Our friends over at TARGETjobs have collated this list of tricky interview questions with tips on how to answer them. Read the full article here.
‘What is your most significant achievement?’
This question is designed to assess your values and attitude as much as your achievements, and employers often want you to talk about your activities outside education. You’re more likely to come across well if you choose to discuss something you’re genuinely proud of, which could be because it involved leading others, overcoming obstacles or persisting in the face of the odds.
‘What motivates you?’
You are particularly likely to be asked about your motivation in a strengths-based interview, which focuses on what you enjoy doing and what you do well. This is an approach that graduate recruiters are increasingly using alongside or instead of competency-based questions.
Your answer should draw on an example from your extracurricular activities, work experience or studies that suggests you would be strongly motivated by the job you are applying for.
‘Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.’
If an interviewer asks you to describe a situation in which you showed initiative, avoid giving an example of an idea you had but never put into action. It’s much better to talk about a time when you not only came up with a solution to a problem but also acted on it.
‘What is your biggest weakness?’
The problem with this question is that you’re being asked about your shortcomings, when your instinct, in an interview situation, is to keep your flaws as well hidden as possible. What you need to do is to frame your answer to as to give it a positive spin.
Strengths and weaknesses can be different sides of the same coin, so another way to approach this question is to think about how you overcome the potential downside of your greatest strength. For example, if you’re a natural teamworker, is it difficult for you to cope with conflict or assume leadership abilities? How do you cope with this?
‘Are you innovative?’
Graduates are sometime asked to give an example of when they were innovative, ‘thought outside the box’ or used creative thinking to solve a problem. Many graduates are concerned that their examples are just not innovative enough, but the interviewer won’t expect you to have given the prime minister tips on handling Brexit! Instead, talk about times when an idea from you had a positive impact: for example, if you came up with a fundraising idea for charity or found a way to save time on an assignment.
Q: ‘I don’t think I have a chance of winning – what’s the point in applying?’
A: As one previous ﬁnalist said: ‘If not you, then who?’
Each year we hear from winners who said they entered on a whim and were amazed to go on to the next stage and ultimately attend the ﬁnal. We don’t look for a speciﬁc amount or type of achievements. The award partners are most interested in hearing about how your experiences have inﬂuenced you personally, and why you consider something to be an achievement to you. Each stage of the process is great practice for job applications, and around half of the ﬁnalists go on to work with companies they met at the awards! What do you have to lose?
Q: ‘The entry process is too long – why should I stick with it?’
A: We understand that two hours can sound like a lot; however you can always save your progress and break the application down into manageable chunks. We recommend ﬁlling in your initial details and looking at the questions – at this point you can then log out and write up your answers, before submitting them when you are ready. You are next invited to take part in some online tests, which you can do on a morning or afternoon that suits you.
Q: ‘How do I answer the questions set by the award partner?’
A: Make sure you read the questions properly and start off by making a plan to note down your initial thoughts and ideas of what to include. Make sure you use the word count wisely and try and draw on your experience to help you answer the questions. We also recommend getting someone (a friend, housemate, colleague or parent) to proof-read your answers and offer their opinion as they can help to tweak things and might remind you of something else to include.
Q: ‘I’m nervous about the psychometric testing.’
A: Before each test, you have the opportunity to practise and learn how it will work. There are also websites that let you practise different types of psychometric tests for free. You can always ask friends and peers for advice as they may have experienced testing as part of a job application. Check out the TARGETjobs advice on psychometric testing too: https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/psychometric-tests .
Q: ‘Will my university studies suffer if I spend time on this instead?’
A: Whatever year of study you are in, we want you to prioritise your university work. However, there will be times when you need a break from coursework and revision! Speaking to past ﬁnalists and winners, we learned that they used the evenings and weekends to work on their award applications, having spent most of the week attending lectures and completing university work. It’s a good idea to keep a schedule to keep track of all your commitments, and you can plan ahead to book in time for writing your answers and completing the online tests.
Q: ‘I’m not available on the day of the Awards Ceremony Final in 2021.’
A: If you can’t join us on 30 April, you could still win the award. If you impress at an assessment centre you may be offered a role, even though you’re unable to attend as a ﬁnalist!
Q: ‘What does ‘the right to work in the UK after graduation’ mean?’
A; Due to the prizes offered by each of the award partners, we cannot accept applications to some of the awards if you do not have the right to work in the UK after graduation. This means if you are on a Tier 4 visa then you unfortunately cannot apply to the awards that list this as a requirement. When considering whether you are eligible to apply, please take your current situation into account, rather than what may or may not happen in the future. If you are an EU citizen or have a British passport, then you can apply to all of our awards. If in doubt, contact us and ask.
Any other questions? Contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the awards:
There are 9 different categories this year, each sponsored by an award partner (such as HSBC or L’Oreal) who provides prizes for the winner in the shape of internships, shadowing opportunities and other experiences. Many previous winners and finalists ‘applied on a whim’ and never imagined they would make it to the final.
Join the previous winners for an online webinar on 14 January at 2pm to hear their experiences.