively. To answer the question, you need to talk about a weakness, but also talk about how you deal with this weakness.

As an example, I am very unorganized. As a result, this means that I must carry this diary around everywhere I go and write everything that I need to do inside it. Once I have completed the task, I cross it off my to-do list. In this example, we’ve given an example of a weakness but also showed how to deal with the weakness. Obviously, please don’t tell everyone you use a diary if you don’t have one with you. 

What’s Your Greatest Strength?

This question can be answered well by simply giving the hiring manager a good strength such as, “I have a great personality” and then go onto explain how you can use that key strength business. Something like, “because of my personality, I find it very easy to build business relationships, which will help in business.” The problem with taking this approach, everyone does it.

As a hiring manager, 95% of candidates come out with the same cheesy line that they’ve got out of an interview book. That said, the remain five percent, and the five percent that stand out from the crowd, spend a few minutes doing some interview preparation, and with a little bit of research, can excel with their answer.

If you look at the job description or the company “About Page” before your job interview, you should be able to find out what the employer is looking for in their employees. Maybe you’re interviewing at Microsoft who like to hire high achievers who excel inside and outside of the classroom, or perhaps you’re interviewing at Google who look for candidates with “role-related knowledge,” rather than a specialization in one specific area. The point, you understand what the company wants to hear and use this as your key strength when answering the question. 

Why Should I Hire You?

This is a very simple job interview question to answer, but one that most candidates make a complete mess of. Generally, your average candidate starts by listing out the obvious answers such as, “because I’m hard working” or “I’m very quick at learning new topics.”

Like above, 95% of candidates spit out the same lines which after a few interviews, gets very annoying. If you want to answer the question, you need to think of an original answer that your competition will not have thought of. The best way starts by connecting your skills with those mentioned in the job description.

Follow this up by explaining how you want to work for the company based on the culture, any specific training programs or anything else that you’ve learned about the company. 

Three Characteristics Which Make You A Good Employee?

Another interview question that asks whether you’ve read the job description. If you’ve read the job description or the company “About Page,” answering the question becomes very simple as you know what characteristics the company is looking for, and more importantly, what they’re not.

As a result, you can very easily read out three characteristics that this company is looking for and you will have a great, relevant answer.If you’ve not read the job description, and 99% of candidates don’t, you’ll need to make something up.

I would usually talk around your School or University successes, your work experience and how this is relevant to working with this company, and something that shows how you work well in a team and therefore shows that you’re a team player. 

Sell Me This Pen?

The “sell me this pen” question has been used countless times in movies, sales aids and job interviews across the world. If you’re applying for a sales related role, this question or a variation of it will come up in your job interview.

To answer it you have a choice, either take the wolf of wall-street approach and take the pen, while asking the interviewer to write their name down on some paper. The idea is that because you have taken their pen, they will now buy your pen to write their name down.

The second option, and especially if it’s a nice pen, take it and put it in your pocket, while talking about how lovely the pen is. When the hiring manager asks for their pen back, give them the price. If they refuse, tell them you’ll keep it.

The other option is to pick up the pen and ask the question, “What are you looking for in a pen” and then try to close of every point on the pen until the interviewer has no choice but to buy the pen that they have asked for.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years

The worst possible answer to this interview question would be to say something along the lines of, “in your job.” Hiring managers want candidates that are determined, but they also don’t want to make trouble for themselves by hiring someone who is going to aim for their job from day one.

The best way to answer this question is to talk about career goals and experience gained. This way you’re showing that you’re committed to growing with the company but are more interested in knowledge vs. promotions.

What Would You Do If Your Chosen Career Became Neglected and Forgotten? What Would Your Next Career Be In?

This is a trick question that has been designed to find out what you know about the industry and where it will grow to over time. The truth is there are very few industries that will ultimately die out over our lifetime. That said, there’re a few that will evolve into different areas.

Depending on whom you believe, Investment Banking could be run by computers and have the odd manager reviewing the output. To answer this question well, you need to explain why your chosen career field will never completely die out due to the following reasons………!

It’s a great idea to then talk about how the industry will evolve and suggest what alternative fields you might consider.Watch out never to stray too far from the original career or your commitment to this field will be questioned.

Give Me An Example of When Your Have Shown Leadership Skills

This question is essentially it’s a competency-based job interview question that tries to use an example from your previous life to show how you’re going to react to a specific scenario in the future. Generally, it’s expected that this question or a variation of it will come up during any graduate interview and therefore this is a question you should prepare for.

The problem with management question across graduate interview is candidate feel they don’t have management experience and therefore often really struggle to answer the question. If you prepare and think outside of the box, you could quickly come up with a great answer where you’ve led a project during your studies, or during your work experience.

As with every competency-based job interview question, it’s vital that you follow the STAR approach to answering the question, where you set the situation, talk about the task at hand and how you went about achieving that task. At the end, make sure you provide a result. 

What’s the Sum of The Numbers from 1 to 100

Math’s questions have an annoying habit of popping up during nearly all the graduate interviews that I have ever taken part in. This is probably my favorite question that often pops up in graduate interviews.

What’s the sum of the Numbers from 1 to 100. It’s a great question and one that’s very easy to answer. For this question very simply, you need to times 50 by 101 to equal 5050, given that there are 50 pairs which each sum to 101. 

You have a Three Litre Bottle and a Five Litre Bottle, How Do You Get Four Litres Of Liquid?

To complete this task, you need to start by filling the five-liter bottle to the top before pouring its contents into the three-liter bottle meaning that you now have two liters in the five-liter bottle.

Next, pour out the content of the three-liter bottle and put the content of the five-liter bottle in the three-liter bottle. At this point there should be two liters’, in a three-liter bottle meaning that you can fill up the five-liter bottle to the top, fill up the three-liter bottle with the five-liter bottle, meaning that you have poured out one liter, with four liters remaining. 

Describe A Situation Where You’ve Analysed Data And Made A Recommendation Based On The Results

Another competency-based interview question which is very likely to be asked during your job interview. Again, like above, you’ll need to think outside the box to correctly answer the question. 

Unless you’ve had a long work placement during your college, you’re unlikely to have ever gathered data and made recommendations based on results. Usually, when hiring managers ask this question, the candidate panics crumbles and gives a stupid answer to something they have made up on the spot. The trick to answering the question is not to use something from your limited working knowledge, but to use an example from your degree and tailor it to the question being asked.

Try to focus on an extended project and make sure that you go into detail about both how you gathered the details, but also how you analysed the data to formulate your recommendations. 

Give Me An Example Of When You Have Dealt With A Difficult Person? What Did You Do To Overcome This?

Unfortunately, difficult people are going to be with you all through your career, and there is nothing you can do to change this. You will have to find a way to work with them while getting the job done. Hiring managers want to know that you can deal with a problematic person whether it be a colleague, client or even a supplier without either being rude.

To answer the question, you need to tailor your response to a specific industry and explain how your ability to maintain professionalism, demonstrate diplomacy and communicate effectively ensured the matter was solved with the least amount of problems. 

What Will Your Academic Career Bring To This Role?

This question will likely be used when you’ve studied a very different subject than the one that you’re applying for jobs in. As an example, you studied Art at a College, but are applying for jobs in Finance. When answering this question, it’s a great idea to try and tailor your response to a specific industry, but also highlight skills that you’ve gained during your education that a hiring manager will be interested in.

As an example, if you studied art, but wanted to work in Finance, skills would include communication skills, analytical skills, writing skills, and presentation skills, all of which are very important for your working career and are transferable from your academic studies. 

Tell Me About Something Creative Your Have Done Recently?

Creativity is critical in your everyday working environment with candidates that have good creativity being in demand. The ability to think outside the box and solve problems within a working environment is something that all employers are looking for; however, there’s a range of great answers that you could give.

The important point, you need to make sure that you’re giving an original answer. So many candidates produce this scripted answer that they think sounds great, but it doesn’t always come across. The best answer I’ve heard recently was through a candidate who talks about setting up a blog, how he designed the blog, wrote the content and attracted an audience. The impressive part of his answer, he’d showed me as the hiring manager his passion for the subject and as a result got the job. 

Why Do You Think You Will Be Successful In This Job?

The key to answering this question correctly is to get across to the hiring manager your passion for the role. If you’re passionate about something, you’re likely to work harder and therefore have a greater chance of being successful. One point though, watch out that you don’t boast about how good you are.

There’re a few ways to do this. Firstly, you could show your work experience across the field. You could also try to compare your strengths to the job description and explain how the career is a match for your key skills or you could think outside the box, create a blog showcasing your passion for the subject and use this to explain why you think you’ll be a success. 

What Motivates You?

The trick to answering this question is to answer very similar to the question above where you’re focusing your answer on something that you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing something, it becomes your passion, and therefore you’re likely to work harder at it over the longer term.

Again, unless your applying for a commission only role, take money out of the equation and focus your answer on the position you’re applying for and talk in detail about how this motivates you. 

How Do You Manage Your Time

If you’re ever asked about managing your time, you’re being asked whether you’re an organised, meticulous person or whether, probably like me, you’re rather wild and end up with a messy desk and very unorganised lifestyle. The trick to answering this question correctly to it use examples of where and how you have managed your time.

A good example, especially for a graduate could be, “during exams I’ve had to organise my time correctly to make sure that I have completed the questions I know the answers to, while spending less time on those that I don’t the answers to.” 

Give Me An Example Of Where You Have Showed Initiative?

Employers want candidates that can solve complex problems and work on their own to complete tasks that have been given to them. To answer this question, firstly you need to think of examples that you have acted upon.

It’s much easier to talk about something in detail that you have done, rather than trying to go into detail on an idea that you never put into action.

Give Me An Example of Your Lateral Thinking?

On the same token as the above where employers want candidates that work on their own, they also want candidates that can think outside the box and provide fresh ideas to complete tasks or maybe provide a solution.

Again, you’re going to need to do some job interview preparation as you need to think of an example where you have faced a complex real-life problem and then discuss and talk about how you overcame this problem with a creative approach.

Give Me An Example of Where You Have Lead A Team?

In any of these situation based questions where you’re asked to provide an example to a situation, you need to use the STAR approach where you describe the situation, the task, your action the result.

In this example, the interviewer is testing your people management skills and therefore whether you will be able to plan, organise and guide the work of others that you could be responsible for early in your career.

The idea here is to pick an example of where you have led the team either through sport, in the classroom or even during any work experience you have taken and describe how and what you did to organise your team. Most importantly and one that all candidate forgets, make sure that you give the result.

Give Me An Example of Where You Have Worked In A Team

As discussed above, hiring managers want candidates that can lead a team, but they also want candidates that can work as part of a larger team. Even if you’re running a small team early in your career, you will still be part of a much larger team that will be run by the department director.

Again, use the STAR approach and describe in detail any problems that arose and most importantly how they were tackled. Finally make sure that you give the result.

Are You A Team Player?

Everyone says yes and so should you, but you also need to go a step further and give examples of where you have been a team player either in sport, outside, in the classroom or even at any work experience sessions that you have had.

If You Had To Change One Thing In Your Life, What Would It Be?

The key to answering this question is to focus your attention on a missed opportunity that you would like to go back and take. I would stay away from something like I wished I had worked harder and keep the answer more towards something that you missed.

How Long Will You Stay With The Company?

You need to make sure that give the impression that you will stay for an extended period, even if you know this role is a stopping gap to your next role. Hiring managers want to know they are going to return on their investment.

If you give the impression that you’re only there for a year, unless you’re perfect for the role and need no input from the hiring manager, you’re not going to be hired because the hiring manager knows that they will not get any form of return. 

Describe The Perfect Working Environment?

This is a tough question to advise on giving it depends on the type of role that you’re applying for, however, keep away from anything negative and focus on themes such as challenging working environment and career growth.

Why Do You Think You Will Be Successful In This Job?

The key to answering this question correctly is to get across to the hiring manager your passion. If you’re passionate about something, you’re likely to work harder and therefore have a great chance of being successful, however you do need to watch out that you don’t boast about how good you are. To get across your passion, try to compare your strengths to the job description.

What Do You Like To Do In Your Free Time?

Employers like candidates that come with hobbies outside of work, however when you’re talking about things that you do outside of work stay away from those activities that involve alcohol. I like getting drunk with my mates probably is not the best thing to say and will not do you any favours.

Describe A Time When You Made A Mistake

We have all made mistakes in life if you’re going to push yourself hard, it’s likely that you will make many more mistakes throughout your career. The key to answering the question is both to admit your mistake, but also provide a reason to how you made up for your mistake and correct the situation.

Tell Me About A Time When You Have Dealt With A Difficult Customer?

Another competency based interview question where you need to use the STAR approach to describe the situation that you faced, your actions and the end result.

Again, you will need to do some preparation and think of an example that you can take into an interview room. It’s a great idea to focus on the fact that you listened to the customer first, and understood the problem before you jumped to conclusions about how you were going to resolve the problem.

Finally like all competency based interview questions, make sure that you describe in detail, how you dealt with the problem and what the result was.

Can You Work Under Pressure?

Again, another question where the standard answer is yes, however the key to answering the question is to use examples either during college where you had coursework to finish in a short period or during any work experience. When you talk about an example, make sure that you go into the details as this is where candidates often face problems. 

Would You Not Be Better Working In A Larger or Different Type of Company

This is a trick question where what the interviewer is saying is, do you want to work here? Your answer needs to be no, and then elaborate on why you want to work and grow your career with this company. If you’re interviewing at a large company focus your attention of career prospects, graduate training and possible relocation, while if you’re interviewing at a smaller company focus your attention on working closely with senior management, learning from their experience and quickly gaining more responsibilities. 

Do You Have Strong Computer Skills?

Talk about the major programs such as Microsoft Office and give some example of where you have used them. As an example, you could say that you’ve completed all your presentations on PowerPoint and have a good understanding of this program, however, if during your work experience, you have used any programs, make sure that you talk about these as well.

What Skills Did You Gain From University?

To answer this question correctly you need to have done your job interview preparation and therefore understood what transferable skills you have, compared to what is required for this role on the job description. If you have done this correctly, it’s a straightforward answer to get right.

Would You Be Willing To Relocate?

Very simple – Be honest. If the answer is yes then saying yes, but don’t change your mind later in the interview process without a very good reason otherwise you’re unlikely to proceed further in the interview process or get another chance with the company.

What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Another question where you should know the answer before you enter the interview room. If not, give a realistic figure for someone with your experience and qualifications and make sure that you back this up with an explanation of how you got to this number. There is no point in picking a number out of thin air because you will not get it and are likely to come across as greedy

When Can You Start?

A very good question that shows the interviewer is interested in your application and wants to take it forwards into a job offer. I would highly recommend that you come across as someone who wants to start straight away. If your answer is another other than tomorrow, then your risking your job offer and the company simply moving onto another candidate.

What Do You Know About The Company?

Another key question that is likely to be asked in an interview that you attend throughout your career. It’s a very easy question to answer if you have done your interview preparation and does not look very good if you can only say a couple of lines about the company. Realistically you need to prepare a one-minute speech about the company, and it’s locations, it’s products, its competitors and its performance to impress. 

Who’s The CEO of This Company?

Probably my favorite question and simply shows whether you have done any interview preparation. Over the years, I’ve met hiring managers that would reject your application based on not knowing this one answer.

What Do You Know About The Job

If you have done your interview preparation, you will know about the job and its responsibilities. If not, the question will be asked, why are you here if you don’t know anything about the job?

Why Should We Hire You?

Don’t knock the competition and more importantly don’t be arrogant and say something online the lines of, “because I am the best”. To answer the question correctly, you need to get across both your passion for the role and more importantly your passion for the company and explain how your education has prepared you to be successful with your chosen career.

Do You Have Any Questions For Me

Your answer needs to be yes as this shows that you’re interested in the role and the company and want to know more. If you need help with questions to ask, there is a list of questions to ask at the end of your job interview here. If you need help with any other job interview questions, write them in the comments below, and I will happily give you my thoughts.

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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