Everything you need to know about nailing graduate interview questions – and more
You’ve more than earned that degree. But now that you’ve walked the stage and framed that rather expensive piece of paper to prove it, it’s on to your next exciting challenge: scoring interviews and nailing those graduate interview questions.
For anyone navigating the job market, interviews can often be the last hurdle before officially starting your career journey.
No matter how good your CV might look on paper, interviews are the perfect ‘litmus’ tests for a future employer – especially when it comes to gleaning how a candidate’s interpersonal skills, experience, and demeanour would fit into their workplace.
In this guide, our team of talent experts will touch on everything you need to know ahead of your interview, such as:
- How you should prepare beforehand.
- The most common and difficult graduate interview questions.
- The different types of interviews you might be faced with.
- How Timberseed can help you secure your dream job.
- And much more!
At Timberseed, we’re experts when it comes to guiding graduates through the interview process, helping match talent to roles where they will not only flourish but thrive.
Our superpower is people, you know. That makes us exceptionally good at finding the good ones.
If you’re looking to grow within exclusive roles in the exciting and fast-paced industries of technology, fintech, SaaS and Executive Search and then the Timberseed team is here to help.
We constantly have our eyes peeled for assured, dynamic and curious graduates who are ready for opportunities boasting excellent career progression and salaries.
Have we got your attention?
Get in touch with the Timberseed team today to find out how we can help you meet your career goals.
Let’s dive in.
Graduate interview questions: How should you prepare?
Preparing for an initial job interview can be one of the most stressful situations many people find themselves in – especially when you’ve newly graduated and are exploring your options for the first time.
It’s important to remember that an interview isn’t just an opportunity for you to showcase your key skills and prove that you have thoroughly memorised your CV. These meetings are beneficial for those on either side of the table – even if it’s over video or on the phone – as it’s often the only chance both parties can properly connect.
Your employer will use this as a way to see that you not only fit the job specification but suit their company’s culture, while you will be showing off your merits and sparkling personality.
That’s why it’s key to make sure you are prepared for a good mix of graduate interview questions, so you can carefully consider and tailor your responses to suit each unique role.
Even if your core offering stays the same, be ready to think about your responses and work out how you can hone each answer to what the interviewer is looking for.
But how do you make sure your prep is solid enough before tackling graduate job interviews?
Research, research, research
Although you can never be too confident, you must be dedicating at least one hour to background research ahead of your interview.
Whether you’re up for one or ten separate meetings, making sure you have a good understanding of the role, the company you are hoping to join, and even the person you’ll be meeting (to the best of your ability) – will serve you well.
Ill-prepared candidates can be spotted a mile off, so take to the internet and ensure you have everything you need before putting your best foot forward.
Examine their website
It might seem like a no-brainer, but spending some time taking notes on the employer’s website is the best way to get a sense of what they value and how you can seamlessly slot in.
- Look at what drives their company and their current team structure.
- Find out as much as you can about their history and background.
- Nosy at their current jobs sections to determine the kind of skill sets and people they are actively recruiting for.
- Explore their entire website and take notice of anything that you could draw on in your interview.
You’re not just limited to their internal happenings, either. Try to find out who their clients are or the companies they work with, as you’ll likely be coming into contact with them on a regular basis should you nab the role!
Taking a top-level approach to information sourcing will serve you well ahead of the interview – as there is no such thing as knowing too much!
LinkedIn and other socials
Taking a look at your company’s social media pages – especially their more professional platforms – can give you great insight into how they operate and the things they are passionate about.
It also gives you the chance to learn some key lingo ahead of your interview, so you can google the meaning of any tricky terminologies before it could potentially trip you up mid-question.
Networking websites also provide ample opportunities to look up the people you’re set to interview with. On LinkedIn, for example, you can find out how long they’ve been with the company, what their role entails, and what their background is.
This can give you plenty of material to work with when it’s time for you to ask questions, usually at the end of the interview.
Practice makes perfect
It might sound silly, but trialling your answers in a mirror or with a willing volunteer can help you get a sense of how you’re coming across in the interview. It’s all about balance, especially when you’re trying to put the best version of yourself on display while remembering a lot of information!
Relax and take a deep breath, ensuring that you are listening carefully to the question being asked. Don’t be tempted to rush when coming up with your response, either, as you’ll likely kick yourself later when you forget a key point.
This will also help you structure your answer, giving you enough time to elaborate on what has been asked without rambling or straying too far from the initial topic!
In your preparation, it might help to write out the full recall of your skills and experience so you can clearly see what will fit in best where.
This will help you tackle competency-based questions, which are used to assess your abilities and match them with their person and job specification. The easiest way to do this is to use solid examples of things you’d done previously to showcase these competencies, from:
- Other roles
- Extra-curricular activities
From here, you’ll be able to quickly pick up these points and showcase them in your answer thanks to your preparation.
The last thing to prep for should be the easiest of the lot: just be yourself!
As well as your fantastic CV, enviable skill set and excellent grades, your winning personality will be doing most of the heavy lifting, so show it off!
After all, employers invest in people, not paper.
Different types of interviews and techniques
Once you’ve received notification of your interview, the next thing to do is determine what kind of interview it actually is.
With the rise of modern technology and the boom of the hybrid and remote job market, a video call or interview is much more commonplace – especially if your prospective employer has offices situated across the world.
Let’s talk tips, so you’re ready for anything.
Smile! You’re on camera.
That means it’s even more important to be properly prepared, even if you’re limited to your laptop screen.
Do a bit of set dressing beforehand and make sure your background or set-up is appropriate and puts you in the best light – literally. A plain backdrop will make sure the focus remains on you, but if you have to use a room, make sure it’s clean and tidy. If you have housemates, ask them to keep the noise down or give you an hour to make sure you won’t be disturbed.
Check your angles well before the meeting time to ensure everything is good to go, as well smoothing over any connection or sound issues. You can do this by joining the meeting a few minutes in advance, giving you time to correct anything, as these problems can quickly become irritating.
Double-check your laptop is fully functional and charged, or that you have a spare power cord or another option should you need to switch. Make sure you are also smartly dressed and well-presented, even if you are joining the call from your room.
Finally, make sure your chosen username or email handle is professional, whether you’re using Skype, Teams, Google or Zoom.
There’s nothing like this kind of embarrassing oversight to quickly colour your potential employer’s perception of you from the word go!
Ah, the old faithful.
Making sure you are prompt and on time is one of the best ways to make a good impression, so plan your route well in advance and aim to reach there at least 20 minutes early – this gives you breathing room for traffic and other hiccups.
Arrive at reception five minutes before you’ve been asked to meet for your interview, dressed smartly in a business suit or similarly appropriate business wear, unless you’ve been told otherwise.
Greet everyone politely, making sure to stand up when someone new comes into the room and greet them too. This should also happen when someone leaves.
The key is to be both confident and courteous, so you leave them with a very favourable impression of your manner, as well as your skills and impressive answers.
So let’s find out more about the most common interview questions and how to respond.
What are the most common graduate interview questions and answers?
The following are a taste of some of the most frequently asked graduate interview questions in an interview, which are also some of the most difficult for grads to answer properly.
Tell me about yourself
How to answer ‘tell me about yourself’ is a bit like asking how long a piece of string is. Depending on your experience and unique outlook, there’s no set way. But it is a great chance for you to set the tone of your interview (as it’s often the opener) and answer some of the things your employer is looking for, in you specifically.
Touch on who you are as a professional and walk them through the highlights of your expertise and experience before ending by telling them why you’re here – whether you’re looking for a new challenge or have always wanted to explore this field.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
After prepping ahead of your interview, your strengths will ideally reflect the qualities your job specification is looking for.
Here, it is a good idea to briefly demonstrate how your strengths suitably match the role and showcase your range of talents without labouring the point.
Weaknesses can be trickier, but the idea is to improve any critical skills that you might lack and detail how you might have had an issue with them in the past.
Then you should showcase how you overcame that problem and learned from the experience, which is something you are looking to grow with and target within your next opportunity.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Listen, you might not know what you want for dinner – let alone where you’ll be in five years – but your employer will want to know where your ambitions can take you.
Brush up on the role specification and the company structure itself and talk about how much you’re looking to grow within it, seeing how much you’ll learn and progress during your time.
Use this to demonstrate your research into the company’s background and reputation, citing any plans for expansion or reach over the next few years, if possible, and how you’d like to be a part of that – using your wealth of skills to be a beneficial addition, of course.
Other topics you might be quizzed on
No two interviews are the same, that’s the nature of any recruitment process.
However, you can expect the following topics to crop up again and again, where you’ll have to demonstrate that you can do all of this and more.
- Ability to work to set targets in a fast-paced environment, or face deadlines under pressure
- Your willingness to work hard and go above and beyond for your prospective employer and their clients
- Excellent organisational skills, driven by your own steam and motivation
- Reactive, proactive, and prioritised thinking
- A thirst for knowledge and the readiness to get your teeth into new and exciting terms and processes
- Top-class communication skills, in both writing and in-person
Looking to grow in an exciting role? Timberseed can help.
At Timberseed, we source talent in spades.
That means we are constantly on the hunt for outstanding candidates like yourself who are looking for a new and exciting challenge. We can match you with top-level graduate career opportunities in some of the most dynamic industries.
Want to see how we help you smash those graduate interviews and find a role you truly love? Get in touch with us today or give us a call on 020 3030 5045.