How New Grads Can Answer the Top Job Interview Questions

Job Interview QNo doubt, new grads will continue to face a stressful job search after they move their tassels.

The class of 2013 will have 1,744,000 bachelor’s degree graduates, reports the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Yet, organizations plan to hire only 2.1 percent more new grads from the class of 2013 than they did from the class of 2012.

It’s a tough situation. And, if you’re lucky enough to land an interview, you’re typically going to compete with others who are just as qualified as you are.

How can you stand out? It may just come down to how you answer the top interview questions.

Check out these top interview questions and the best ways new grads can answer them:

1. How Has Your Past Experience Prepared You for This Job?

This question shows your interviewer whether you are a good fit, based on your past track record. This record includes any past internships, part-time jobs, club leadership positions, significant class projects or volunteer work. It requires you to translate your previous, often varied experience to what you’ll have to do in this position.

How to answer: First, show that you understand the job duties of the new position. Then, tailor your answer to include previous responsibilities that either mirror or enhance your ability to do the new job. Highlight specific accomplishments that prove you know how to work hard and can deliver results.

2. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?

Employers want to hire people who are enthusiastic to work there, not random-resume-drop candidates who will take any job. Their reasoning is simple: Enthusiastic new hires will likely work harder and stay at the job longer. Regardless of the original reason you applied for the job, you can still show enthusiasm by doing your homework.

How to answer: First, identify one or two aspects of the company that connected with you, based on reading the company website and other research. Then, explain why those specific aspects of the organization are a fit for you. If possible give specific examples or stories from your past that highlight your match.

3. What Are Your Salary Requirements?

Recent GradsGetting asked about salary requirements as an entry-level job seeker can be awkward. Though money is always a tricky subject, it’s always important to be honest with your potential employer so they’re aware of what you’re looking for, even if it is your first job.

How to answer: Give your employer an accurate salary range of what you’d like to receive. At the same time, be aware of the normal rate for the particular position. You can find this out by researching the job or asking people in your industry.

4. What Is Your Greatest Strength? Greatest Weakness?

These questions are two of the most popular. Typically, they’re supposed to let the employer know what activities you’ll excel in. They also measure your level of self-awareness.

How to answer: Again, try to link your strengths to something that you’d be doing in the job. For example, if you’re a great designer and the job calls for some PhotoShop work, be sure to emphasize this.

Many suggest putting a positive spin on your greatest weakness. This is fine if the spin isn’t too out there. A great way to answer is to say something like this: “I sometimes struggle when I work on my own. However, when I work in a team setting, I perform better and am able to bounce ideas off of multiple people.”

5. Describe a Major Challenge You Faced in a Past Job or Class Project. How Did You Handle It?

This is one of the most important questions for the interviewer. It’s not about confessing your biggest mistakes. Your answer can show an employer you don’t give up when confronted with a difficult problem — and that you can be counted on to solve problems on your own.

How to answer: This is the perfect time to show the interviewer how your skills helped a company go through a rough patch. Pinpoint an exact moment in your professional history where your performance contributed to a positive outcome to a tough situation. Be sure to detail your role so the interviewer knows how you handled a particular challenge and the outcome.

New grads may face a tough search, but answering the top interview questions properly can be the key they need to land the job.

What do you think? What are some other popular interview questions for new grads.. and how would you answer?





About the Author: Alan Carniol is the Founder of, an online job interview training system.Follow Alan and Interview Success Formula on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.



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