Interview Questions

  • An early arrival will allow time to collect your thoughts and to develop a “sense of place.” When the actual interview begins, you want to feel relaxed and in control. You should arrive no more than 15 minutes prior to your appointment. Once in the office treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy.
  • You will usually have 30 minutes to an hour to convince the interviewer you possess the skills, qualifications and potential that she/he is looking for in a candidate. For graduate school interviews, you may meet with a variety of people throughout a series of interviews, including admissions counselors, faculty, and current students.
  • Begin by firmly shaking the interviewer’s hand and maintaining eye contact. Usually he/she initiates it – if not, you do it.
  • Each interviewer structures the time differently. However there are three basic components: introduction, body, and close.
  • Introduction

    During the introduction, the interviewer will set the tone by making you feel at ease. Usually he/she will engage in small talk such as the weather, a brief discussion of the latest media frenzy, the game last night, etc. Small talk is meant to relax you, so allow yourself to be relaxed. Answer small talk questions briefly, honestly, diplomatically and tactfully. Be friendly, yet business-like and present yourself in a confident manner.


    The body of the interview is your chance to shine. When you are asked questions, listen carefully, think before you speak and then give clear, concise answers and provide examples. Be honest in representing your background, your skill set, and your accomplishments. Ask questions pertaining to the job or program, the organization, and your fit. The interviewer will probably ask you what you know about the organization or institution, and after you give your answer, will talk about the program or position, the industry, and their plans for the future. Find common ground with the interviewer. Interviewers are human beings who will often select someone they like–someone they are connected to. If you can get them to like you as a person in addition to making them feel that you are the best candidate, you will have done yourself a tremendous favor.


    The close of the interview is the time when you may be asked if you have any questions. Be prepared to ask intelligent questions that show you have done some research.

    Examples include:

    1. How easily do people advance from this position? What is a typical career path?
    2. What do you see as the biggest challenges of this position or program?
    3. How will I be evaluated? Promoted?
    4. What kind of training opportunities can I expect as a new employee?
    5. Is there a mentoring program for new students?
    6. What types of tasks should your ideal candidate be prepared to face on a day-to-day basis?
    7. What are the most rewarding components of this job or program?
    8. Who would be my immediate supervisors?
    9. Who will be the other members of my team?
    10. What do you see as the future of this organization or program?
    11. What are the immediate goals of this organization or program?
    12. What are the challenges facing this organization or career field in the near future?
    13. Why was this position made available (or created)?
    14. What do you believe will change with this role within the first year?
    15. How can the person you hire be of most value to the team or organization in light of the project goals you mentioned?
    16. What qualities does the team value most in a new member?
    17. How would you recommend that a new employee build relationships in this position?
    18. What type of team member have you hired in the past that worked out well? What about new hires that did not fit in?

    Be sure to express your interest in the opportunity before leaving. If you know you want the job/program, say it! If an interviewer senses a lack of interest or excitement, they will make an offer to someone else whose enthusiasm was obvious.

  • Do you know the best way to respond when an interviewer asks you, “Tell me a little about yourself?” This is the very question (and those that are similar to it) that a Benefit Statement helps you answer. The Benefit Statement is a brief (45 – 60 second) statement about who you are and how you can add benefit to an organization. No matter how the interviewer chooses to phrase the question, the task remains the same: in less than a minute, give a concise statement about yourself that will capture the interviewer’s interest. This strong introduction of yourself will draw on the accomplishment and skill statements you develop using the guidelines below.

    Three areas of interest should be covered in your Benefit Statement:

    1. Academics
    2. Related Experiences (Internships/Work Experience)
    3. Extra Curricular or Community Activities
  • Take time to review many interview questions and prepare an answer you would give if asked that question. Many websites provide the same type of information ( click on Interview Center under the Marketplace tab). offers video tutorials on acing your interview. Login to Handshake to schedule a mock interview with a CPD career coach.    Prior to scheduling an appointment the Handshake's Career Interests form will need to be completed to show available appointments

    1. What are your long range career goals, when and why did you establish these goals and how are you preparing yourself to achieve them?
    2. What specific goals, other than those related to your occupation, have you established for yourself?
    3. What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
    4. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
    5. How would you describe yourself? How would others describe you?
    6. How has your college experience prepared you for a career?
    7. Why should I hire you?
    8. What qualifications do you have that make you think you will be successful?
    9. How skilled are you in Excel? (LinkedIn Learning offers tutorials in Excel fundamentals)
    10. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?
    11. Describe the relationship that you believe should exist between you and your supervisor.
    12. What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction?
    13. What led you to choose your field of major study?
    14. If you could do so, how would you plan your academic study differently? Why?
    15. Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree?
    16. What have you learned from participating in extracurricular activities?
    17. In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
    18. In what part-time or summer jobs have you been most interested?
    19. How would you describe the ideal job for you following graduation?
    20. What do you know about our organization?
    21. What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
    22. What criteria are you using to evaluate the organization for which you hope to work?
    23. Do you have a geographical preference? Why?
    24. Will you relocate?
    25. What major problems have you encountered and how did you deal with them?
    26. What have you learned from your mistakes?
    27. What is it about this particular position or program that attracts you?
    28. Why do you want to work for this organization/in this field?
    29. Why should we select you over other candidates?
    30. What questions do you have for us?

    Visit to search for job specific interview questions.

    For Job Interviews: If the potential employer does not offer information about salary and benefits, it is inappropriate to ask questions regarding compensation until you are actually offered the position. Go into an interview with the assumption that the potential employer is competitive with others in the industry or field.

  • Behavioral interviewing allows the interviewer to get an understanding of how you, the interviewee, actually reacted or behaved in various situations. This style of interviewing is based on the concept that future behavior is best predicted by past behavior. Every question is asked with a specific purpose in mind. For example, if asked, “Describe a situation when you had a conflict with a colleague and how you handled that conflict,” the interviewer is evaluating your interpersonal/communication skills. Behavioral-based questions are likely to begin with some variation of:

    • Give me an example of a time when…
    • Describe a situation where…
    • Give me an example of how you…
    • Tell me about a time when you…

    Behavioral questions must be answered with a specific example. Typical Behavioral Questions (and what they address) include:

    1. Describe a disagreement you had with a supervisor, how it evolved, and how you resolved it. (conflict management)
    2. We have all had occasions when we misinterpreted something that someone told us, like a due date, complicated instructions, etc. Give me an example of when this happened to you, why it happened, and how you rectified the situation. (communication)
    3. Give me an example of a situation in which you made up your mind too rapidly, and how that affected the outcome of the situation. (decision making)
    4. Everyone has to bend or break the rules sometime. Describe an example of when you did this, why, and what came of it? (judgment or ethics)
    5. Describe your strengths (usually 3) and specific ways that you have utilized them. Identify a weakness and how you have countered or worked around it successfully. (transferable skills)
    6. Describe an experience when you were part of a team, the part you played on the team and how you handled team members who were not contributing. (teamwork)
    7. Describe a situation where you assumed responsibility for getting something fairly complicated or important done and how you went about it. (planning/organizational skills)
    8. Describe a time when you encountered an obstacle you could not overcome and how you dealt with that situation. (persistence)
  • Caryl Rae Krannich and Ronald L. Krannich, Ph.D.s, authors of, Interview For Success: A Practical Guide to Increasing Job Interviews, Offers, and Salaries, 7th Ed., offer the following information about answering questions related to negative past experiences or weaknesses: You will want to select examples that promote your skills and have a positive outcome. If an interviewer asks you to talk about a time something negative happened or asks you to talk about weaknesses, try to choose an example where you were able to turn the situation around so that something positive came out of it. For example, if asked, “Tell me about a time you made a bad decision.” Try to identify an example where:

    • even though it was not the best decision, you were able to pull something positive out of the situation
    • though it was a poor decision, in the next similar situation you made a good decision or you learned from it and have identified how you will handle it differently the next time a similar situation arises
    • it was a bad decision but the negative outcome had only minor impact. In other words, try to pull something positive – either that you did or that you learned – out of even a negative experience you are asked to relate. The employer is interested in the process you went through and the reasoning behind your actions – not just the outcome.
Some information adapted from St. Olaf College, The Piper Center for Vocation and Career