The HR departments at Australia’s largest graduate employers spend years honing their interview techniques to determine which graduates will be best placed to serve “the organisation”. Management Consultants ask case study questions to test the applicants' ability to problem solve, Banks ask about interest rates and macro-economic factors to test the applicants' interest in markets and law firms ask what area of law applicants are most interested in and why. While these questions will vary between industry and firm there are a few questions you should expect, and be prepared for, regardless of where you interview, the ‘classic interview questions’.
What is your biggest weakness?
At first this question might seem like a good opportunity to rule yourself out of contention, but as these graduates point out it is also a chance to demonstrate self awareness and acknowledge an obvious weakness in your application and "flip it" around!
Joanna (Law) “I think it's important to be honest in interviews, no one's perfect, so I think acknowledging a weakness is also a very brave thing to do”
Phil (Banking) “Whatever it is… it's just flipping the weakness into a positive and how you can be a positive contributor to the team…as long as it’s a weakness, I guess, that can be corrected. It’d be an issue if it wasn't because you wouldn't be hired then. “
Henry (Funds Management) “It's impatience. That is my biggest weakness in all facets of life. I like things to happen like that. Sometimes you get a bit annoyed when they don't happen like that or when other people don't see things, not eye-to-eye, that's bad part of life, things don't happen as quickly as I would like them to happen whether that's a five minute interval or a one month interval or a one year interval. I kind of can get a bit like, I need to learn to mellow out, I think. I can get a bit antsy.“
Tim (Banking) “For me, I can completely and utterly go full speed ahead on something. So I look at a problem and I will just think, that's the answer, that's what I need to do and have tunnel vision. That's something I need to work on. I mean, in an interview situation, you can try to turn that into a positive that if you can harness that. I’d probably say slow down a bit.”
What is your most valuable strength?
As Jack points out, this question is a great opportunity to identify how your strengths balance out any weaknesses in your experience or education.
Jack (Banking) “I think you've got to be a bit cynical with that question. You need to know a little bit about what the role is that you're applying for and potentially what they're worried about. For me, when I was applying for my first role in banking, I was saying my most valuable strength was that I work hard and I learn very quickly. I knew that they were worried about me not necessarily having the background to be able to do the role. It's going to be different for each role. You can't have a stock answer. You need to understand what you're applying for and what your weaknesses are and try and cover that off. “
Joanna (Law) “A strength that I have that might go underestimated a lot in the legal world is people skills and communication skills… So especially as you get more senior, you've got to win work from people, you've got to build relationships with clients. I think people think that lawyers have to just be really smart and to have HD's and I think your interview is your first chance to show them that there's more to you than just really good marks and it is important to have those other skills.”
James (Management Consulting) “My most valuable strength I’d have to say is my passion for learning. And where that has served me is, I guess, academically, I've continued to study. I’ve always tried to learn more, which made me certainly better at my job. It's also meant that outside of that academic sense, whenever I take on a piece of work, I try to understand it to the “nth” degree, go to that extra level of detail, which again shows that I'm more prepared and know that particular business I’m consulting to better than everyone else.”
Why do you want to work at this company?
This answer doesn't need to be all about work, you can talk about what other things you like about the firm.
Joanna (Law) “So the firm I chose is international. I liked the travel aspect of it. I got to do an overseas secondment so that was a huge plus for me. That's something that I always wanted coming out of Uni. It just had a very relaxed culture, a very fun vibe. They did sport. They did other things that I was interested in… It ticks my lawyer boxes but also ticks my other boxes”
Stephen (Management Consulting) “Research the company beforehand. Read the AFR that day. One of my favorite interview questions which I like to try as the opening question after you've done the kind of introductions and everything, is how did you prepare for this interview? It's really quite telling because some people say I kind of saw the job advertised and applied and here I am. The other person will say I’m really interested in the company. I researched this and research that.