Toughest questions you'll face at an entry-level interview
Hiring managers need to know that the person they hire has both feet planted firmly on the ground
My first job interview ended 10 minutes after it started. Employers don’t want someone like I was back then: A young know-it-all who wanted to start at the top, skipping all the intervening steps.
Consequently, when you are going after that first job, employers want to be convinced that you have your feet on the ground, so you can expect questions that examine whether you really understand the life you are getting yourself into.
Here are four of the toughest interview questions you'll face and how you should handle them.
“Why do you think you would like this type of work?”
You can expect interviewers to ask questions that gauge both your understanding and motivation. Personal success and happiness demand that you understand the job and profession well enough to answer this question for yourself well before any interviewer asks it.
Your answer should address your grasp of the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges of the job and your willingness to tackle them. “I have always been interested in [profession]. I enjoy exactly the kind of challenges presented by the work (be ready with examples from your research) and I believe the profession, and your company especially, offers stability and professional growth potential for someone who is willing to earn his/her opportunities.”
By making network connections with people already in your target profession (your alumni association is a good place to start), you can learn from experienced professionals about the challenges this work throws at you every day. Always try to help the mentors who help you because these people will be ahead of you throughout your career, which means they are positioned to help your career progression for a lifetime.
“What aspects of this job do you consider most crucial?”
An interviewer asks this question to examine your understanding of the job’s role in helping the organization maintain profitability—every job helps a company make money, save money, or increase productivity. Your answer should itemize the most important responsibilities of the job (again, finding mentors already in the profession helps here) and then proceed to address:
- The technical skills: “I need to be able to do [technical skills] to execute my responsibilities.”
- Your knowledge of the problems that typically occur in each of your areas of responsibility: “I need to be able to anticipate, prevent (by the way I do my work), and solve the problems that are an integral part of the job. “
“What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you?”
You want to position yourself as someone who’s decisive but also considers causes, options and their effects before making decisions. Mention that with everything being new and unfamiliar you expect to be asking a lot of questions in the early months, rather than making a bunch of dumb mistakes as you “earn your place in the team.”
Be ready with an illustration of a difficult decision you have faced, how you thought it through and the impact of your decision. Itemize the steps you took in analyzing the problem, the questions you asked yourself and others and talk about how this process helped you reach the right decision.
“How have you benefited from your disappointments/mistakes?”
A smart person learns more from disappointments and mistakes than she or he does from success. Your answer will explain how you treat such setbacks as learning experiences: You look at what happened, why it happened, and how you can do things differently the next time.
Don’t talk about specific failures unless asked but be prepared with an example in case of a follow-up behavioral question starting, “Tell me about a time when ... ” Then make the mistake small, put it in the past, and finish with what you learned and how you have benefitted from the experience.
Craft smart answers in advance
You will face these questions—and more like them—because hiring managers need to know that the person they hire has both feet planted firmly on the ground. Could you use some help getting ready for your job interview? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can sign up to get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips sent directly to your inbox, so you can approach the job search with confidence. With Monster's expert advice backing you up, you'll be prepared for each stage of your career.