Interview Questions for Recent College Graduates
The goal of higher education is to prepare one for the workforce, yet time spent in the educational system is time not spent creating real world experiences and accomplishments. In today’s economic times, employers value known commodities over unknown risk. They are looking for achievements instead of possibility; experience over knowledge.
Interview questions are designed to highlight these achievements. Yet as a recent college graduate, you are not going to have very much work experience. Few graduates have improved sales by 150% or created organizational structures that improved efficiency from top to bottom.
Luckily, you can implement interview strategies that will allow you to effectively answer these job interview questions and prove to employers that your skills are more than suited for the position. Below are some sample interview questions to graduates and how to answer them.
Sample Interview Questions
Q: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
Perhaps one of the most common interview questions to recent college graduates is their five to ten year plan. It is also the question that most graduates fail. Though employers may encourage personal or truthful answers, the company’s only true interests are themselves. If you plan to go to graduate school, plan to travel, plan to get married – these are all interesting on a personal level, but none of them reflect well on your potential to stick with the company. Your answer should resemble “My goal in five years is to have garnered enough experiences that I can take on a managerial or supervisorial role within the company.”
Q: Why Do You Think You Are a Good Fit For the Company?
Interview preparation is vital for these types of answers. Research the company in full. Employers are not going to be expecting graduates to provide detailed, complete answers about your specific qualifications for the company and the role. However, you can respond effectively with, “When I reviewed your website, I noticed from your last product launch in November that you were looking at web based integration for your campaign management systems. I studied web based software integration in depth with Dr. John Smith, and have developed fully integrated mock database systems that greatly resemble your own database management technologies.”
Q: Tell Me About Yourself
This is another interview question designed to spot weaknesses in college graduates. You should answer this question with your education and accomplishments, and stay away from answers about your personality, your social life, what it was like growing up, etc. No matter how friendly the interviewer seems, ask yourself, “If the company was a person, would the company care about what I’m saying?” Companies only care about how you will contribute to the organization and what proof you have that you would be a model employee.
Q: What Made You Choose This Job?
Graduates are often asked this question when seeking entry level positions at jobs that are unrelated to their major. You should answer this question as though it was your plan all along, “I studied Psychology because I was passionate about the topic, but working in web design has always been my career choice. Indeed, though psychology may not relate directly to computer programming, it does relate to working within the corporate world, and it will allow me to recognize, understand, and adapt to human behaviors. I am confident that my degree will prove invaluable to working within the IT department in your company.”
Q: What Are Your Academic Achievements?
Here is another interview question that may seem to graduates straight forward, but actually requires a careful answer and is prone to mistakes. Often graduates will discuss smaller items like being elected president of the tennis club. But the company does not care about the tennis club. Instead, spin what you say to be more generic and impressive, “I was an officer of several clubs and honor societies, as well as on the Annual Deans List all 4 years at the University. I also worked in several research labs and am an author of two research papers, one of which I have brought with me today.”
Q: What Types of Classes Did You Take?
You should only supply answers that reflect well on your candidacy for the position. Whether or not you took English literature is uninteresting to the company (unless the company works with literature). Instead, use examples from your most advanced classes and utilize their full names, “Some of the classes I completed include Accounting for Not-for-Profit Organizations, Accounting and Financial Management Decisions, and graduate level classes including Intensive Analysis of Accounting Principles and Practices.”
Additional Interview Answer Tips for Graduates
As a recent graduate, you have the disadvantage of a sparse work history. But you have several advantages as well, including:
- Recent education in modern day techniques for that particular career.
- Lower expectations to easily exceed during entry level interviews.
The more you follow basic interview techniques and practice answering interview questions, the greater an impression you will leave on the employer. Use your graduate status as an advantage, rather than a crutch. Your competition for entry level positions is likely to make basic mistakes as a result of little interview practice. So if you prepare for your interview and study interview questions and answer techniques, you will give yourself a leg up on the competition.