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5 Questions to Prepare for Your First Job Interview

You need more than the right clothes to ace your first job interview. You also need good answers. Here's how to answer the toughest interview questions.

Congrats on scoring your first job interview! As a new graduate, there’s a lot to take in—from possibly moving into a new apartment to hunting for your first job. Now that you have your first interview lined up, it’s time to take the world by storm! With a little bit of interview practice, you’ll have no problem impressing the socks off the interviewers. There are quite a few questions you might get asked, but don’t let that overwhelm you. You know how they say practice makes perfect? In this case, practicing will undoubtedly help you perform better during your first interview. Here are five questions you can expect during most job interviews. If you prepare for these, you’ll be sure to crush it!

1. Tell me about yourself

“Tell me about yourself” is an icebreaker that interviewers use to see how friendly you are. Plus, they genuinely want to learn more about you, such as where you went to school, what experience you gained from internships, and other details that pertain to your career. To safely answer this question:

  • Describe your personality and how it benefits you for this role.
  • Mention any community involvement you had in the past.
  • Relate your current skills with the job you’re interviewing for.
  • Mention times when you were successful at school.
  • Focus on specific scenarios where you developed career-related skills.

There are a few things you shouldn’t mention, such as your religious or political views and whether you’re married or have children. Focus on why you’re applying for the job and give supporting evidence as to what makes you the best candidate.

2. How will your academic experience aid you in this position?

Employers are often interested in finding out how well you do at applying yourself. In other words, the company you’re interviewing with would like to know how you would apply previously learned skills to your new job. They also want to have an idea of how much they’ll have to train you as a new employee. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t had a lot of experience yet.

Instead—or in addition to—wow them with your degree, what you learned, and how that learning applies to the job. You can prepare ahead of time for this question by looking at the job requirements. Also, visit their website and get more familiar with the company, founders, and what makes them successful. With a good understanding of which skills from the job description you have, you’ll be able to give them a clear answer. For example, if the job requires you to be active on social media, explain how you managed the social media platforms for the company you interned with at school. Or maybe you managed the social media for a fundraising campaign for a nonprofit organization you volunteered for recently. If so, explain how working on social media for people other than yourself helped you learn social media business etiquette and how to market their sites properly.

Related: Tips for Writing a Cover Letter With Little or No Work Experience

3. What is your dream job?

This is similar to the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question. The point is for the person interviewing you to see how good you are at setting goals. They also want to find out how eager you are to learn and whether the job position and company are a good fit for you. Don’t focus on personal goals when answering this question; focus on career goals. Do this by explaining why the job you’re interviewing for can help you grow in your skills and abilities as well as in your career. Talk about how you see this position advancing your career and inching you closer to your dream job.

4. What’s your biggest failure or regret?

If a hiring manager asks what your biggest failure is, they are looking to learn more about how you react when things don’t go as planned. Talking about your most significant failure is a tough one, but everyone fails at one time or another, and you can adequately answer this question by telling a story. There are ways to make yourself shine, even while answering this tough interview question. Try using the STAR interview technique. This works for a variety of interview questions and particularly well for this one. STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

Keep this technique in mind and pick a story that allows you to explain what you learned from the experience. Here are a few examples of what type of story you could tell based on the STAR technique:

  • You didn’t follow instructions on a project in school, but you used that failure to improve your performance on other projects.
  • You failed an important test, but you figured out what study habits you needed for future exams.
  • You didn’t follow through with a volunteering task you committed to, but it taught you the importance of sticking to commitments.

The end of the story is your opportunity to point out your hard-won skills. Most importantly, explain how you’ll apply these skills in the future to this position. Taking personal accountability tells a hiring manager a lot about you. Even if you made a mistake, it’s what you took away from it that matters.

5. What experience do you have working with teams?

Don’t confuse this question with “How well do you work on a team?” because they’re very different. Interviewers ask this question because they want to know if you get along with team members and what you can contribute to a group. Not only that, but they’re looking for examples of when you successfully worked with others. Just like telling a story about how you learned from your mistakes, you can also tell a story about how working with teams has improved your communication and teamwork skills.

The best way to respond to this question is by giving them a few examples of when you successfully worked with team members. Take the time to explain why the project or job went well. You likely worked with a team in school, while volunteering, or even during a job you had during college. Use these scenarios as examples. Let’s apply STAR again to this interview question about working with others. Here’s an example of how you would use this technique:

  • Situation: Explain the event, such as where the activity took place.
  • Task: Explain the assignment, what questions you had to solve, and if you hit any roadblocks along the way.
  • Action: Talk about how you handled setbacks and which efforts you and your team took to get them resolved.
  • Result: Conclude with what steps you took, what you learned, and, above all else, what your team accomplished.

Related: Your First Job Interview: Before, During, and After

While these five interview questions are common, continue to do your research. You can’t entirely anticipate what you’ll get asked. However, being familiar with the most repeated questions will help you be more than ready for your interview. If things don’t go as well as you would have liked, keep in mind that this is your first interview— there will be another one. Nonetheless, if you practice what you’re going to say and have specific examples and stories in mind, you’ll be golden. Wow the hiring manager with your incredible skill set, because you worked hard to gain them so you could find the job of your dreams.

Secure your first interview by checking out these valuable job search sites!

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