Tips to Help Students Answer Frequently Asked First Job Interview Questions

Nov 03, 2023
Job interview questions Edmentum article

No matter how seasoned you are, job interviews can cause some jitters. Whether you have been in the workforce for years or are a student about to graduate, job interviews are nerve-racking. With graduation around the corner, summer employment and internships are probably at the forefront of some students’ minds. To ease some of the first job interview stress, remind your students that lessons they learn in the classroom and through extracurricular activities can translate to marketable skills that will be valuable in their careers!

Helping Students Practice First Job Interview Questions

To help you prepare your students to be successful in their first job interviews, we spoke with Danielle O'Connell-Lang, Edmentum’s Senior Human Resources Manager (and resident interview expert). Explore what Danielle says are the six interview questions students are likely to be asked and take note of a few tips they can follow before the interview even begins.

1. Can you tell me about yourself?

I always suggest going back to the type of job you’re applying for to see how you can relate information about yourself to that specific job. This can be especially helpful during a first job interview.

If the job involves thinking on your feet and making quick decisions, talk about a time you played sports and had to react quickly. If the job requires you to multitask, talk about your schooling and extracurricular activities where you had to balance different workloads to be successful. 

And if they ask about hobbies, don’t spend too much time discussing all the things you love to do—focus on just two to three hobbies you enjoy.

2. Can you tell me about the last challenge you had to overcome and what the result was?

Employers want to find out how you deal with failure or adversity. They want to know how you prioritize your day. What happens when you have plans and then, suddenly, additional plans are dropped on you at the last minute? How do you process that? Give specific examples of what the challenge was and what the result was.

An example of a challenge could be your experience with a group project for school. With this example, share your individual role within the group, specifically what you were responsible for and then move on to what went right and wrong during collaboration. Conclude your example by speaking on the results of the project and your key takeaways from the experience.

3. What are your development areas?

This is another way of asking what your biggest weaknesses are. Don’t say you’re a perfectionist—many interviewees say this, but that’s not a real development area. 

If you don’t know what your development areas are, then seek feedback from people close to you whom you trust. Ask: “Where do you think I need more development?” Is it being more confident about speaking up in large groups? Is it improving your skills in organizing and prioritizing your tasks? 

Once you have an idea of what your development areas are, then start thinking about the steps that you have taken (or will take) to improve in those areas. Remember, it’s only a weakness if you don’t take steps to improve.

4. Why are you right for this role?

You should familiarize yourself with the job description you’re interviewing for and come prepared with examples that highlight the required characteristics that you’re strong in. Most examples will come from school, but that’s great because school relates the best to business settings.

What sells the most is your confidence when you talk about why you’re right for a position. You don’t have to have confidence on the inside; just practice on showing it on the outside. Rehearse your first job interview with your friends and family, practice during mock interviews at school, or even record yourself and watch the video to see how you can improve. Don’t be overly chatty; be thoughtful, even-paced, and articulate. All it takes is some practice.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is do not stretch the truth or misrepresent your skills. If you get the job, then you’re going to have to prove that you know what you said you know. So, be authentic.

5. Where do you see yourself in three years?

This question is where you can talk about your career vision. Employers are looking to see if you have a realistic career pathway in mind. For example, if you’re applying for an entry-level customer support representative role, then a realistic pathway could be learning all that you can in year one and then, by year two or three, being promoted to a specialist role. If you see yourself as a leader, then year two or three could involve getting promoted to team lead, where you’re in charge of training and then eventually moving on to management roles.

6. Do you have any questions for me?

Always have a few questions of your own as you wrap up a first job interview. This is the perfect moment to see if this company is a right fit for you and if it offers the type of work environment you’re looking for. You want to make sure that the company, the leader, and the team are aligned with your career goals.

Here are examples of questions you can ask:

  • What does success look like in this role?
  • Could you tell me about the team environment? Could you tell me about the company’s culture?
  • When can I anticipate hearing back from you about this role? What are the next steps?

First Job Interview Tips for Teens from Danielle

Use the S.T.A.R Method

When you answer behavioral-based questions, I suggest following the S.T.A.R. method. Start off with a Situation where you had a positive outcome. Then, describe the Tasks involved in the situation. Move on to specify the Actions you took to resolve the tasks. Finally, show the Results of the actions you took. If you can answer these four things concisely, then you’ve nailed it!

Dress to Impress

Whether in person or over a video call, remember to show up to the interview as if you were interviewing in person. Dress appropriately, and make sure that the background in your video looks nice and not distracting.

Check Technology

Check your devices before the interview starts! Make sure that your audio/video equipment works and that you have a stable Internet connection. This way, you can focus your energy on the interview without worrying about technical issues that could have been avoided.

Be Authentic

Definitely rehearse what you want to share overall, but don’t be overly scripted. Be honest, and portray an air of confidence in your skills and abilities.

Do Your Homework

Take the time to research the company you’re applying for, and write down observations you’re curious about. This will show interviewers that you did your homework and that you are truly interested in what the company has to offer. 

Looking for more career-readiness tips? Check out 6 Tips to Help Students Build Their First Resume.

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