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Interviewing Resources

Interviewers look for the potential in prospective employees to become valued, trusted, productive team members of their company. They judge based on several general categories, including:

  1. Work Attitude & Initiative
  2. Motivation & Purpose
  3. Knowledge & Insight
  4. Organization & Planning Abilities
  5. Judgment & Maturity
  6. Team & Interpersonal Skills

Work Ability and Initiative

Recruiters need to know:

  • Can she compete assertively and handle criticisms in a positive manner?
  • Is she a self-starter, able to work without constant supervision?
  • Can she be depended on in critical situations and follow her work through completion?
  • Is she enthusiastic on the job and easy to work with?

Recruiters may ask some of the following questions to judge the candidate on work ability and initiative:

  • What would you do if a co-worker tried to take credit for some of your work on a project?
  • What would you do if your boss rejected your recommendation?
  • Give me an example of your initiative.
  • Which of your accomplishments did you initiate (versus being asked by your boss) and why did you initiate them?
  • Describe an event or project that you organized.
  • Which parts of this job would you like the most, the least, and why?

Motivation and Purpose

Recruiters want to know what drives the candidate to want this job and work for this company, and what the candidate wants to accomplish in life. It is important to be very honest here, since misleading the recruiter can easily have you placed in a job you aren't prepared for, don't have the skills for, or simply don't like. In each of these cases, your performance may be lower than expected and reflect on you for years to come.

They look for someone who:

  • Has well-balanced priorities and understands the tradeoffs of jobs that require overtime or traveling.
  • Understands what motivates them and how these motivating factors affect their choice of jobs.

Recruiters ask themselves:

  • What forces are pushing them into this career: family, financial needs, genuine interest, peer expectations...?
  • What are their priorities in life and are they in line with this career path?
  • How loyal will they be to our company?
  • Are they achievement-oriented?

Questions you might be asked here are:

  • What would you do if a company you are working for changed its strategy and emphasis to something you did not agree with?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What do your friends and family think about our company (or industry)?
  • How would you balance money and happiness on the job?
  • How would you choose between a high-paying job and a position with more development and potential?
  • What professional achievements do you look forward to in your career?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
  • How do you see this position helping you to achieve your 5- to 10-year plan?
  • What has been your biggest accomplishment in life? What did you have to give up to get it? Was it worth it?

Knowledge and Insight

Interviewers are sent to college campuses to recruit the best and brightest who can handle the work now and in the future. While recent college graduates are at a disadvantage in terms of work experience, they can turn this inexperience into an advantage. By not having predisposed ways about how to handle work, new graduates may be molded into model employees faster. They will most likely tackle unpleasant tasks with more enthusiasm than experienced, jaded workers. Finally, they are more flexible in work habits than older employees, providing flexibility for the future.

Recruiters want to know about candidates:

  • Are they quick learners, able to pick up not only the work itself, but why things are done a certain way?
  • Can they adapt to new changes in a productive way?
  • Can they see the future impacts of short-term plans?
  • Can they find not only the answers to the problems, but isolate the critical problems themselves?

Questions usually asked to measure knowledge and insight are:

  • Describe a situation where you had to grasp a new situation and make progress quickly.
  • What would you want to know on your first day of work to start the job running?
  • What skills are required to move up in our company from the job we are discussing? Do you have them?
  • What are the major problems facing our industry and company today? What would you do to fix these problems?
  • In one of your previous jobs, what were the challenges you faced?

Organization and Planning

Your ability to organize work efficiently can improve your productivity and that of your company. Smart planning can save time and money. Therefore, your abilities here are extremely valuable to any employer. As a student, you have perfect examples of how you have organized projects, groups, activities or your studies to demonstrate these skills to an employer. Persistence when times get tough is a rare quality that is very valuable to an employer.

Questions asked here are:

  • Can you manage your time effectively?
  • Can you organize the work of inter-related teams to smoothly coordinate a group project?
  • Can you take existing procedures and improve them without jeopardizing the benefits of the current procedures?
  • How do you structure your day's work?
  • How do you plan your day and week?
  • When are you the most and least productive?
  • What do you do during those periods of time?
  • How did you handle sudden unplanned work or crisis?
  • How did you improve your previous jobs?

Judgment and Maturity

Proper business judgment primarily comes from experience, but for those without experience, having the right perspective can help a great deal. Employers want someone who can see a big picture rather than just their own job and who will make the proper judgments. A recruiter has a personal stake in hiring someone; if that person makes mistakes or shows poor judgment on the job, it is embarrassing to the recruiter who hired them and the recruiter's personal credibility if the company is damaged. Therefore, it is important to show maturity during the job interview to increase your chances of getting a job offer.

Recruiters are concerned about these areas:

  • Can they handle pressure without overreacting?
  • Are they mature and able to make decisions that have impact outside their jobs?
  • Can they handle criticism in a productive manner?
  • Are they objective in evaluating themselves?
  • Are they objective in evaluating others?

Many of the following questions are asked to measure judgment.

  • Describe your most pleasant and unpleasant work experiences.
  • What things do you admire in others?
  • Describe the last time you got upset and how you resolved it.
  • If you were working for a boss you did not like, what would you do?
  • Describe how you handled a crisis.
  • What was the best (and worst) criticism you received and why?
  • What would you do about working with fault-finders?
  • What part of this job would you find easiest and hardest? Why?
  • What part of this job would you find the most fun and the most boring? Why?
  • What would you say your previous boss(es) say are your best qualities?
  • What would your last boss miss the most about you?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you like your classes? Classmates? School? Professors?
  • What did you like and dislike about your last job? Your last boss?
  • How would you deliver criticism to someone working for you?
  • Which criteria of a job and/or company are most important to you?

Recruiters look for an objective analysis of your abilities. For strengths, recruiters want to know why you think it is a strength and where it has been demonstrated. For weaknesses, they want to know what is being done to fix it. Candidates should show that they can take criticism well and use it to improve themselves. What your last boss says about you gives an indication that you know what your boss is looking for and an objective view of how to size up the job.

Team and Interpersonal Skills

Rarely will you be working alone in a company, so being able to work well in a team is a very valuable skill. Cooperation and effective team work are some of the most valued skills in employees. Even graduating students can show ability here that more experienced workers may not have. When working with someone you dislike, which everyone will do at some time, how did you make extra efforts to work smoothly with that person?

Questions in a recruiter's mind may include:

  • Do they know what makes a good team operate well?
  • Do they know the roles of effective team members?
  • Can they be not only a good team player but a team leader?
  • Are they sensitive to the feelings of others?
  • Will others in my company like them?
  • Can they work well with a variety of people?

Questions frequently asked include:

  • Which leaders do you admire most and why?
  • Describe the ideal team leader and ideal team member.
  • Give an example of how you have helped a team member improve.
  • Do you work better as an individual or in a team?
  • Would you fit in well at our company, and why or why not?
  • Describe your most successful experience working in a group or team. Why was this successful? How did you contribute to the success?
  • How do you select a team?
  • How did you manage your co-workers in a previous job?
  • What would you do to help a team of people work together better?