The exact questions you will be asked in any interview will vary somewhat according to the type of interview, type of position, and career field you are pursuing. However, there are some questions that occur frequently across a wide spectrum of interview types, so be prepared with strong answers!
1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Although this appears at first to be a question related to your personal interests and preferences, the employer is actually looking for general information about your background, tied in with your academic history and interests that ultimately led you to choose your major and career path.
2. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Emphasize any volunteer work you like to do (if applicable), or your involvement with student organizations related to your major/field of study or philanthropy. If you don’t participate in extracurricular activities, emphasize personal interests that are constructive or contribute to your own health or well-being (e.g., reading, working out, playing sports, playing a musical instrument).
3. What do you know about our company and why do you want to work for us?
Make sure you have done your homework! Has the company been in the news lately? Who are the key people in the company you should know about? Emphasize the strengths and experience that you would bring to the company rather than what the company would do for you. If you appear well-prepared, it will make you stand out as someone is genuinely interested in the company and the position, rather than someone who is just looking for any job!
4. Why should I hire you?
Present at least three of your strongest personal qualities or skills that would be relevant to the position. Use examples to make your case, e.g., “I have excellent organizational skills; I developed the business model for our student project, assigned 12 group members to tasks, and followed up on training with each person.”
5. How would you describe your ideal working environment?
The interviewer wants to know what type of workplace is most comfortable for you (e.g., noisy, quiet, formal, casual, etc.) in order to ascertain whether or not you’d be a good fit for the company. Be honest! When you accept a position, you want to make sure that not only the work itself but also the workplace is suited to your needs and preferences. If you are an outgoing, gregarious person, you probably won’t be happy in an environment where people work silently in their own spaces behind closed doors; likewise, if you are quiet and shy, you might be uncomfortable in a noisy, social office.
6. Can you tell me about your three greatest strengths/Do you have any weaknesses?
Be positive and focus on at least three strengths that relate to the workplace (e.g., you work well under pressure, you motivate others, you have outstanding attention to detail). Additional personal qualities that most employers look for include honesty, collegiality, reliability, integrity, common sense, and enthusiasm. For each of the strengths you choose to discuss, have an example in mind that you could use to illustrate how you embody that particular quality.
Be careful with the weaknesses you choose to discuss—for example, don’t say that you’re “not a morning person” or that you are habitually late. Focus on weaknesses that could also be perceived as strengths (e.g., you sometimes focus too much on details). Unless you are asked for a specific number of weaknesses to discuss, stick to one, make sure it’s work-related, and indicate that you’re trying to make a change.
7. How would someone who knows you well describe you?
Think of how a former boss or colleague—rather than a friend, family member, or significant other—would describe you, and focus on attributes that would be useful in the workplace, e.g., “When I was a work-study student, my supervisor always appreciated my creativity on projects and the attention to detail I showed in my work.”
8. How did you choose your university?
Your response should focus on Penn State’s good academic reputation and strong engineering program.
9. Can you describe a challenging situation that you have faced during your college years, and how you resolved it?
This a behavioral question designed to see how you approach and solve problems. It’s advisable to choose a fairly benign situation (such as a conflict with a roommate) and focus on how you worked collaboratively with others to find a solution.
10. What are your salary requirements?
Although the topic of salary doesn’t usually come up in an initial interview, some recruiters will ask this question in order to see whether or not you are aware of the average pay rates for students or recent graduates in your major. Try not to give a specific salary figure; if you are pressed to do so, give a range. You might find this information about average starting salary figures to be helpful in generating an acceptable range.