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5 Tough (And Confusing) Entry Level Interview Questions

Sometime during the final year of school, you will seriously begin the hunt for that first career position. Up until now, it has been all about classes, parties, study and preparation. Now, the “rubber meets the road,” so to speak. You actually have to get out there and sell yourself to prospective employers.
If your college career office is doing its job, it has held workshops and sessions on interviewing. And these are certainly helpful. You will have the chance to hear the common questions you will be asked and begin to prepare your responses to them. You will be given pointers on what to say and what not to say; you will be given strategies for keeping your emotional calm. Nothing, however, can totally prepare you for the actual interview.
During that interview, moreover, you may get some questions that are tough and even confusing – confusing because you are not sure what the interviewer wants to hear from you. Do you ask for further clarification? Do you answer with brutal honesty? Or do you finesse and give some lukewarm response that you hope will not kill your chances? Here are five of those potential tough or confusing questions.

1. Tell Me About Yourself

Lots of students don’t prepare well for this question. Why? Because they know themselves so well, they will have no problem answering the question. But here’s the thing. What part of yourself do they want to hear about? Your personal history? Your values? Your educational background? Your goals? Or some combination. You need to consider this: an interviewer is trying to assess your fitness for the position and the value you can bring to the organization. So, before you go to each interview, think about the position you are seeking and the company. Do some homework. Then think about those parts of your history that relate to both the position and the company. It will differ depending on the position, so no one answer to this question will ever work for all situations. Develop a 2-3 minute “history” that relates to what prepared you for the position and that speaks to your compatibility with the company “culture.”

2. Why Should I Hire You?

If you were totally honest here, you would probably say, “Because I am graduating and I really need a job.” Obviously, you cannot be that truthful. But here is the thing. You really do need to think about this in advance. If you have not, you will definitely stumble. So, what exactly does this question mean?
Obviously, the interviewer wants you to convince him/her that you are the best candidate, even though you do not know who your competition might be. What you have to do is dig into your background of both hard and soft skills, to come up with that which makes you unique. Did you get “A’s” in specific coursework that directly relates to the responsibilities of this position? Did you complete an internship that allowed to practice some of the specific skills that will be required? And if you held part-time jobs or had an internship, will your supervisors say that you were one of the most dedicated, committed employees that s/he has had? Will any of your professors state that you have had great passion for your major field or study or for a major project you completed? You can mention these people and the put some of them in your list of references when and if you are asked for them.

3. Are You a Good Team Player?

No one will ever answer this in the negative, so why is the interviewer really asking this question? Probably because s/he wants you to say yes, but then expand. The expansion should probably involve two prongs. First, you will want to give examples of your participating successfully within a team environment. These examples may be major group projects within your coursework. You may have examples from some out-of-school activities. Suppose you were a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity while you were in school? These projects are amazing examples of a successful team effort. How many houses did you participate in building? How many different teams were you assigned to? Were the houses finished on schedule?
The second prong is this: you will need to say that, while you are a good team player, you do not always need a team environment to be successful. You are able to work individually too, setting your own goals, planning your timeline and tasks, and using you great strategies for self-motivation to accomplish those goals. This is how you demonstrate versatility and flexibility.

4. What are Your Weaknesses?

What the interviewer is really looking for here is if you are an introspective person. Can you take a look at yourself and identify those things that you need to work on? Be honest and try to relate your weakness to demands of a job in general. But then, explain what you do to address that weakness. For example, suppose one of your weaknesses is that you are dis-organized. You can identify that. But then, provide examples of what you do to address it. Do you have some apps that you use regularly that keep you on track? Have you developed a system of sorts to keep your computer files more organized? Do you have a calendar app that provides alerts and reminders? Suppose you are weak I the area of written communication. Perhaps you will continue to use them on the job. Mature people know their weaknesses but also develop the means to overcome or compensate for them.

5. Have you ever had a conflict with a supervisor or a professor? How did you resolve it?

If you say no, you will not be believed. So, think this through and find one that was not horribly severe. Maybe you disagreed with a professor on a grade you received on a research paper. Maybe a supervisor criticized you in a manner you felt was unfair. How did you approach these people in these instances, how did you communicate your viewpoint, and did you listen to their viewpoints as well? Whether you “won” or not isn’t what that interviewer is looking for. S/he want to see that you have a process for resolving conflict that is calm, diplomatic, and logical. And, as well, that you are willing to compromise.
Interviewers are not deliberately trying to trick or confuse you with these types of questions. But the questions may very well be designed to get at something a bit deeper than the question might literally mean. Understanding that will help you develop solid answers in advance, if you happen to encounter one or more of these.

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