How to Answer: Tell Me About a Challenge You Had to Overcome in the Workplace

READY TO INTERVIEW? FIND YOUR NEXT ROLE ON WAYUP. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR FREE.

This is a tough question because you’re forced to talk about a difficult time with a complete stranger. Fortunately, it’s also a great opportunity to turn a big challenge into a great accomplishment. In fact, we like to think of it as a related question to “Tell me about an accomplishment you’re proud of.” Why do employers ask this question? It’s because they want to know that they’re hiring someone who has the ability to think on their feet and who is resilient when facing challenges.

When answering this question, start by giving context for the situation and then showing how you worked out a solution to the problem. Try to keep your answer short and focused. After all, the interviewer is really looking for what you took away from the situation and doesn’t need to know the full backstory of what happened. If you need help structuring your answer, remember this acronym: S.T.A.R. It stands for situation, task, action, and result.

Here’s what they each mean and how you can use them effectively.

Situation

First, articulate to your interviewer the situation you were in so that they have context. What was the problem and how did it come up? In one or two sentences, create a clear picture so that hiring manager is able to visualize the challenge. If possible, keep things professional by focusing only on problems that have come up in class or at a previous job.

Say something like: “During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan.”

Task

Talk about the task at hand and tell your interviewer what each person was responsible for doing, so that they get a sense of how you fit into the team. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail but do set the scene with one or two sentences about the roles everyone played in the project.

Say something like: “We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again.”

Action

Once you’re done setting the scene, explain the actions involved in overcoming the challenge. Talk about your thought process and the steps you took to solve the problem. Again, one or two sentences is all you need to convey this.

Say something like: “I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck.”

Result

While you should be honest and speak about a true challenge you’ve faced, be sure to end on a positive note so that your interviewer sees you as a proactive problem solver and a team player. Quantify your results if possible. It’s a great way to demonstrate the impact you’ve had on a project or company, and it lets the interviewer know that you’re focused on results.

Say something like: “The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Here’s how to tie this all together:

“During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan. We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again. I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck. The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Answering “Tell me about a challenge you’ve overcome” is a great way to show potential employers that you’re able to think on your feet and to solve a problem effectively. This is a skill that interviewers are looking for in all of the candidates they hire and answering this common interview question effectively will serve you well at interviews for both internships and entry-level jobs.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Find an Internship as an Underclassman and find answers to common interview questions such as How Would Your Friends Describe You?.

READY TO INTERVIEW? FIND YOUR NEXT ROLE ON WAYUP. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR FREE.

5 Rules To Help You Ace Your Leadership Development Program Interview

Are you considering a Leadership Development Program for your first or second job after graduation? If not, then maybe you should.

In case you’re not familiar with them, here’s a quick primer: Leadership Development Programs are rotational management and technical training programs that expose you to a variety of entry-level roles at a company. Apart from providing a range of hands-on experiences, they also help prepare you for a leadership position when the program is complete. They’re basically a fast-track route to a successful career in a field you’re passionate about.

That’s particularly true at Thermo Fisher Scientific—the world leader in serving science—where these programs are incredible opportunities to receive mentorship, network with senior leaders, and pick up the kind of experience necessary for those interested in management positions. Essentially, they’re incubators for the future leaders of the company.

Thermo Fisher’s Leadership Development Programs represent, at their core, a major investment in you on the part of the company. That’s why they pick their candidates for Leadership Development Programs so carefully. But that doesn’t mean you have to be intimidated by the recruitment process. You just need to prepare carefully so you can put your best foot forward. So, where do you begin and how can you stand out while interviewing for an opportunity that can change the course of your career?   

To find out exactly what they’re looking for in their LDP candidates, we spoke to Hannah, a Thermo Fisher recruiter.

Here are her tips for surviving (and thriving) on the road to securing your spot in an LDP.

1. You’re More Than Just Your Work Experience, So Let Them Know That

The reason you got an interview is because the recruiting team liked your resume. Remember, then, that the first interview is a chance for you to show them more than what’s on there. Don’t miss it.

Your resume told the recruiting team about your work and internship experience. While it’s important to use that experience as a base for some of your answers, you should also take the opportunity to go deeper.

The point of this interview, whether it’s in person or on the phone, is to show them a bit of who you are as an individual. Sticking too much to the script of your resume can be a major misstep. But, as Hannah stresses, there are ways to avoid that pitfall.

“One of the biggest things I see that people are missing is centered around their leadership experience,” Hannah says.

Given your experience level, chances are, you haven’t had too many opportunities to take on leadership roles at work. However, school organizations, extracurriculars, and even classroom projects are all great examples of places where you could have exhibited leadership skills. Regardless of what the leadership experience revolves around, the ability to demonstrate your potential is extremely valuable.

2. Definitely Prepare, But Don’t Over-Rehearse Your Answers (AKA Speak Naturally)

In any job interview, the recruiter or hiring manager wants to get a better sense of who you actually are—especially when they’re making such a major investment in you. That’s why over-preparation can actually hurt you.

“One of the things that we see that shoots people in the foot when they’re interviewing is that their answers seem really scripted and almost too perfect,” Hannah says. “And for us, that doesn’t give a sense of who they are. It doesn’t feel authentic. It doesn’t feel genuine.”

It’s true that you want to present the best possible version of yourself, but don’t let that rob your answers of you. Even if you prepared for a question, there’s no harm in taking a moment to think about your answer and move in a different direction. Speak from the heart, because according to Hannah, that’s what they’re hoping you’ll do.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Mistakes You’ve Made—Just Do It Tactfully

Many important interview questions focus on how you’d respond to various scenarios, both real and imagined.

“We ask a lot of behavioral-based questions on leadership, because a lot of what we do at Thermo Fisher gives people responsibility and allows people to make decisions and take risks,” Hannah says.

When the stakes are as high as they are in an LDP, the company needs to know how you act under pressure. However, that doesn’t mean they want you to only describe a situation or tell them about a time when everything went perfectly. Why? Because even if it’s true, it doesn’t really demonstrate the kind of adaptability and self-awareness that they’re looking for at Thermo Fisher.

“We really want to see how you took a situation that you maybe struggled in and how did you come out from that? Answering around self-awareness is key instead of just feeling like all of these answers have to be perfect,” she adds.

Self-awareness and adaptability are hard to teach and extremely important for people who plan to grow a lot over the course of their time at a company—which is essential for any successful LDP candidate. That’s why emphasizing adaptability and how you respond to mistakes is so important.

Don’t gloss over these learnings—talk about them and emphasize the lessons you learned that’ll help prevent you from making the same mistakes again. That kind of self-reflection shows real growth, maturity, and potential.

4. As You Progress, Make Sure To Up Your Research Game And Come With Thoughtful Questions

The interview for an LDP at Thermo Fisher is a multistep process, and it’s as much about you getting to know them as it is the opposite. That’s why it’s okay to ask exploratory questions about the company early on.

“I think for that first recruiter conversation, it’s okay to come in and ask questions,” Hannah says. “But I think the biggest mistake that I see a lot of times is, once they get past that first round and they move on to that next step, they haven’t done enough research.”

After that initial conversation, you’ll advance to an on-campus interview with a hiring manager or an LDP graduate who is now a leader at the company. And it’s essential to come prepared. As the interviews progress, don’t rest on your laurels.

“You don’t have to come in knowing everything. But find a recent article about something Thermo Fisher did in the news or in the community or maybe about one of our acquisitions, and then ask questions about that,” Hannah explains.

“That shows our leadership team that you’re interested and that you’re curious. Curiosity is such an important quality in an interview process because it shows that you’re going to be curious when you come to work every day. It shows that you’re going to challenge the norm and ask questions and bring 110 percent every day,” she says.

By the time you get to the last round of interviews (a two-day event at the company’s headquarters in Waltham, MA), you should have a few good talking points ready for any conversation you might have with a leader.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Your Recruiter For Advice

After you pass the first-round phone interview, your recruiter is there to be your ally. After all, they chose you to enter the process and they have a vested interest in your success.

“If you’re curious about something and you’re not sure, reach out to your recruiter and ask them. ‘Is the manager going to want to see a cover letter? Are they going to want references?’ I can always answer that,” Hannah says.

If there are any administrative questions you have about timing, location, or the format of interviews, you don’t have to worry about bothering the hiring manager by asking. Just follow up with your recruiter and they’ll get back to you with the info you need. They can even answer some broader questions like, “What kinds of traits does the hiring manager look for in their top candidates?”

“If you’re ever curious about what kinds of things you should include in your application or bring to an interview, definitely ask your recruiter,” Hannah adds. “Because they’re almost like your secret agent and they know what that manager is looking for and how to best prepare you, so definitely lean on them.”Think you’re ready to apply for a role at Thermo Fisher? Check out open opportunities from Thermo Fisher Scientific on WayUp!

How to Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Being fully prepared for the interview process means knowing what questions to anticipate. One of those questions is, “What are your salary expectations?” You won’t encounter this question during an internship interview, but it’s likely to come up if you’re interviewing for an entry-level job. Why do employers ask this? If you’re a recent college grad, it’s because they want to make sure that you have a sense of the industry you’re trying to enter and are coming into the job with realistic expectations.

Entry-level salaries vary by job type and industry, so knowing as much as possible about your field is extremely important when preparing to answer this question. Another thing to note is that entry-level salaries are most often not open to negotiation.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to answer.

When it’s not appropriate to negotiate.

“If you’re recruited into a formal entry-level program (a program where a class of people starts together and trains together) the answer is likely going to be no to a salary negotiation,” explains Liane Hajduch, a former campus recruiter for RBC Capital Markets.

This includes fields like investment banking, consulting and engineering, all of which have structured salaries for entry-level jobs. If you’re entering one of those industries, it’s best not to negotiate! However, you should still come into the interview knowing the salary range for the position and having a clear sense of what to expect if you’re offered the job.

Say something like: “I expect to be paid a salary that is commensurate with the industry standard for an entry-level candidate joining this position.”

Pro tip: Sites like Payscale and Glassdoor offer a lot of information about salary ranges and can give you additional insights about a company including the average salary by job type.

When it is appropriate to negotiate.

If you’re entering a more creative field (think media or marketing) and have previous relevant experience, then negotiation might be possible. “I recommend doing your research on the industry and what similar entry-level hires are being paid,” explains Hajduch. “If you know your worth, and you have data to prove it, you’ll have a much stronger case than if you make it subjective or emotional.”

Once you’ve done the research and know the range for the position, be ready to show the interviewer that you have the skills and commitment to deserve the highest salary within that range.

Say something like: “I know the average salary for this type of entry-level position is in the $35,000-$40,000 range. I think that I would be a great fit for the role due to my past internship experience and I am expecting a salary within that range.”

Answering “What are your salary expectations?” effectively is easy if you come into the conversation prepared and with some solid research under your belt. Be confident and straightforward, but also remember that flexibility will go a long way toward making a good impression on the interviewer and the company.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as When to Start Applying for a Summer Internship and find answers to common interview questions such as Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Questions for You to Ask at the End of an Interview

As you near the end of your interview, the hiring manager will likely turn to you and say, “So, do you have any questions for me?” The answer should always be yes. In fact, many employers automatically reject candidates who don’t have questions because they don’t seem sufficiently interested in the role.

By asking the interviewer questions, you’ll able to walk away from the interview with a better idea of whether or not the job is a good fit for you, while also showing the employer that you’re engaged in the process and that you care about the position. So whether you’re interviewing for an internship or an entry-level job, asking questions is something you should do in every interview.

Here are the top questions to ask at the end of your interview.

Company-Specific Questions

These questions relate to the organization itself and are fine to ask in almost any interview.

1.  What makes working at this company special?

This question shows employers that you’re not just looking for any sort of job but that you care about finding the right cultural fit.

2. How do you see this company/industry evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

By asking this question, you let employers know that you’re interested in the future of the company and care about how your professional growth aligns with the company’s growth.

3. I know one of the company’s values is [value]. How is that defined and demonstrated here at the company?

When you ask this question, you demonstrate to employers that you did your research and that you’re looking for a company that aligns with your values.

4. What qualities and attributes make for a successful employee here?
This question demonstrates to employers that you are eager to succeed and that you are making sure you will be a good fit for the company.

Role-Specific Questions

These questions are specific to the position you’re interviewing for so be careful when asking them and research as much as you can about the role beforehand. For example, asking about the day-to-day responsibilities of a role is appropriate for a consulting position but would seem out of place during an interview for a sales job, where the primary responsibilities involve reaching out to potential clients and selling the company’s products.

1. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

This question is important to ask if you are unsure what the role entails, particularly if the position is cross-function or part of a small team. This will help you get a better understanding of the job and whether it is the right job for you.

2. What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

By asking this question, you let employers know that you are rational in your expectations – no job is going to be a walk in the park. You should also know both the good and bad things regarding the job you are interviewing for.

3. What does the ideal candidate for this role look like?

When you ask this question, you are able to assess whether your skills and background align with what the company is looking for.

Wrap-Up Questions

These are great questions to ask as the interview is winding down though again, some are more appropriate for certain interviews than others. For example, if you’re interviewing for a junior role, the question about next steps should always be directed to the person who set up your interview in the first place.

1. What are the next steps? What is your timeline for making a decision and when should I expect to hear back from you?

This question is important to ask because this will tell you what to expect in the next steps of the interview process. This is also a good time to tell employers about time-sensitive things they should know about such as if you have other offers on the table or if you need to figure out arrangements for relocation, visas, etc. Again, be sure to ask this question to your hiring manager.

2. Is there anything else I can provide you with to help you with your decision?

This question is a polite way to make sure everything is covered and there is no uncertainty around your candidacy. This will also give you peace of mind since you have done everything you can to nail the interview.

3. What’s been your best moment at [company]?

This is a great wrap-up question because it asks the hiring manager to reflect on one of their great experiences with the company and to show some the value they’ve gained by working there. This question is the perfect way to end on a high note and we recommend asking it in every interview.

 

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as The Art of Networking Offline and find answers to common interview questions such as Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?.

How to Answer: What Can You Offer Us That Someone Else Can’t?

This is a common interview question and one that gives you a chance to elaborate on the answer you gave to “What are your strengths?” It’s a question designed to gauge your confidence level and knowledge of the company, so even if the interviewer doesn’t ask it directly, be prepared to show that you’re a qualified candidate who can bring something unique to the table. Read through the job description to identify the main things the hiring manager is looking for and show how you meet those needs.

Here are the things you need to keep in mind when preparing your answer.

Show off your experience and unique abilities.

Your interviewer is essentially asking “Why should I hire you?” and your answer should show that you’re different from other candidates they’ve interviewed. Think of the top 2-3 things they’re looking for and explain how you meet those criteria. For example, if you’ve had an internship in the industry, talk about you experience. If you’re not sure what to focus on, look at the job description and identify key traits in the first 3 bullet points.

Say something like: “I’m a creative problem-solver who wants to be part of a team that develops great branding campaigns. I’ve worked on several marketing campaigns during class projects and at a previous internship, so I’m familiar with the challenges I’ll face in this role and I know how to address them.”

Explain what you bring to the table.

Next, show how your experience and unique qualities make you stand out. If you’ve already made it clear that you’re a hard worker, you can emphasize the fact that you always keep a positive attitude and will bring a new level of leadership to the team. Be humble but confident. Giving a direct answer will show that you’ve thought about the question and know exactly what you can bring to the position.

Say something like: “I bring three things to the table that most candidates can’t offer: My problem-solving ability that I’ve used to improve campaign performance, in-depth knowledge of social media strategy and previous experience with email marketing.”

Connect your experience to the position you’re applying for.

Being an awesome employee has a lot to do not only with your unique abilities but also with how those abilities meet the employer’s needs. Whether the company you’re interviewing with is a tech startup or a consulting firm, demonstrating that you understand the organization’s needs and can address them will go a long way toward impressing the interviewer and helping them to see you as a part of the team.

Here’s how to bring it all together:

“I’m a creative problem-solver who wants to be part of a team that develops great branding campaigns. I’ve worked on several marketing campaigns during class projects and at a previous internship, so I’m familiar with the challenges I’ll face in this role and I know how to address them. I bring three things to the table that most candidates can’t offer: My problem-solving ability that I’ve used to improve campaign performance, in-depth knowledge of social media strategy and previous experience with email marketing. With my combined knowledge and enthusiasm for this industry, I know that I would be a good fit for this role.”

Pro Tip: Make sure your answer takes less than 60 seconds and practice it over and over until you have it down pat.

Answering “What can you offer us that some else can’t?” is a great way to show how you stand out from other candidates. By highlighting your unique skills and demonstrating how your personality and future goals align with the company, you’ll impress your interviewer and increase your chances of getting the job!

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 5 Technology Trends You Need to Know and find answers to common interview questions such as How Have You Displayed Leadership?

Here’s What To Do After An Interview If You Want To Get Hired

Not doing interview follow-up is a bit like cramming for a final and then falling asleep an hour beforehand and missing the whole thing. You did all the heavy lifting, but will probably still get a zero.

As absurd as this may sound, even the most organized and hard-working students fall victim to a similar problem every year. They send internship applications, but don’t follow-up with the employers, leaving a high percentage chance that their application will get lost in the mix.

Interview follow-ups are among the most important and overlooked aspects of getting an internship, so take note.

What IS a follow-up?

A follow-up is a simple email or note, thanking someone for taking the time to meet or speak with you. A follow-up helps you build rapport with an interviewer or contact and lets them know you are a professional and comfortable communicating in a professional setting.

Most importantly though, a good follow-up makes sure you stay top of mind when a hiring manager makes the difficult decision of selecting who gets an internship and who doesn’t. More often then not, when there are multiple qualified candidates for a role, the hiring manager will pick the person who “feels” right.

“So wait, you’re telling me that a simple email, that I can write in 2 minutes, might be the tipping point that lands me my dream internship???”

Exactly!

Scenarios and examples.

Follow-ups are more of an art than a science. When done politely and thoughtfully, they will leave a lasting positive impression. When done awkwardly or aggressively, they can get you branded as a pain in the behind. Ultimately, they are so important and so commonplace in the professional world that it is absolutely essential that you learn the follow-up process and commit to using them.

Pro tip: Remember that most hiring managers are busy, so be considerate, direct and keep it brief.

Below are different scenarios where you should follow-up and some best practices on how to ensure that your message shines!

1.) After an interview

You should follow-up after every interview you have, no exceptions! This email should be sent either the day of the interview or the day after. It should be brief and thankful. And, if you would like, you can reference a part of the interview in which you feel like you connected with the interviewer, but you want to avoid coming off like a suck up.

Ex. 1

“John,

Thanks for taking the time to interview with me today. It was really interesting to learn how Widget Corp’s social media efforts are focused on creating two-way conversations, rather than pushing content. I have always found that listening first leads to stronger relationships and better results, and really appreciated this point.

Please let me know if you would like any additional references and thanks again for your consideration.

Cheers,

Sally

Pro Tip: Oftentimes, a short and to the point email is best after an interview.

Ex. 2

“John,

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I think Widget Corp has an exciting product and culture, and believe that my experience as social media director for my university would make me a great fit.

Thanks for your consideration and have a great rest of your week.

Regards,

Sally

All-Star Pro Tip:
Bring a blank thank-you card and stamped envelope to an in-person interview. After you leave the interview, fill-in the thank-you card and place it in the nearest mailbox to be delivered to your interviewer’s desk the next morning.

2.) After submitting an application and not hearing back

The second most common time to use a follow-up is if you have submitted an application and you have not heard back. While many students assume this is because they have been rejected, in many cases a lack of response occurs when the hiring manager is overwhelmed and they have simply been lost in the mix. As long as you are polite and considerate you have nothing to lose, in following-up and seeing where you stand in the review process.

Ex.

John,

I know you are really busy so I wanted to quickly hop back on to your inbox. Did you happen receive my application for your marketing management role?

Thanks for your time.

Cheers,

Sally

3.) After a networking lunch or informational interview

It is common that as you conduct your internship search, you will take time to meet with different professionals in your field; either references from family, professors, or other contacts you have developed. When these busy professionals take time to speak with you about the industry, it warrants a follow-up, with the best follow-ups thanking them for their time and showing them that you paid attention and learned something new from the conversation.

“John,

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, it was really interesting to learn more about how you have seen social media change from one-to-many type conversations, to more one-on-one conversations. I agree that building relationships, rather than just spraying content is a much more powerful way to grow users in new online communities.

In fact I just read an article in Search Engine Land about this that I thought you might enjoy.

Thanks again for your time, would you mind if I had one or two quick follow-up questions if I reached out?

All the best,

Sally

4.) Immediately after sending an application

A follow-up directly after sending an application can be a way to stand out, but should only be used if the selection process is rolling, not if there is a set deadline.

Ex.

“John,

My name is Sally and I just submitted an application to your Widget Marketing Position. I spent last year marketing widgets and learned a lot about the process and am excited to bring my past experience, and team-centric focus to your marketing campaigns this summer. If you have any follow-up questions feel free to let me know and thanks for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Sally

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

Top 20 Entry-Level Job Interview Questions and Answers

Congratulations on getting an interview, it’s no minor feat! It’s important to remember that the employer will be far less forgiving in an entry-level job interview than in an internship interview. Hiring a full-time employee is much riskier than hiring an intern for the summer. So come well rested, prepared, and as relaxed as you possibly can.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 20 entry-level interview questions and answers to help you prepare to land your first job after. They fall into the following categories:

Pro Tip: visit this page on your phone to turn these questions into flash cards for practicing!

Select a topic to navigate to related interview questions and view their answers.


The Core 5 Interview Questions

You’re guaranteed to get asked these questions.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This question is often used to break the ice and see how personable you can be. Be careful not to drone on endlessly for this question. It’s easy to get caught up in your back story and lose track of time. A safe answer is to give a brief overview that covers where you grew up, where you went to school, why you chose your major, any internship experience you have, and why you’re applying for this job.

2. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?

To answer this question you need to do some introspection. Ask your friends, family, and any previous coworkers what they how they view your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare to discuss at least 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses. Stay away from clichés like “perfectionist” and “workaholic” as they can be interpreted as weaknesses. Own up to your faults. Everyone has them. Just be honest and open to improving yourself.

3. Give me an example or a situation in which…

These questions are not only used to determine what you learned from a particular experience, but also to assess how you would respond to potential workplace scenarios and situations. Prepare to talk about 3 scenarios in which you faced conflict or difficulty in either work or school, had difficulty with either a supervisor or peer, and a leadership opportunity or a project you are particularly proud of.

4. Tell me about this (class / internship) I see on your resume?

The good news here is that nobody knows and understands your experiences better than you, so you should be confident for this question. This is a great opportunity for you to sell yourself. A good framework for your answers is to explain the goals for any class or internship, cover your personal responsibilities in any projects, and discuss the outcomes. Again, avoid droning on for too long about any particular experience and wrap things up concisely.

5. What are your longer-term career goals (or where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years)?

There is no “right answer” to this question and it’s certainly ok to say that you don’t have any. However, be prepared to explain why you don’t have any. One solid strategy is to downplay your career goals and aspirations (you are young after all) and play up your interest in the company and industry of the job you’re applying for. Showcase your passion to be a part of whatever it is they are doing.

Entry-Level Specific Interview Questions

Questions specific to the nature of entry-level jobs.

1. Why are you interested in this role?

Stating a clear and concise answer here is crucial. The employer is looking to see that you are interested and ready to invest your time into such an opportunity. Be specific about your goals and expectations, discuss how you believe your qualifications are in-line with those required of the position, and be ready to explain why you chose this particular company when applying.

2. What do you know about our company?

Researching the company or organization you are applying to is an integral part of the application process, and this question is an evaluation of whether or not you have already done such an essential task. Prepare to answer questions regarding the origins of the company/organization, their current activities, and their objectives for the future.

Failing to have any knowledge of the company/organization you are applying for will appear to be indicative of a lack of interest or commitment to the application, and to the position itself, whether or not that was your actual intention.

3. How has your internship experience prepared you for the position you’re applying to?

If you don’t have internship experience, feel free to skip this one, as they probably won’t ask it. Otherwise, if your internship experience was directly relevant to the current role you’re applying for (i.e. the same general work), your answer should focus on the specifics of the internship work. Otherwise, it’s wise to focus on any experience you had working on a team, meeting deadlines, and communicating effectively.

4. What classwork has best prepared you for this role?

If you have group project experience, highlight it now. Focus on your role on a team and how you know how to be a team player. If there are classes with specific knowledge that directly prepared you for this role, you’re in luck, that’s another easy answer to this question.

5. How would you assess your writing and communication skills?

This is not a question that mid or senior-level applicants ever get asked. Writing and communication in school is very different from that in the professional world and the employer is checking to make sure you know the difference. If you’ve had experience communicating with full-time employees in your internship, let them know. Otherwise, hammer home the point that you know how to write clearly, concisely, and respectfully.

Academic or Interest-Related Interview Questions

Questions to assess your passion and motivation.

1. Why did you choose the major that you did?

You probably didn’t make a snap decision to major in your major. You likely chose it because you found it interesting, challenging, or thought it would lead to a promising career. The only key to answering this question is knowing why you chose your major and communicating that reasoning clearly. Be honest, even if your reasoning doesn’t seem interesting. It’s better to be honest to yourself and the employer up front than attempt to tell them what you think they want to hear.

2. What were some of your favorite/least favorite classes? Why?

Don’t just give a list of your classes or answer with something generic about how you liked all of them. Be opinionated here and honest. Try and stick to classes you enjoyed because they were stimulating or challenging and avoid saying that you enjoyed a class because it was easy or because you did well in it. The employer wants to see what piques your interest in your measure. They’re evaluating your ability to be genuine and passionate about things.

3. What activities do you do outside of work or school?

Employers like to see that you are engaged in other activities that are either indirectly or directly related to the skills required for the position you are applying for, but it isn’t a necessity. The most important part of this question is to be able to demonstrate that you have a life outside of work, and are invested in and passionate about experiencing new things.

4. How would your past professors or managers describe you?

It’s best to start answering this question with a clarification that you can’t known for certain how they would describe you. Start broad and cover as a whole how you think your previous supervisors or professors have viewed you. This is similar to the strengths and weaknesses question. Then, once you’ve stated broadly how you think you’re viewed, give a few specific examples. It’s best if you can demonstrate through examples (e.g. projects) why a professor or previous manager would say these things.

5. Have you worked any part-time jobs?

Part-time jobs are a major advantage when applying for a job. Over 80% of students have worked a part-time job by the time they graduate. It’s been shown again and again that students with part-time work experience do better in the work place. If you have some part-time job experience, highlight it here. One way to nail this question would be to talk about learning to work on a team, in a professional environment, and communicate with fellow employees. If you don’t have experience, a simple ‘no’ will do here.

Situational Interview Questions

Questions about your past behavior in certain situations to see how you react and learn from previous experiences.

1. Give me an example of a time in which you handled a looming deadline.

How well do you perform under pressure? That’s what the employer is trying to understand. Don’t be afraid to show your weakness here. This, like most situational questions, is trying to get at what you learned or took away from a past situation. Admit your weaknesses and how you’d handle them differently. Then highlight your strengths. Fortunately, you’ve probably had lots of recent experience with tight deadlines in your classes.

2. Give me an example of a time when you worked on a team. What was your role?

Your ability to collaborate and communicate with a team are probably the most important professional soft skills that you can have. Prepare for this by having some specific examples ready from when you worked on a group project. You don’t have to choose a group project where you were the team lead. What’s more important is that you knew your role on a team and that you performed well in your role. If that was a leadership role, great. If not, no worries. If you have examples of how you established or tweaked processes or mediated conflict within the team, use them.

3. Describe a situation where you taught a concept to a co-worker or classmate.

You’ve just spent a lot of time learning from professors and in groups, so you might not think of yourself as a teacher. However, the more knowledge you accumulate, the more likely it is that you’ll be teaching things in the future. It’s best to be specific if you can, and focus on an example from a group project at school or in a previous job. Focus primarily on how you communicated with the person and ensured that they were learning. Don’t focus so much on what you taught them, but rather on how you taught them.

4. Describe a time where you disagreed with a coworker or teammate on a project.

Disagreement is natural. The employer isn’t trying to assess your ability to debate, or even to know whether you’re right or wrong. What they want to know is at the end of the day, can you reach a consensus and move forward. Disagreement is good as long as it doesn’t prevent good work and progress from being made. Being able to resolve differences and move forward is a critical skill that all employers are looking for.

5. Describe a situation in which someone critiqued your work. How did you respond?

You’re (hopefully) going to get lots of feedback in any new job. How you take that feedback and what you do with it will often determine whether or not you keep the job. If you’re not willing to listen to feedback (even if you think it’s wrong) and attempt to address concerns, you likely won’t do well in many professional environments. To answer this question, try and find a situation where someone not only critiqued you, but a situation where you disagreed with that critique. Attempt to demonstrate how you still listened to the critique, voiced your own opinion, and did your best to understand where the critiquer was coming from. Show that you have the capacity to listen and change your behavior.

What’s Next

Now that you’ve got the top 20 questions down, you’re gonna nail that interview and get the job. Well, at least we hope you do! Next, check out some tips we have on evaluating entry-level job fit.

Once you’ve got the job, come check out our tips on starting your entry-level job off right and setting great entry-level job goals.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell me about yourself.

Internship Interview: Questions and Answers

Got five minutes? Great! Here are the top five questions you should be prepared to answer before any internship interview. The art of interviewing well includes knowing how to respond to the most popular types of interview questions.

If you feel nervous about being interviewed, we encourage you to practice answering the following foundational questions. Remember, you initially took the time to prepare an outstanding application (which got you to this stage in the first place) so continue this trend and take the time to prepare for the interview.

Of course, please take more than five minutes to actually prepare for your interview.  Practice the answers to these questions—in fact, master them:

1. Tell me about yourself?

The interviewer’s intent of asking this question is to get to know you. Your goal, however, is for the interviewer to remember you. Be brief by keeping answers to 60 seconds or less. One way of doing this is to open up by introducing where you are from and by directly stating what you are currently doing (student or working professional). Proceed to discuss your academic of professional interests and list 1-3 past experiences supporting your interests. Conclude by stating the reason(s) for applying to the internship.

2.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?

The intent of this question is to learn more about your competencies and your motivation to improve your weak ones. Prepare to discuss at least 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses.

Most candidates get nervous at the thought of divulging weaknesses. After all, isn’t stating a weakness a bad thing?  It actually is not if you are choosing to do something about. Herein lies the strategy; first, stay away from cliché and ineffective answers such as “perfectionist” or “workaholic.” Second, always follow a statement about a weakness with a statement describing what you are doing to improve upon it.

For instance, if you have struggled in the past with public speaking, you could state, “However, by learning to collaborate within smaller teams and joining leadership positions on campus, I am learning to give speeches and short announcements to larger crowds…”

Also remember that the lack of experience in a given field can be a weakness but that transferable skills or experience may make up for it. For instance, “While I have never worked in a marketing position for a large nonprofit, I have taken classes in nonprofit management and I have volunteered for political campaigns where I learned to develop targeted messages.”

3.  Give me an example or a situation in which…

The intent of this question is to understand how you would respond to situational or work-place situations. By asking questions about your past, the interviewer may try to predict how you would handle and resolve future workplace situations, from deadlines to interacting with coworkers.

Individual questions vary, but typically, you should prepare at least 3 scenarios to cover any of these questions: (1) a situation in which you faced a conflict or difficulty at work or in school; (2) a situation in which you may have had difficulty with a supervisor, co-worker, or peer; and (3) a leadership opportunity or a project you were most proud of.

Where do you find examples?  Look at your resume. Remember, you can use also use experiences from school or from other prior internships or work.

To answer such questions, use a variation of the “STAR” technique: answer the question by retelling the situation
and stating the task at hand that was involved in the situation. Then describe how you acted (the action). End by revealing the results of your actions and how you resolved the situation. Using the STAR technique will keep your answers relevant and succinct.

4.  Let’s go over your resume (and what’s not on it).

The purpose of this question is to see how you discuss past educational and professional experiences. Seize this opportunity to successfully market yourself. An interviewer may start by going over your resume but end by asking you to provide more details on a variety of topics, whether it’s a project you’ve collaborated on, the time gaps in between jobs, and class subjects you enjoyed or least enjoyed.

This question is a big reason why you should know your resume inside and out. Aside from sounding confident and prepared, you will sound professional. So know your resume like the back of your hand. One strategy to help you highlight certain parts of your resume to the interviewer would be to prepare an “interview resume” to bring to the actual interview. This is a resume that has been slightly marked up with your notes. These notes could be extra information or qualities that are relevant to the internship description. If permitted, pull out the resume at the beginning of your interview so you can have your notes in front of you at all times.

5. What are your career goals (a.k.a. where do you see yourself in ___ years)?

Interviewers usually pose this question because they may be interested in knowing how serious you are in pursuing a given academic or professional field. In an internship context, this question should compel you to dig down and think about your career interests in the long term: Are you planning to go back to graduate school? Are you interested in gaining a few years of actual real-world experience? Would you like to work as a full-time staff member of an organization similar to the one you are applying for? There is no “right answer” but you do have to provide one that is insightful in that you have a plan to keep building your professional skills after your internship. Who knows, maybe your organization would like to know if you would be available for a permanent position after you complete your internship. And in that case, how you answer this becomes all the more important.

There you have it. To sum up, thoroughly prepare your answers on these 5 basic questions. In fact, have a friend drill you to help keep your answers brief and avoid rambling. Talk to a mirror. Repeat the answers in the shower.  Write your answers down and keep studying at it. The results: a successful interview and newfound confidence in your ability to interview well.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 6 Ways to Impress Your Boss and find answers to common interview questions such as What Are Your Strengths?

How To Evaluate Entry-Level Job Fit in Your Interview

Interviews aren’t just for the employer to evaluate whether or not they should give you a job. They’re more of a 2-way conversation and an important opportunity for you to evaluate whether the company is a good fit. This evaluation is most important when considering where to start working after graduating from college. Your first job can set you on a path on to a successful career, or it can drastically confuse you and make it harder to figure out what to do next.

Here are a few tips to help you use your time and questions in an interview to best understand whether or not you actually want the job you’re interviewing for.

Pause and Reflect

Before you even consider preparing for your interview a great exercise is to take some time to reflect on what you think you want from your career, your first job, and what success means to you. The better you know yourself the smoother the interview will go. You’ll be able to answer questions confidently, honestly, and second-guess yourself far less often.

Read Into the Interview Process

How have you been treated during the job application and interview process? Has the employer been communicative and friendly? Have they set expectations clearly? Put yourself in the shoes of the company you are interviewing with and ask yourself if you’d be happy with the treatment the applicants have gotten?

The application process can tell you quite a bit about how the company values hiring and the importance of hiring the right people. Attention to detail and thoughtfulness is often a great sign that you’ll be happy and nurtured in your first role. If you’re being left in the dark frequently, it might be time to consider whether or not you really want to work for someone who apparently doesn’t care too much about hiring you.

Observe Body Language

When you’re meeting with employees at the company and answering their questions, try and read their body language when they talk about their company. Are they upbeat and optimistic? Do they hint at there being confict or trouble? The manner in which they communicate can often lead you to get a feel for how satisfying the day-to-day work is. If you’re getting bad signs from the employees, don’t necessarily dig in and ask them directly why they appear to be frustrated. Be tactful and ask them to elaborate more. Ask about personal interests of the employees that interview you. See if their body language changes when they’re talking about something you know they truly enjoy.

Don’t Sell Out

You don’t have a job. Your friends have jobs. Your family is breathing down your neck about what you’re going to do after graduation. You have mountains of debt to start paying off. You’ve had little success with interviewing, but this job feels like you can actually land it.

This is a relatively common scenario that leads to early entry-level job frustration. You go into the interview overly desperate and wind up taking a dead-end job that leads to more frustration, poor performance and reviews, and an early quarter-life crisis.

Instead of caving to your desperation and eating up everything the employer says during the interview, remain skeptical and listen thoroughly to everything they’re saying.

Ask About Motivation

Ask your potential employer what motivates their employees. Why are people there? Is is their passion for the company’s mission? Is it financial motivation? Business motivation? Their answer should align with your interests and desires. If you’re driven to help a particular cause, working at just any company isn’t good enough. Find the one where the people are particularly motivated to help that same cause.

Answer Their Questions Honestly

There’s often a lot of temptation in a job interview to provide the answers that you think the employer wants to hear. The more honest and transparent you are about your desires and goals, the more the employer (who should know their own company culture better than anyone) can help you assess whether or not you’d be a great fit.

What’s Next

Now that you’ve got a few additional tips to help you assess whether or not a company is a good fit, feel free to prep fully for the interview with our top 20 entry-level job interview questions.

If you think you’re going to take the job, feel free to move on and check out our guide to starting your entry-level job off on the right foot.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

How to Answer: Tell Me About Yourself

“Tell me about yourself,” is one of the most frequently asked questions in an interview. In fact, it’s usually the first one. The key to answering it well is to be concise but informative. Keep the answer to under 60 seconds and focus on how your skills and personality traits are related to the position you’re interviewing for.

Approach it as if you just wrote an autobiography and you have to summarize it in four sentences. Focus on the highlights: Talk about where you’re from, your major and your future goals. Then add on a sentence at the end that describes why you’re sitting in the interview and why you’d be a good fit for the role.

Here’s how to do it.

Talk about your background.

Answering this question well is about more than just mentioning your skills or professional experience. It’s also about putting those things into context with the rest of your life. At the beginning of your answer you should explain where you’re from, where you’re attending school and what you’re majoring in.

Describe your interests.

Next, talk a little bit about your interests including what led you to apply for the role. For example, if you’re passionate about journalism, explain why the field excites you and why you’d like to be a part of it.

Mention your past experience.

Once you’ve described your interests, explain how your past internship and work experience have shaped your decision to seek out this role. If you don’t have previous experience in the field (or a related on) you can talk about relevant classes you’ve taken or transferable skills you’ve developed through class projects or extracurriculars.

Explain why you’re excited about the opportunity.

Wrap up your answer with one sentence explaining why you’re excited about this opportunity. Be sure to mention something you admire about the position or the company, and connect it back to your goals.

Say something like: “I’m originally from New York City and I’m currently a Junior at UT Austin. I decided to study English because I’ve always loved reading and writing and studying literature in general. I’m now looking to gain experience in the world of journalism, a field I’m passionate about because of its ability to inform and engage readers. I’ve written extensively for my campus newspaper, reporting on campus news and events, and I’m excited to gain more valuable reporting experience by working on the types of stories your company publishes.”

Once you have your answer nailed down, practice it in the mirror several times. This will help you get comfortable with all the points you want to emphasize and will ensure that you sound confident without being stiff.

Answering “Tell me about yourself” is the first step in connecting with your interviewer and a great chance to distinguish yourself from the majority of candidates who may be fumbling over their answer. So practice your story to make sure it reflects the thoughtfulness and detail you’ve put into your response and go into the interview confident that you’ll be putting your best foot forward.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 6 Things to Do in Your First Week at a New Job and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell Me About an Accomplishment That You’re Most Proud Of.