Top Job Interview Questions for College Grads
Many college graduates are spending the summer trying to find their first full-time job. They may have aced their exams and maintained a GPA above of a 3.0, but the real test will come when they face their interviewers. Kathy Potter, director of Santa Clara University's Career Center, shares some of the top job interview questions for college graduates and explains how to answer them.
What do you know about our company? Employers tell us that one of the biggest areas of concern for them is how often they meet students who don’t know anything about the company. If you’re serious about any job, you should have at the very least gone to the company website, read the job description, understand what the company does, and know the competitors.
What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses? That question still comes up over and over again. The answer should pertain to the job for which you’re interviewing, and you should immediately follow that answer with an explanation of what you’ve done with that strength or weakness. For example, if you say, “I’m organized,” you can’t stop there. You need to explain how your organizational skills helped you lead a major campaign, project, or presentation. If your weakness is in public speaking, explain what you’ve been doing to improve that. Keep in mind, that your answer should be authentic and show that you’re not perfect. Conversely, you definitely don’t want to say that you don’t have any weaknesses. Everyone has one, so be prepared.
Why do you feel you’re a good fit for this position? Or you may hear, “Why should we hire you?” Some interviewers may not exactly say those words and rather they’ll imply it with a series of other questions. Regardless of whether it’s directly asked, you should have it in the back of your mind at all times, and then your job is to find the opportunity to explain what kind of a person you are and what skills you have that will lead to success at the company.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Keep your answer focused on the job, and don’t say, “I’d like to have your job.” Instead, you can explain how your first goal is doing well in the prospective position and emphasizing that you’re not only in the learning mode, but that you’re in the giving mode. Outline how you can contribute to the team and the company. Then, ease into wanting to move in the ladder to the next level.
What are your salary expectations? This is a tricky question, because many employers already know what they can pay and some may ask to see how you react. You could answer it by asking the employer, “Can you tell me what the salary range is?” Interviewers may also be testing how much research you’ve done on the company, the position, and the industry. In this case, your response could be, “I’ve done some research on your competitors and the industry, and the salary range I found was X to Y, is that correct?” Some good resources for salary information are university career centers, the National Organization of Colleges and Employers (NOCE), and salary.com. Keep in mind that the figures available on salary.com reflect those with more experience, not new graduates. And remember: you can be assertive, but be polite, be humble, and never beg.
The random question. Has an interview asked, “If you could be a tree, what kind of a tree would you be?” You may wonder how that’s related to the job. Well, it doesn’t. Often times, the employer is trying to gain a better sense of how you react. Are you so nervous that you can’t remember any names of trees? Are you annoyed? How are you handling yourself? Random questions are another way for employers to see another side of your personality. The best way to handle this situation is to stay calm, smile, and show that you’re intrigued. “That’s an interesting question. I’ve never considered what kind of tree I’d like to be. Hm, let me think about that.” Then, do your best in choosing your answer and explaining it. Remember – there is no right or wrong answer.
Connie Kim Coutain | firstname.lastname@example.org | 408-554-5126 office | 408-829-4836 cell