Graduate job interview questions

13 HR Professionals Reveal The Most Common Graduate Job Interview Questions

If you’re a recent graduate from University or College, then you’ll most likely be on the hunt for your first proper job and hoping to step onto the career ladder very soon. No matter how confident (or unconfident) you are, carrying out the right preparation and thorough research prior to any interview is crucial in your success and making that all important first impression.

Life after graduation is an exciting time and shouldn’t be scary, although the prospect of a job interview will most likely unsettle your nerves a bit. Practicing talking through your work, experience and preparing some potential questions will aid in your confidence and help deliver a great graduate interview. Straight from the experts, we’ve got a list of the most common graduate job interview questions (from a HR perspective) which you should expect to be asked. Think you’re ready to make an impression?

Practicing and running through some of the potential questions listed below for a graduate job interview will be beneficial to both you and your future employer, as it’ll mean that you can both gain more from the interview and hopefully have more of an open discussion about the job rather than a boring Q&A, as sometimes the interviewee will be a bit nervous too! Check out our experts guide below and run through some of these most common questions yourself. In order to put this list of most common questions together, we asked the below HR professionals one thing:

​IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD A RECENT GRADUATE EXPECT TO BE ASKED IN ANY JOB INTERVIEW?

​This graduate job interview questions feature has been interspersed with individual quote images where the full version of the infographic, created by Essay Writing Service UK, can be viewed here. These expert tips are a great reference point for when it comes to your graduate job preparation and will help you to ace that interview!

If there’s a particular expert tip which you feel inspired by, feel free to share the individual quote images (or the full infographic) on your own website, simply ensuring you reference back to Essay Writing Service UK. Thanks!

1

Rob Moss - Personnel Today

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2

Andrew Saunders - Management Today

  • "Why do you want this job/what makes you a good candidate for this job?
  • Tell me something you've achieved that you are proud of.
  • Tell me something you have done which you think you could have handled better, and why.
  • Who is your role model?
  • What motivates and inspires you?
  • How would you deal with a colleague who doesn't like working with you?
  • What do you want to achieve over the next five years?"
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3

Jennifer McClure - Professional Speaker

"In every interview, you'll likely be asked in some way to "tell me about yourself" at the beginning of the conversation. I always tell job seekers that this is a trick question. Why? Because it's actually not a chance to tell the interviewer your life story, or how you got here. It's your first chance to make a great first impression. Instead of sharing where you're from, where you went to school, and how many jobs you've held before, have a great (and brief) overview prepared that shares a bit about who you are, why you love the type of work that you do, the impact that you want to make doing that work, and why you are excited to be chatting about this specific job, because you think the position provides a great opportunity to do that.

By answering the question this way, you avoid the (usually boring) personal backstory, avoid sharing any details about yourself that aren't relevant to the interview process, and put the interviewer in the frame of mind that you're prepared, you're possibly a great fit for this job, and they're going to be able to have a great discussion with you."

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4

Paul Slezak - Recruit Loop

"Here are a few standard questions that are being asked every day:

  • What is your greatest University / College accomplishment? Why?
  • Tell me about a time when you were involved in a group project and the team didn't quite gel together.
  • Why are you really interested in our position as opposed to the dozens of others you have applied for?
  • What makes you different from the hundreds of other applicants wanting to join our graduate program?
  • Outside of your University / College studies, what do you feel you learned over the last X years?
  • How did you handle a situation where you didn't achieve the grade you felt you deserved?

And here are two questions I have personally asked any graduate I have ever interviewed:

  • If you could start all over again, how would you approach College / University differently? Why?
  • What advice would you have for anyone about to embark on the course you have just graduated from?"
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5

James Rice - Wiki Job

"There are a handful of core questions that come up time and again in graduate interviews, and for which every candidate should prepare thoroughly. Based on our research and speaking to many graduate jobseekers over the past decade, we'd say these are the most critical questions:

1. Why are you applying for this position? This is almost always asked, because the interviewer wants to see evidence that you've thought about what the role offers, and why you think you'd be a good fit for it. An off-the-cuff answer is unlikely to pass muster; instead, you need to show that you've done your research on the company and the job, and you can point to your skills and experience that the role requires. Equally, though, don't give a robotic, scripted answer. Give a genuine response, but use your research as the foundation for it.

2. What motivates you? A very common question, which can be asked in a variety of ways, that employers like because it asks for an honest appraisal of what makes you tick, what you enjoy, and whether you're likely to be fulfilled in the role offered. Don't lie, avoid talking about money, and don't be vague. Substantiate your response with examples, thinking about how those characteristics might be useful for the job in question.

3. What would you say are your weaknesses? Not many candidates like to be asked this question, and its usefulness for employers is debatable, but it still gets asked a lot. The main thing to avoid is dressing up a strength as a weakness (eg 'I tend to work far too hard'), which will only make the interviewer roll their eyes. You'll get credit for honesty and self-awareness, as well as for talking about the steps you're taking to overcome that weakness."

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6

Matt Charney - Recruiting Daily 

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7

Tom Haak - HR Trend Institute

"5 questions you can expect when the interview is mediocre:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weak points?
  • Why do you think you are an excellent candidate?
  • Can you cope well with stress?
  • What are your ambitions?

5 questions you can expect when the interview is good:

  • What would you like to learn?
  • What can we learn from you?
  • Why does the purpose of our organisation appeal to you?
  • How can we create a job that fits best with your wishes and capabilities?
  • Do you have any questions for us?"
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8

Yvonne Rivera - Nonprofit HR

  • "Why did you choose your area of study in college?
  • How do you believe your college and internship experiences have prepared you for your future career?
  • How do you see what we do as an organization align with your passions?
  • How do you work collaborate with others on a team?"
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9

Illiyana Stareva - Communications Professional

"Be prepared to answer why you're applying for the company in question and how you are the right fit to join. A new organisation is like a new family so recruiters always test for whether you've done your research on the company, its products, services and people, and on how you see yourself adding value to this ecosystem."

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10

Janine N. Truitt - Talent Think Innovations

"New graduates should be prepared to be asked about and speak about the qualities, interests, hobbies and/or skills they possess that can solve a critical issue for the company. We’re in a time where business is evolving rapidly and the demands to be constantly improving are palpable. In an effort to set themselves apart from other job seekers, new graduates need to be able to identify an idea, solution or skill in their wheelhouse that can solve a unique challenge for the companies they are courting for employment."

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11

Tara Lescott - Recruiter Republic

"I think the most important thing is for Grads to understand mindset of the employer.

Their fear is that they will waste a lot of time and money training somebody that hasn't actually made their mind up about whether this is THE job or A job for them.

On that basis the employer will probe a lot around what they know about their company, why they applied for this specific company and role and what they bring to the role and team - these are the questions that normally decide the fate of the candidate and this is where candidates need to prep.

  • Research the company.
  • Research the background of the interviewer.
  • Look at the wider team.
  • Look at other people with same job title - what did they do before.
  • Think of several reasons why this company and role is specifically of interest to you.
  • Think of things that will make you a great hire - not qualifications but things around attitude, work ethic, team fit, motivation and have some examples that prove these things."
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12

Tanya Korobka - Lucky Attitude

"Majority of graduate jobs are junior assistant-type roles, that don't require decision-making and leadership skills. Hiring managers are looking for either a) someone who already has similar experience (doesn't have to be professionally acquired) or b) has an aptitude for the role (this is shown via role play, written test or behavioural questions). Ultimately, they want a safe pair of hands, somebody who will get the job done with minimal supervision.

Reasoning ability is important. You have to articulate the "why" behind your statements.

The most important question to prepare: "Why should we hire you over other similar candidates?"/ "Why will YOU do well in this role?"

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13

Janet Colledge - Outstanding Careers

"Most graduates would be asked why they want to work for the company that they are being interviewed for. This gives any applicant an opportunity to show that they have researched the company and can provide solid knowledge of the companies’ achievements, ethos and standing in the business sector in which they operate. It also allows you to show that you’re organised and methodical, attributes that are vital for many jobs."

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Are you a recent graduate and looking for interview tips? Straight from the experts, we’ve got a list of the most common graduate job interview questions which will help you prepare. A successful job interview is all in the right preparation and that preparation giving you confidence and clarity to set you on the right career path. This blog outlines some of the most common questions from top HR and business experts including Rob Moss at Personnel Today, Paul Slezak at Recruit Loop, James Rice at Wiki Job, Yvonne Rivera at Nonprofit HR and more…