Graduate Interview Questions

In this blog post we have listed our top 20 graduate interview questions and answers to help you with your interview preparation. When you graduate from university you are going to be faced with the challenge of finding a job.  A graduate job can also come in the form of a graduate scheme jobs which is run by a company, specifically to train up their new recruits.  With this being the case graduate jobs are extremely competitive therefore knowing how to write a personal statement (supporting statement example) and understanding what type of graduate assessment day interview questions is crucial to be thoroughly prepared 

1) Why have you applied for this graduate scheme?

This is amongst one of the many guaranteed interview questions for graduates. However, what’s difficult in answering this question is providing a unique response that makes you stand out from the crowd and the other candidates.  The key here is not only to talk about the organisation and why it’s impressed you, but also mention how your motivators, drivers, passion,  studying and work experience aligns with the mission of the organisation.  Importantly remember every company has a list of values. Aim to weave the organisation of values into your response.  You’ll be surprised how many graduates forget to mention this in their answers.

2) What do you know about us? 

This is again another important interview question that interviewers want to see whether you as a graduate have taken it upon yourself to research their company properly.  It demonstrates a level of dedication.  Again, it’s a common question, and to stand out from the crowd isn’t easy.  However the key is to not to be generic in your response for example don’t just mention the history, the technology or services of the company. Instead zoom in to specifics.  For example in their history talk about something specific that impressed you.  Regarding their product or technology what  specific function really stood out,  which was mentioned by the CEO during  a speech at a conference that you watched on YouTube.  What this will show is that your research isn’t just superficial rather it possesses depth.

 3) What are your strengths?

This is a traditional question that every graduate needs to be prepared for at their interview.  For this question the key is not only to mention a strength that you possess but also why it’s valuable for the company for example if your strength is your analytical skills then emphasise that this will be important  in achieving and supporting the organisation mission and Vision.  Once you’ve done this it’s important to actualize your response and your statements  with substance and that means providing an example from your experience to showcase exactly why this is a strength. 

4) What is your proudest achievement?

Not to be conflated with what is your greatest achievement. The proudest achievement question is asked so that the interview can learn more about your values, your personality and how you overcome potentially challenging or difficult situations.  Obviously being a graduate there’s an assumption that your  greatest achievement in your career to date was to complete your degree. Therefore by asking about the proudest achievement you can talk about something within your studies and outside of your studies.  Here what’s important as a graduate you make sure that your answer to this question that you are able to explain why it’s the case in the interview.

5) Provide an example when you have had to deal with conflict with another person?

This question always comes up at a graduate interview because ultimately when you are working within an office work environment you’re going to interact with lots of people with different personalities. Naturally disagreements are going to occur therefore being able to successfully demonstrate through your past experience how you  have navigated a conflict scenario is very important for an employer.  Here, the key things to consider: is to listen, show empathy,  be diplomatic and solutions orientated. 

6) Tell me about the latest happenings within our industry?

A lot of companies want to know how up to date you are regarding their industry, that the research that you’ve done isn’t just limited to the organisation.  he reason for this question is to assess whether you have a genuine interest in their industry.  The key in answering this question and being able to stand out is 1)  to be specific and not generic 2) Quote an industry personality or icon to show that you know who the industry movers and shakers are 3) provide statistics to support your knowledge and response where possible.

7) What do you do in your free time?

This question comes up in graduate interviews because  employers are not just investing in you to do a job, but they’re also investing in you for the future! To grow and become a valuable asset for the organisation. Therefore understanding what you might do outside of work is important because they’ll be able to see that you are a well balanced individual. 

 8) Where do you see yourself in five years?

 It’s important for the interviewer to know that you have a clear idea of where you want to go in your career. The last thing the employer wants is someone who isn’t clear about their career direction. There’s always the apprehension that after a short period into your graduate career that you decide to leave.  This of course does happen but companies like to avoid a situation like this from occurring. So, by asking ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ they can assess whether the vision you have for yourself aligned with there’s.  

Naturally as you go up the career ladder your salary will increase. It’s also important to learn about average graduate salary so that you can land the best possible graduate package. 

9) Provide an example where you’ve had to deal with conflicting priorities?

When you start  a professional job companies like to assess whether you will be ready for the intensity and pressure that will come with the role.  One’s ability to successfully manage the various responsibilities that come with any new graduate job is important for an employer. As, it would mean that you’ll be successfully able to complete more tasks. Therefore being more efficient and productive. The way to answer this question is to demonstrate that you have a process in place to manage the conflict in priorities and by using this systemised approach successfully deal with the issues at hand.

10) What is your biggest weakness?

This question will  inevitably come up at a graduate interview.  Personally, I feel it’s a pointless question. An interview is all about promoting and selling yourself, to ask a question about your weaknesses is counter to that.  It’s like going to a showroom to buy a new car and ask the salesperson what’s the worst thing about this car , the salesperson is in a lose-lose situation whatever he says . However, as it will get asked, firstly is to ensure that you are very specific with your weakness.  By being specific it demonstrates that you’re not going for a cliché response.  Secondly, try to make the specific weakness have little importance in the job role, because if there is, then they are not going to give you the job based on the fact that one of your weaknesses  is the opposite quality that’s required  to do the job well. 

11) Tell us about a time when you’ve part of a team, what role did you play in the team’s success?

As a graduate you’re not expected to go straight into a leadership role there’s an expectation firstly that you are going to work as part of a wider team. Therefore your ability to work well with others to achieve those short-term and long-term objectives is really important. The way to answer this question is firstly to highlight how you supported your team members in their tasks whether it’s through showing empathy, being available to help and being supportive. Secondly is to specifically talk about the task you undertook and how that contributed to the team’s success.

12) Provide an example where you’ve challenged the status quo?

Being a graduate, you will be learning the ropes within the new role and doing your day to day tasks. However, you’re also an investment and at some point in the  future you’ll  play an important role in growing the organisation as a leader. This means having the character and personality to challenge normative thinking in the business.  Here the subject matter isn’t as important as the reason why you took a stand, how you felt during the process and how you manage those emotions. 

13) Provide an example where you’ve had to deal with criticism?

You are expected to be learning every day and through that learning process of course you are going to make mistakes in some cases your mentors or your managers will approach you to say well what you’re doing isn’t quite right or there is a better way of doing something. Essentially being criticised.  Of course no one likes to be criticised it’s not a great feeling. However, your ability to take criticism and learn for it is vital for an organisation, because that’s how you grow, evolve and become a stronger professional. Also, it shows you ability to learn as well as have the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers and have the desire to be better.  Again, here the subject matter is irrelevant, rather how you manage to respond to that criticism and become stronger from it, is more crucial.

14) How would your friends describe you?

This is one question that can catch a graduate out at their interview. As it’s not your own opinion about yourself rather a description from your friends. Therefore successfully being able to navigate this question coherently is crucial.  Also, it’s important not to fall into the trap of answering in virtually the same way as what are your strengths.

This question is about showing a mixture of your strengths as well as something fun and quirky about your personality. 

15) Provide an example where you’ve gone above and beyond  for somebody or something?

If you are interviewing for a graduate consulting role or customer facing role this question becomes particularly important. Since, a large part of those jobs will include you having to engage with clients. Here demonstrating your desire to please your client shows that you’re a good fit for the role.  Also, going beyond that it shows that you’re a big picture thinker, having the commercial savviness to understand the innate value of going the additional mile and how this will strengthen a relationship in the long run. Ultimately resulting in more money for the business. 

16) Tell us about a time when you failed?

This sounds like a trick question and it both is and isn’t.  A bit like what are your weaknesses you’re having to talk about something which is a negative. The key in responding to this question is demonstrating how you are able to firstly deal with failure and the disappointment that that failure brings, but also how you then were able to channel that disappointment into something positive and learn from the experience to make you a  stronger version of yourself. 

Another thing to consider is that the reason why you failed ideally should be based on a positive reason, for example you wanted to go above and beyond for somebody, you wanted to build or create something that was amazing but in its pursuit due to time restriction, over ambition failed. 

17) Tell us about somebody who inspires you and why?

A grad interview is not only about competency questions and being able  to relay knowledge and research about the company. It’s also about learning more about who you are as a person. The question about ‘who inspires you’ allows them to get an insight into the type of person that you are. With this, I only have one suggestion which is to ensure that whoever you refer to  as your inspiration isn’t too cliché  such as Mother Thresa or your father. If you do decide to go down that route make sure that you have well-developed reasons for why that’s the case. 

18) Tell us about a time when you have shown leadership?

Although you’re not expected to lead at this stage of your fledgling graduate career you are expected to take on more leadership duties as you go through the graduate scheme process as well as when you receive a promotion.  This question is very much aimed at understanding what the future ‘you’ might look like. Here, it is important to try to demonstrate all the noble qualities that a leader might possess such as honesty, resilience, leading by example, showing compassion and empathy to those around you.

19) Tell us about a time when you’ve had to think outside of the box to solve a problem?

This question is there to gauge your ability to think creatively and your proactiveness in wanting to solve problems. Now, usually this question doesn’t come up at a graduate assessment day because usually that is assessed during some group task or exercise. However, if you’re just having a straight graduate interview it’s one that you definitely need to prepare for. So, think of an example where you didn’t give up on a problem and you show lateral thinking which results in finding a solution.  

20) Questions to ask at an interview 

Just as being able to answer the questions is important so it being able to consider questions to ask at an interview UK. Below is a list of questions that I recommend every graduate should ask at the end of their interview. 

  1. I’ve had a really positive experience today. I can clearly see that everyone here gets along. I’d like to know from your perspective what’s the best thing about working here?
  2.  Is there anything that I can be doing in advance of starting the role so that I am able to hit the floor running?
  3. I recently read your company’s annual report and what really impressed me was    [insert information] This is a really exciting endeavour but naturally I do feel there are a few challenges regarding this [insert challenge]. One of the ways that we can solve this is by [insert solution], what are your thoughts about this?

Farhan Raja

I'm Farhan, the Founder and Coach at, one of the world’s leading Career and interview Coaching specialists. Bringing over a decade of industry experience and a passion for guiding individuals in their career journeys. As an Interview and Career Coach, I've authored the eBook '10 Simple Steps to CV & Resume Success,' directed a leading UK CV writing specialist, and pioneered the iPREP interview coaching methodology.

My career and interview coaching has spanned over 10 years across diverse industries, from IT giants like Google and Microsoft to vital sectors like Civil Service & NHS, Pharma, Finance, Engineering, Automotive, Construction, Logistics, Banking, and Management Consulting. I've had the privilege of assisting professionals in presenting their best selves, and targeting roles at renowned companies like Amazon, GSK, EY, Shell, Rolls Royce and more.

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