Graduate job interviews can be stressful if you're not sure what to expect.
If you've made it to the one-on-one interview stage - congratulations, you're nearly there! Interviews have changed dramatically over the last ten years, but whether you're having an interview conducted in-person or virtually, there are just some questions that always seem to get the best of us.
Here's how to asnwer five of the toughest questions you're likely to come across:
1. What's your biggest weakness?
Employers want you to be open and honest about your shortcomings. We know that's not easy when you are on the charm offensive, but you should expect this question to arrive in one form or another. Employers, if they're feeling especially devilish, may ask for several weaknesses.
Firstly the interviewer will want to see self-awareness in your answer, no one is perfect and you shouldn't pretend to be. The key formula to help you answer this question is to find a weakness and follow it up with evidence of how you are working on it.
Example: "My biggest weakness has been managing different tasks, but I've recent adopted a strict time-table approach to help me manage my time during busy periods."
2. Why do you want to work for us, not a competitor?
The best answer to give here is to be genuine. Employers are not trying to trick you or fishing for complements, but want to know why this role and at this particular company. It's highly likely a question like this will be asked so have your answer well prepared by doing a fair amount of company and competitor research before your interview takes place.
Example: "I like your company's primary focus on customer care and building strong client networks - I prefer this approach to the strict focus on making money some companies operate."
3. If you were a chocolate bar, which one would you be?
Chocolate bar, kitchen appliance, superhero - we've heard it all at this point. It might seem silly, but sometimes employers will really throw you a curveball question...like asking you to attribute your characteristics to inanimate items or fictional characters.
It is just a bit of fun and your chances of clinching the role won't hinge on comparing yourself to a Cadbury's favourite. However, it is nice to have something in mind that would play to your strengths without being kitsch.
Example: "I'd be a Snickers. A multi-faceted chocolate bar but a traditional classic. With a snickers you are going to get the job done!"
4. Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?
The crystal ball question will always be tricky, especially for graduates early in their careers. You will have a rough idea of where it'd be nice to be, but the honest is answer is you probably don't have anything too concrete in mind.
The best answers to this question align where you would like your career to go and the opportunities the company can offer. If you are interviewing for a structured graduate programme this question will be much easier to answer, but it is always great to make your career intentions clear to an employer.
Example: "In five years I hope to have completed by ACA qualifications and be working towards specialising in Corporate Tax."
5. Tell us about your biggest failure.
Your interviewer will know you are human and will know you do not get through school, university andearly adulthood without a few mistakes and failures along the way. It's only natural, and the interview isn't lookiing to scrutinise your downfalls, so don't be embarrassed.
What they do want to know is how you dealt with those failures. Employers want to see you have learnt from failures and come back fighting. Self-awareness and an ackowledgement of your own limitations will make you an attractive employee because you are ready to improve yourself and work better.
Example: "I failed my GCSE Maths, but was still allowed to continue into sixth form. I knew this might hold me back in the future so I studied for the GCSE again in sixth form and passed with an A."
Image credit: Ben Neale
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