If you’re looking for entry-level job interview questions or trying to land an entry-level position, this article will help you immediately.
As a former recruiter, I’m going to share:
Let’s get started…
“Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common questions that employers start your interview with if you have no experience.
It’s a relatively open-ended question, but there are right and wrong ways to approach it.
First of all, focus on your professional background. Education, professional interests, etc.
This isn’t the time to talk about your gem collection or your love for horses (unless it relates to the job).
Keep your answer to 60-90 seconds maximum, and end with your current situation, why you’re looking for an entry-level job right now, and possibly why you chose to interview with them.
For example, here’s how a good answer would sound:
I just graduated from college with my nursing degree. I chose nursing because my mother was a nurse and I’m interested in jobs where I can interact with people and make a meaningful difference in their lives. Right now, I’m looking for an entry-level nursing position to begin my career.
You may also be asked, “Walk me through your resume,” and you can answer in the same way. Although this question is more common after you’ve obtained some professional experience.
Next, hiring managers may ask you to describe yourself.
Like the question above, this is quite open-ended.
Entry-level candidates should focus on describing their interests and strengths, and making the answer as relevant to the company’s job description as possible.
Staying with the nursing example above, you could answer by saying:
I’d describe myself as someone who is caring, attentive to detail, and hard-working. One reason I want to begin a career in nursing is to be able to help people directly and take advantage of these strengths.
The more you can relate your answers to the job you’re discussing and show your skills will help you succeed there, the more you’ll impress the company. You don’t need to do it with every interview answer, but do it for a good portion of your answers.
This is why it’s important to research a company and review the job description before your entry-level interview. Otherwise, you can’t do this properly.
Next, the hiring team will typically ask each entry-level candidate about their job search overall. In particular, they’ll want to ask entry-level job candidates what type of jobs they’ve been applying to and looking at.
Here’s why a company cares:
They want to hire someone who seems relatively sure that they want this type of job.
Candidates who have researched a job and know what it involves, and better yet… have a passion or interest or other reason for wanting this one type of job, are more likely to get hired (since employers see them as being more likely to stay a long time in the role).
So it’s a potential red flag if you tell a company you’re interviewing for sales roles, marketing roles, HR, engineering, etc. It’s a lot better if you can narrow it down and be able to tell a company something like:
I’m applying specifically to IT positions like junior software engineer positions and software quality assurance. I just graduated as a computer science major and so I’m only applying to positions that fit this, since I want to build a career in IT.
And if you’re targeting one certain type of job, employers may also ask, “Why did you choose this career?”
If so, you can usually be honest and simply share what interested you about this career or what/who guided you to choose this field when you decided to pursue it.
Some hiring managers will go a step further and ask for specific companies you’re talking to. You don’t have to reveal company names but be prepared for this question.
To respond, you can say:
I’m speaking to a number of companies like yours regarding <job type> positions. That’s the primary type of role I’m interested in. However, I’d prefer to keep company names private. I’d do the same for your firm if someone else asked me this question.
Of course, if you want to tell your interviewer what other companies you’re interviewing with, go ahead. But it’s not necessary and you shouldn’t let them push you into it. Just prepare ahead of time and practice the response above.
Next, the hiring manager or recruiter may simply ask how your job hunt is going.
You want to sound positive and optimistic, whether you’re just starting out or whether you’ve been searching for a few months and are still looking for a good fit.
Here’s an example answer:
I’ve been searching for two months and it’s going well so far. I’m going on a couple of late-stage interviews soon, I’m networking and talking to a few new companies as well. So overall, the search has been positive so far.
This is one of those interview questions where you can almost always be truthful.
Just be sure you have a response ready because it doesn’t look good to say “I can’t remember” when they ask how you heard about the position.
That’ll make it sound like you’re applying to every position you find and not being selective/targeted whatsoever in your job search, which is not attractive to employers.
On average, employers would much rather hire entry-level candidates who have a general idea of what they want to do career-wise. You’ll see many of the entry-level interview questions on this list are designed to dig into this topic.
For many types of entry-level jobs, an employer will care more about your motivation and interests rather than your skills and background.
This is yet another entry-level interview question designed to test whether you’re applying for specific positions and being selective, or just applying everywhere without caring much where you land a job.
You may be getting sick of hearing this theme among questions, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to the typical employer.
So be prepared to explain why you felt this position was a fit for your interests and career goals as you leave college and look to begin working.
I majored in history, so working at a historical society would be a dream job for me. That’s the main reason I was eager to apply and learn more about the job, the team, and the skills you’re looking for in candidates.
Next, the interviewer may ask a more direct question, “Why can you do well in this job?”
You can point to any previous work experience, including part-time work, internships, etc.
Or point to your studies and academic background if they relate.
Finally, you can point out soft skills, passion for this type of role, and anything else that you feel will help you perform well and be a long-term success for this employer.
I’m confident that I’d do well in this position because it’s similar to the internship I completed last spring. In that internship, I worked on projects involving <work experience area 1> and <work experience area 2>. My understanding is that both areas overlap with this role we’re discussing here and would benefit me if hired. Is that right?
Note that employers may also ask the following questions, which can be answered in the same way:
It’s always best to point to hard experience, even part-time jobs. So do mention that first if you can. You can use motivation and interest in the role as a fallback or a secondary piece in your answer. But focus on hard experience whenever you can.
Always research a company before interviewing. You’re going to feel more confident in the interview, and you’ll give much better answers to questions like this.
In your entry-level interview, this is the type of response you should be ready to give when the employer asks, “What do you know about our company?”
I know that you’re one of the largest online banks in the US and that you’ve been in business for more than 10 years. I also read about your recent initiative to expand into business banking, which sounds interesting to me since I studied business and finance in college.
You can share more knowledge, but that’s the bare minimum in terms of the type of answer you should be ready to give.
Employers don’t just want to hire you for an entry-level job, have you work 6-12 months, and then watch you leave and have to replace you.
So they ask interview questions like “What are your career goals?” to assess whether you seem like you’ll enjoy this type of work long-term.
If you can show the hiring team that you’re likely to be interested in this type of work five years down the road, not just now, then you’ll be more likely to get hired for a job right out of college.
Of course, goals change and you can’t be sure that you’ll want to stay in this type of position for your entire career, but it’s best to sound like you have a long-term interest in this field when facing this type of entry-level job interview question.
In fact, even five years or more into your career, you could still face this interview question and you should answer in the same way. So be prepared.
Employers may also ask, “What motivates you to work each day?” If you can share some passion or motivation aside from money, that’ll help you get hired as a candidate.
Next, a hiring manager or interviewer will likely want to know a bit about your passions and interests in life.
Your answer to “What are you passionate about?” doesn’t need to be work-related, but if you can relate it to the employer’s organization or position, that’s even better.
For example, if you’re interviewing for a software engineering role, you could say you’re passionate about technology and learning about computers.
If you’re interviewing at a non-profit organization, you could say you’re passionate about serving the community and helping those less fortunate.
Interviewers could also ask, “What do you like to do for fun?” so also prepare a couple of examples of projects or activities you enjoy in your spare time, outside of school and work.
Employers don’t just want to know you have the knowledge and ability required to handle their job. They want to know you’ll enjoy the environment and stay.
This is why they’ll ask you what type of work environment you prefer.
If possible, research the company’s work environment, company culture, and management style before your interview so you can show them you’re a good fit.
Or, if you’re unsure, try to sound like you’re comfortable in a range of environments. That way, you won’t sound like you’ll have a challenge blending into their environment and role.
They might also ask you to describe your ideal manager, so prepare for that as well.
Next, you should be ready to name one or two of your greatest strengths that will help you in their role and organization.
Don’t just talk in general terms; discuss their needs and desired job qualifications based on the job description.
They may also ask you about your greatest weaknesses in the interview, so be ready to share one weakness or challenge you face as a worker, and then describe how you’re working to improve it.
And never mention a weakness that’s critical to the role you’ve applied for.
As an example, if you’re applying to an entry-level customer support job, don’t ever say your weakness is communication or interpersonal skills. Instead, you could say you’d like to improve your leadership since you hope to lead people later in your career.
As a candidate, always be ready to explain when you’ll be available to start. Mention any notice you need to give a current employer, any vacations you have planned, etc.
It also doesn’t look great to say, “I could start immediately.”
So at minimum, I recommend you say:
I would need this week to get my affairs in order and could start any time after that.
Warning: This question is a major trap and you have very little to gain by naming a specific number… at least until you know they want to offer you the job.
Until then, if you name a number that’s higher than they’re looking to pay, they could end the interview process or say it’s not a fit.
As a recruiter, I’ve seen this happen as early as the phone interview.
Whereas, if you had waited to share your target salary until they had gotten to know your skills a bit better, they may have been able to be flexible in their budget and pay what you wanted.
At the same time, if you answer this question and say a number that’s too low, it could cost you in the negotiation later.
I have a detailed article on answering, “What’s your desired salary?” here. I recommend reading it since this will help you throughout your whole career.
That article has an exact script for how to respond and avoid giving a number, while still sounding polite and professional.
And saying, “I don’t have any questions,” never looks good. Even if this is a third or fourth round interview, employers appreciate it when candidates come prepared with thoughtful questions for the team.
So as a rule of thumb, have at least two questions ready for each person you’re going to meet with.
You can ask about the organization, the team, the role, how your performance will be measured, how you’ll be trained, tips for being successful in the company, and more.
You can read a list of 27 good questions to ask here (that other candidates aren’t asking).
Finally, some employers will give you a chance to mention anything you feel you left out.
They’re not expecting answers from each candidate here, so it’s completely fine to say, “I think we covered it all, thanks.”
However, if you do feel you could have explained some piece of experience or knowledge better, or if there’s a question you wish they had asked, you can certainly use this as an opportunity.
Even if they don’t ask this question, you can end your interview by saying, “There’s one area I should have mentioned more clearly…”
…And then explain yourself.
Along with the common entry-level job interview questions above, you may hear a few behavioral questions, such as:
For all of the above, think back to your previous work experience, internships, student projects, or even sports or other activities, and give an example of a time when you faced the situation and reached a positive result.
Describing related work experience is best, but I realize that not every entry-level job seeker has any, which is why it’s okay to refer to school or other relevant experience as well.
For each of your answers, describe the situation you were in, the task you were faced with, the action you chose and why, and the result.
This is known as the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
If you read through the questions and sample answers above, you’re a step closer to acing your entry-level interview.
Make sure to practice beforehand, though. Also, always research and assess the company’s needs before the interview (by reading the job description, reviewing the company’s website, etc.)
The way to stand out when answering interview questions is to relate your experience and qualifications to the company’s exact needs. Most candidates don’t prepare to do this, so it’s a chance to gain a significant advantage if you take the time to prepare thoroughly.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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