Types of Interview Questions

Recruiters often draw from various sets of questions including traditional, behavioral and case interview questions. While you will need to rehearse answers for an interview, remember: an interview is a business conversation. Avoid answering an interview question with a memorized response! Share information and detail beyond what you summarized in your resume.

Traditional Interview Questions

These questions seek insight into who you are, your experience (educational, work and leadership) and how you would fit into the job and organization. Here are some examples:

  • Tell me about yourself. (This question gets asked the majority of the time—expect it.)
  • Why did you choose to interview with our organization?
  • Describe your ideal job.
  • Define success.
  • Of which three accomplishments are you most proud?
  • Tell me about a time when you were in a leadership position.
  • What skills or ideas do you bring to a job that another candidate may not be able to offer?
  • Where do you want to be in five years?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Why did you choose to attend UC Davis?
  • In which campus activities did you participate?
  • Which classes did you like most? Least? Why?
  • What job-related skills have you developed?
  • What did you enjoy most about your most recent employment?

Behavioral Interview Questions

These questions are based on the theory that your past behavior is a key indicator of your future performance. Review your background for examples of class projects, work experience, community service, and leadership activities illustrating your talents, problem solving abilities, communication and leadership skills. Think of past situations that were challenging, how you resolved them, and what you learned. Here are some example scenarios:

  • Give an example of a problem and how you solved it.
  • How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work?
  • Tell me about a time when you have persuaded others to adopt your ideas.
  • What kind of supervisor do you prefer?
  • Describe your experience working in a team.
  • How do you organize and plan major projects?
  • Describe your communication style.
  • Tell us about your experience working in diverse work environments.
Example of a Behavioral Interview Question and Response

Question: “Give me an example of a time when you took the initiative to improve a project.”

Response Using the S.A.R. Method: “As a peer advisor at the Internship and Career Center, students often asked me how to find job opportunities in business. Since I was also curious about my future in this industry and had taken a Web-authoring class, I asked my supervisor if I could create a website linked to our home page discussing many of the different business options (Action). After developing the site, I shared the online resource with the professional staff at the ICC. They were so pleased with the resource that they now refer students to the site during their advising sessions (Result). If I’m hired, I’ll work to make information accessible at this job.”

Expect additional questions such as: “How did you prioritize this additional work load? How did you decide what options to include? Where can I see this webpage?” Be prepared to back up your statements.

Case Study Interview Questions

Case interviews are most typically utilized in the consulting industry. These questions give recruiters an opportunity to observe your ability to think quickly. You will be presented with a complex question and asked to find a solution. For example:

  • How many people are using the internet right now?
  • How many airplanes are currently in the air?

In this type of question, the recruiter is looking for insights about your analytical and problem solving skills. You are expected to think out loud, walk the recruiter through your thought process. There may not be one right answer.

Many consulting firms offer case interview prep workshops virtually on Handshake or have prep videos and information on their own websites. Below are some resources to get you started with case interview preparations (this is not a comprehensive list):

Illegal Interview Questions

It is illegal to ask questions regarding race, gender, sexual orientation and identity, religion, marital or family status, age, disabilities, ethnic background and country of origin. Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website for more information. For concerns about illegal questions, we encourage you to meet with an ICC staff member.

Questions for Employers

At the close of an interview, you will have an opportunity to ask questions. Ask strategic questions that help you assess the job or highlight your knowledge about the company or position. Questions related to salary, benefits, vacation time and schedule should wait until the employer initiates those topics or you are offered the position. Leave knowing when decisions will be made and what you need to do. Prepare 2-3 questions, such as:

  • What is the next step? When should I expect to hear from you or should I contact you?
  • What types of assignments might I expect in the first six months on the job?
  • What will the first three weeks be like? Is training provided?
  • What do you like best about your job/company?
  • What products (or services) are in the development stage right now?
  • Do you have plans for expansion?
  • What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
  • Is there a lot of team/project work?
  • What are your growth expectations for the next year?
  • How do you feel about creativity and individuality?
  • In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
  • What is the largest single challenge facing your staff (department) right now?
  • Where does this position fit into the organizational structure?
  • How would you describe the management style in this company/department?
  • Where might a person who has been in this position expect to be in five years?

Questions for the End of The Interview

As the interview is ending, remember to:

  • Ask for a business card—make sure you have the interviewer’s name (or ask the receptionist).
  • Re-emphasize your interest in the position.
  • Ask the recruiter when you can expect to be contacted.
  • Shake the recruiter’s hand and sincerely thank her/him for considering you.
  • Ask, “What comes next?” or “What is the next step in the hiring process?”
  • Leave the interviewer with a positive image of you being confident, enthusiastic and courteous.