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.
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.