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Top 10 interview questions

ScotGrad Programme Manager for Graduate Engagement, Kelly Barbour, reveals the top 10 questions you’re likely to be asked in your placement interview.

Published: 30/11/2016

Although interview styles vary by placement and organisation, the same questions come up regularly in interviews. Having strong answers prepared for them will give your interviewer a great first impression. Many organisations use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) interview technique to review your answers to get the full picture. We therefore recommend answering the questions by using the STAR method.

1.    Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Your interviewer might have read dozens of CVs for the placement you’ve applied for and might have tens of interviews that day, so having a quick ‘elevator pitch’ summary of your qualifications, experience and achievements is key to making you stand out. You should know your own CV inside and out and be able to elaborate on what makes you the right candidate for the job. 

Try to sum up the highlights of your CV, your personality and ambitions in under a minute. Avoiding rambling will show your interviewer that you are prepared and confident in your abilities.

2.    What are your strengths?

Instead of listing abstract terms like ‘hard-working’ or ‘team player’ that anyone could describe themselves as, use examples to show that you have put your skills into practise. Keep in mind your examples don’t all need to come from paid employment. Times when you’ve shown your leadership in sport, or your research ability at university are perfectly valid examples.

3.    What are your weaknesses?

This is a tricky question for many people, but the answer is never “I don’t have any”. We all do, and being able to identify areas where you can improve is in itself a strength. Identify a weakness you can say ahead of your interview, but also identify what you intend to do to improve it. This way, you will come across as honest, self-aware, and willing to learn and develop.

4.    Where do you see yourself in five/ten years from now?

You want to show your interviewer that you’re ambitious, but you want them to know that you want to progress in the industry. For example, if you’re interviewing for a marketing placement, you shouldn’t say that in five years you see yourself as an engineer. Your employer will want to hear that you’re ambitious, but you should be prepared for follow-up questions on how you’re going to achieve your goals.

5.    Why do you want to work here?

This is your chance to show off all the research you did on the company before you applied for the placement. Talk about their product, their approach to business and their values, and why they work for you. If you are currently employed, you shouldn’t say anything negative about your current employer. Praise the work that the organisation you’re applying to does, and how you will fit in.

6.    What motivates you?

Everybody is motivated by different things so the answer to this question should be personal to you and linked to the placement you’re applying for. For example, if you are applying for a role in IT, you might be motivated by trying to find solutions to problems, whereas if you are applying for a sales position, you might be results-driven. 

7.    What do you like to do outside of work?

It’s good to have hobbies outside of the workplace to demonstrate to your employer that you’re a well-rounded person and have skills that can be translated to the workplace. There are, however, some pitfalls; try to avoid saying ‘socialising’ is your pastime as it might give the wrong impression. You will be spending hours every day with your colleagues, so having interests in common or something to talk about other than work can come in handy.

8.    What makes you a team player?

By asking this question, your interviewer wants to know how well you will fit into the team, and will expect you to provide examples. You can draw on experiences from university, work, sports or other interests. You should include what the outcome was of working as part of the team, and what your role was.

9.    What accomplishment are you most proud of?

The answer to this question is entirely personal, but you should choose something that will impress your employer. It could be winning a competition, completing a feat of endurance, or a result that means a lot to you.

10.  Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?

You should have some up your sleeve that you can ask so you appear on the ball and genuinely interested in working there. You can either ask questions about the organisation, the role, or ask your interviewer to expand on something they said earlier. Try to avoid asking questions that could be easily answered on their website or they’ve already covered – this is your chance to delve deeper.

For more advice on impressing employers, please visit our Careers Advice page