Entering the workforce is a big transition for anyone, and especially for people who are looking for their first entry-level job. It is also one area of job seeking where the rules are a little bit different. Interview questions tend to be based around more general characteristics, and just about every company assumes that there will be some substantial training and enculturation needed for each candidate. This means that they are looking for workers who seem like they will be dedicated, pay attention, and work to learn, and the interview questions reflect that. Expect to hear a couple of the behavioral questions you see on common job seeking sites, but also don’t be surprised if you hear a few that are a little bit different.
The competition is a little bit different when you go for entry-level positions, too. Since most of these positions could potentially be filled by most of the applicants, standing out as exceptionally trainable, insightful, or attentive can help. Overall, just remember to stay engaged.
What Are the Different Types of Interview Questions?
There are two main types of interview questions: behavioral questions and skills- and experience-based questions. Behavioral questions try to determine future behavior by examining past behavior. Skills- and experience-based questions focus on your transferrable skills, training, and relevant work experience.
Behavioral Interview Questions for Entry-Level Positions
Many of the most common behavioral questions used in job interviews for mid- and late-career positions revolve around your past experience and ways of handling situations. They are designed to reveal your conflict management strategies and problem-solving skills in ways that make it easier to judge whether your methods and priorities are in line with those the employer sees as valuable to the position. That same strategy is at play when you apply for your first job, but since you don’t generally have a deep pool of work experience to draw from when you’re just starting out, they change some of the questions to make them a little more approachable.
The key is to reflect on what the question is really asking. Is it about conflict resolution? Are they assessing the steps you will take to win an argument or to win for a client? Does this go to your teamwork skills? Once you have determined what the core value in the question is, studying other related questions can help you to strategize around your own level of experience. For example, you can prepare for assessments like “Tell us about the last time you were put in a leadership position,” by studying the similar, and more common, “Tell us about the last project you completed.”
Here are a few common behavioral interview items you are likely to see for entry-level positions:
Tell us about the first time you were in a leadership position.
What do you think of as your proudest accomplishment? Greatest failure?
What did you learn from each?
If you suspected a co-worker was stealing on the job, what steps would you take?
Tell us about the last team project you worked on.
Skills and Experience Questions for Entry-Level Positions
On top of the behavioral questions, entry-level positions do usually interview for skills and experience, because even if you don’t have direct workplace experience, many people do have training or previous project experience that can be developed toward a promotion into a more specialized job. It is in an employer’s best interests to identify those skills and that experience so that when they need to fill a position, they can easily assess the talent within the company before deciding to seek someone from the outside. Skills and experience questions for these positions tend to be more related to projects or to specific skills like computer and data entry, welding, driving commercial vehicles, and so on.
If you do have specialized training that would enhance your performance in the job, then be prepared to talk it up, and if you get the behavioral interview questions first, go ahead and use specific examples that also happen to show you using those skills, so that the interviewer will know to ask more specifically about them when you get to skill-related questions. That way, you can grab the interviewer’s interest early and hold it.
Generally, there are no consistent skill-related questions that you can really prepare for, because they are based on what the hiring manager sees on your resume and hears in other parts of the interview. To prepare for these questions, practice discussing your own projects and contributions to team projects in ways that specifically show what it is that you do. That way, it’s easier to pivot to discussing examples when they come up, giving you a better chance of making a lasting impression.