Describe a time when…

→ interviewers will ask you a series of situational questions where you may need to think on your feet.

The goal of these questions is to see if you have encountered conflict in your previous experiences (which is all the time because no workplace is perfect) and how you worked to reach a compromise.

These questions require using the STAR technique, meaning Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

  • Situation: Create the backdrop of what happened. Did this conflict arise due to a new project? Did someone in your team disagree with you and this stopped progress?
  • Task: What did you need to accomplish? What was the task given to the team?
  • Action: What actions did you take to resolve the issue?
  • Result: What resulted from the actions you took?

Most often, issues arise due to miscommunication and conflict of interest. There are key ways on how to resolve a problem:

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What are your strengths and weaknesses?

→This can also be asked as: How would your current supervisor describe you?

For this question, I usually give three strengths and one weakness. I give examples of each trait. The weakness response is a special case — not only do you admit to having this weakness, but also do you give examples of how you’ve been overcoming it.

Example of a weakness:
I have difficulty speaking up during meetings. I was honest with my supervisor and asked if she could ask me for my opinions during meetings so I could become comfortable doing so. I heard for this position I will be leading meetings and participating in conferences. Although this sounds intimidating, I am excited to participate.

For the strengths, you want to give an answer that you know is true about yourself, but is also unique. And of course, give an example of each.

Sample strengths:

  • Positive
  • Initiator / Go-getter
  • Good Communicator
  • Organized

Why are you a good fit for this position?

→ Interviewers want to see how you can sell yourself and how you can relate your previous experiences to this current position.

You can pool your answers from Tell me about yourself and Why are you interested in this position.

Sample response:

  • I have great organizational skills:
    For my current internship, I utilize different project management software such as Microsoft Project and the department’s own software system. I keep track of project tickets, color-code key events, and even share a Google Doc with my supervisor that lists all of my assignments and the process for each one. 
  • I am also extremely detail-oriented, and this position needs keen employees:
    I proofread all material that is sent out. I was able to point out incorrect usage of a statistic for an e-mail my supervisor was sending out. 
  • I am also able to adapt to different situations when needed:
    My current internship gets fast-paced at the beginning of each semester, so I need to juggle several assignments at once. I have a system where I can work on one assignment then work on another one as my I wait for feedback from other team members. When my work environment gets slow-paced, I know I can ask my supervisor and other team members when they need assistance.

For this response, I listed a trait then gave examples and/or accomplishments for each one. The traits I listed above are versatile and important in any work environment.

You can write a list of traits about yourself and give examples of each one from your work experience, and when relevant questions are asked, you can grab them from your pool.

Can you run me through your resume?

→How well do you know your resume? Did you make anything up? Can you go more in detail about your experiences rather than repeating the text on your resume?

Remember: whatever you put on your resume is fair game.

So before you start putting down “proficiency in French” when you only took French 101 and 102, read this:

My friend Dylan is fluent in Hebrew and put down “Fluency in Hebrew” on his resume. During his third interview with the COO of a company, the COO started speaking to him in Hebrew.

Fair. Game.

Luckily, Dylan wasn’t exaggerating on his resume and was able to have a conversation with the COO.

We can answer this question the same way we answered tell me about yourself.

  • where you worked / volunteered for
  • what the organization does
  • what you accomplished there
  • what were the results

Example:

  • I volunteer at Habitat for Humanity,
  • where we build homes for the impoverished.
  • Here I painted various homes, did fundraising on campus, and promoted the organization with self-designed flyers and posters.  
  • Due to my efforts,  campus awareness of the organization grew by 110% and 50 students signed up to volunteer by the end of my first month.

We see a pattern here — we usually describe a situation, the tasks that were given, the actions we took, and the results that we made happen. This is known as a STAR Technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). I will go more in-depth with this technique in “Describe a time when…

Why are you interested in this position?

 other ways of asking this question:

Why do you want this job? 

What are you looking for in an internship?

Interviewers want to see what attracts you to this position, what you will gain from it, and how it ties into your previous experiences. Take a look at the job description and highlight which parts stand out to you. What do you like about this position? What can you learn from it? How does it tie in with your current interests?

Sample job description: (re-worded)

Interns will assist in the designing and development processes, directly communicate and work with our suppliers, and execute creatively-designed engineered composite products

  • Lead design/development and coordinate through manufacturing launch.
  • Learn how to work in a fast-paced environment with advanced materials and processes
  • Stay up-to-date with materials processing.
  • Direct raw material and project in/outsourcing.

Sample answer:
I am interested in this position because it not only encompasses the process of developing and executing a manufacturing launch, but it also includes working with cutting-edge technology and learning how to work with employers. At my current internship, I contribute to the processing team by designing the initial process and oversee a manufacturing launch. I believe I can further my experience in materials processing and design.

Boom. You just listed what you’re interested in AND how you will benefit from it. Pretty short and simple.

If you’re asked “What are you looking for in an internship,” you can shape this ^ answer to fit the context.

For example:

“I am looking for an internship where I can learn the process of developing and executing a manufacturing launch and where I can also work with innovative technology. I also have previous experience in material design, so I am hoping I can expand on this skill as well.”

By directly connecting your current interests to the job description, you sound eager to fill the position.

Tell me about yourself.

→ most commonly asked question. The interviewer(s) can learn a lot about you, concerning the content in your answer and how you communicate this answer. This question is asked in both technical and non-technical interviews.

Outline of a response:

  • Name, school where you’re studying, major/minor *optional: why you chose to major or minor in these fields *
  • First experience, what you did there
  • Transition into next experience, what you did there (doesn’t need to be a job, can be an organization you are heavily involved in on campus)
  • What you’re doing now at your current job/org
  • Looking forward, I believe I am a good fit for ____.

Your response may seem lengthy. To avoid this, try to be concise and sum up each point in one sentence.

Example:
I wanted to learn how start-ups manage their finances, so I decided to work for ____, where I oversaw their accounts.

You hit all three points in one sentence, and it states where you worked, why you worked there, and what you accomplished.

Example 2:
I strongly believe in advocating for LGBTQ rights, so I joined ____  and worked my way to an officer position, where I reach out to communities and organize campus events.