Interview tips

What to expect

Here are some common interview questions and preparation strategies to help you make the most of your interview!

Interview questions can be nerve wracking. Knowing a few best practices can calm your nerves and keep you sharp.

The first step is getting familiar with the types of interview questions you’ll be asked. In the following four sections, we’ll dig deeper into each question style and share tips on how to answer them.

How to answer background questions

Background questions are typically asked first. These questions help hiring managers get a sense of your qualifications.

This is an open door for you to expand on your experience and outlook. Here are some common questions and tips for answering:

Interview questions you can expect

• “What can you share about your background and work experience?”

• “What are your strengths?”

• “What do you hope to learn in this position?”

• “Why are you interested in this company?”

• “What can you uniquely bring to this position?”

Preparation checklist

• Prepare to show hiring managers how your expertise, personality and skills add up to huge career potential, and map to the job description.

• Research your interviewers on LinkedIn to get a sense of their background.

• Check out the company’s LinkedIn Company Page to learn more about recent hires and initiatives.

How to answer behavioural questions

Employers want to know if you have the qualities they seek, which behavioural questions can uncover. These interview questions are designed to uncover your past “behaviours” in different work situations. They also help employers decide whether you will fit company culture.

Answers to behavioural questions can be taken from work experience, volunteer positions or sports experiences.

Simplify with the S.T.A.R. Approach Using the S.T.A.R. framework (Situation, Task, Action, and Results) will take the fear out of answering behavioural interview questions.

Adding some structure will also impress the hiring manager.

Use the following:

Situation: Explain the scenario that required your experience.

Task: Briefly identify the task that required completion.

Action: Detail the specific steps you took to complete the task.

Results: Close with the results of your efforts and what you learned.

Interview questions you can expect

• “Talk about a mistake you made. What happened and how did you handle it?”

• “Please describe a scenario in which you were under pressure. What was going on and how did you respond?”

• “Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.”

Preparation checklist

• Categorise your experiences into successes, challenges, leadership moments, teamwork skills and problem solving situations.

• Practice your answers out loud.

• Get comfortable with your strengths and weaknesses. They will ask, and you should be honest.

How to answer situational questions

Situational questions may sound similar to behavioural questions. But, instead of asking about past experience, you’re presented with a hypothetical situation.

These interview questions generally start with, “What would you do if…?”. Your answers to these questions should demonstrate your ability to overcome challenging workplace scenarios.

Here are some common situational questions and actions to help you prepare:

Interview questions you can expect

• “What would you do if the priorities of a project you were working on changed suddenly?”

• “What would you do if you disagreed with a teammate on how to solve a problem?”

• “You’re working on a major project. Halfway through you realize that you’ve made a mistake. How do you handle that while still trying to make your deadline?”

Preparation checklist

• Practice linking specific situations with your answers from the interview questions above to skills listed on your resume.

• Revisit a behavioural question, then outline the situation that arose prior to, or after each scenario associated with the question.

• Conduct online research on the organisation and make a list of project types and initiatives you find. Use those projects and initiatives to answer the interview questions above, putting yourself in the company’s shoes.

Your turn to ask the questions

An interview is a two-way street. You are there to figure out whether the job is a fit too.

As your interview winds down, you’ll likely be asked, “What questions do you have for us?” This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your homework.

The following do’s and don’ts will help you get the most out of every question you ask:

Do

• Ask your most pressing questions first. These could be about the culture, goals of your future team or how performance will be evaluated.

• Ask probing questions. Consider asking which personality traits are most common among the most successful employees, or what employees enjoy most about working there. Ask interviewers about their own career paths. For example, ask them how they decided to go into their field, or what steps they took within the company to attain their current position.

• Ask about challenges. What will make this job difficult? What will you need to overcome?

• Ask for their contact information and whether you can connect on LinkedIn.

Don’t

• Don’t ask questions to sound smart.

• Don’t ask about something you could find online.

• Don’t be unprofessional.

• Don’t push. If the hiring manager won’t answer your question, it’s best to leave it alone.

These tips on interview questions were first shared in LinkedIn’s Student Job Hunting Handbook. Read the full handbook here.

“It doesn’t matter whether you learned a lesson at a company or a coffee shop. The important piece is that you learned a lesson.”

 

Top tips

Jodi Glickman is a Harvard Business Review blogger and author, with tons of tips for young professionals. Here, she weighs in on how to answer interview questions:

1.“Tell them why you’re interested in the role, what unique value you’ll bring, and what your future goals are.”

2.“It’s all about lessons learned. Your answers to behavioural questions should demonstrate how you tackled and solved a problem. And of course, what you learned from this situation.”

3.“The interviewer is looking for someone exceptional. Whether you overcame a difficult situation waiting tables, or at a relevant internship – your story should demonstrate an exceptional ability to overcome adversity.”

Read next: Student work opportunities

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