Tips for Grads: Answering Popular Interview Questions

By Lydia Gandy-Fastovich, PhD student

Preparing to enter the job market in industry entails preparing for job interviews. But how do you prepare for interview questions? We have tips for answering five of the most popular interview questions from Kristina Vack, a career advisor:

“Tell me about yourself…”

  • Interviewers want to know why you applied and why you fit with the organization. Tie in qualities from the position description that you exhibit and mention something you know to have in common with any interviewers.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

  • Strengths: Highlight two or three strengths that match the job description. Prepare an example to share during your answer.
  • Weaknesses: Don’t choose something integral to the job (aka. “deal breakers”). Pick a real weakness of yours, but always end with how you are actively working to improve this.

“What are your short-term and long-term goals?”

  • Short-term (3 months – 1 year out): Speak to your goals for the position and where you see yourself moving in the organization.
  • Long-term (5 years out and beyond): You can be brutally honest and say that this is a stepping stone into the field, but it is better to be a little gentler.

“Tell me about a time when…” (the behavioral question)

  • Develop your answer with the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Results).

“Why do you want this job?”

  • Identify a personal reason why you want to work there. If you’re leaving academia, you might want to acknowledge why you’re making a change.

Adapted from the “Successful Interviews” workshop, presented and created by Kristina Vack.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.