College Interview Questions

Here a just a few common interview questions and some suggestions on how to answer them.  Remember that most of your college interviews will be conducted by alumni or students.  Some do not hold much weight while others are comparable to a good letter of reccomendation.

What’s your greatest weakness?

?It’s an interview cliche, but it still gets asked. The key is to come up with something that is truthful, yet doesn’t impact your ability to do the job, according to career coach and blogger, Miriam Salpeter. More important than what you identify as a weakness is the part about how you’ve overcome it. Salpeter offers this example: A computer programmer might say, “Speaking in front of very large crowds really scares me, but I’ve been working on becoming a better public speaker. I’ve joined Toastmasters, and I stand up in front of my mirrror, pretending there is a crowd.” It's a good one because public speaking is something most people are afraid of, and it is also not likely to be essential to a job as a programmer.  One thing you should never say, says Salpeter, is that you are a perfectionist because no one wants to work with a perfectionist.

So tell me about yourself? (Also posed as “Why do you think you’re the person for this school?” “Why should we accept you?” “What distinguishes you from other applicants?”)

This is not an invitation to recite your biography. It is an opportunity to draw out the parts of your story that best sell you for the position. So if you were born and raised in Boston and are passionate about the city, that might a good topic for conversation in an interview at Boston University. But it wouldn’t necessarily be worth mentioning if you were interviewing for William and Mary.  If you’re fluent in three languages, have worked overseas, and have parents who hail from outside the U.S., then those facts would be good ones to highlight in the interview for a school with an awesome international business or relations program.

Talk about a time you failed and how you recovered.

Since we all mess up from time to time, the important thing is that you choose something where you can demonstrate what you’ve learned from the experience.  A classic example here would be a time that you took on too much responsibility or agreed to do something on an unreasonable timetable, according to career coach and resume writer,Chandlee Bryan. Your recovery could be as simple as the fact that you now feel comfortable raising concerns about what you can deliver on a given schedule.

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