Alumna offers tips for landing a job post-grad

Patricia Cangelosi February 13, 2013 0

Seniors: I’ve been in your shoes. Two years ago I was an Elizabethtown senior, pulling my hair out and searching every job website known to man. I was determined to prove my parents wrong (“English majors don’t get jobs”) and beat the odds, because unfortunately, a lot of college grads are unemployed.
If you’re facing the same challenges and applying to virtually every job posting you see, it’s easy to avoid thinking about the interview process. You might feel relieved and excited when you receive that coveted request, and you should be proud of yourself for scoring an interview! But there’s work to do before you walk in the door of your prospective employer’s company (or answer the phone if it’s a phone interview). Below are 10 real-life questions that employers ask candidates – I’ve personally been asked all of them – that you need to be prepared to answer.
Why should I hire you? Here’s where you outline your experience and what makes you a good fit for the position, based on the job description. Go into detail as though the interviewer has never read your résumé (even though he or she probably has).
Do you have any experience with [fill in the blank]? Regardless of what the blank is – Photoshop, swing dancing, writing a sonnet – don’t automatically say no. Even if you have no experience, demonstrate an eager willingness to learn, and if there’s any way you can think of to learn before starting the job, indicate that as well (“My English professor wrote a book about Shakespearean sonnets. I’ve been curious to learn how to write one, so I’m planning to ask her to teach me”). It may sound cheesy, but you’re showing interest and being proactive, and that goes a long way.
What is your desired salary? This is a tricky one, especially if you’re applying for your first post-college job. Sites like and can estimate the average salary of a particular job in a given geographical area, so you can get an idea of an appropriate range.
What’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness? Don’t be afraid to brag a little about your abilities; confidence is a quality that most employers seek. When you mention a weakness, immediately counteract it with something positive. For example: “Throughout college I struggled with time-management skills, but I’ve worked on it and have gotten a lot stronger in that area.”
Where do you see yourself in five years? When answering this question, don’t commit to any particular company or job title. A broader response is the best way to go. List job responsibilities you’d like to have, tasks you’d like to take on, and an ideal work environment for you.
Tell me about a time when you faced a significant challenge, and how you overcame it. Think about your experiences in various jobs, classes, projects, etc. Choose a scenario in which you succeeded as a direct result of your hard work, dedication and creative problem solving.
If money were not an issue, what would you spend your time doing? Your interviewer is trying to find out about your character and personality. “Volunteering” is a good answer to this question – for instance, if you love animals, you could say “volunteering full-time at an animal shelter.” Or if you have a favorite hobby, maybe that’s your response. Just keep it productive – don’t say “sitting on the couch all day eating Doritos.”
In your own words, tell me what my company does. Yikes! This is a scary question to encounter if you haven’t done your research. Look up the company online and be ready with a one- or two-sentence summary of what it does. Employers want to see that you’re genuinely interested in them and not just playing the field, so to speak.
What was your favorite thing and least favorite thing about your last job? If you’ve had more than one job simultaneously during your college years, pick one to talk about. Never say anything negative about a former boss, coworker or work environment. Your “least favorite” should be presented as a challenge and a learning experience. For instance: “My boss was very serious about getting every task done perfectly. It was challenging to please him at times, and that drove me to work harder; I learned to be more focused and detail-oriented.”
Do you have any questions for me? YES YES YES. Always be prepared with at least three questions for the interviewer. Examples: “What is the corporate environment like here?” “Is there a dress code?” “How many people work here?” “What do you think is the best part about working here?”
Questions? Want more job-seeking tips? Feel free to contact the author at Also, don’t forget that Career Services is there to help!

Leave A Response »