Sample Interview Questions

When interviewing outside of the academy, there is a great amount of variation in interview formats by field. That being said, there are certain "standard" questions that often arise. By making yourself familiar with these queries in advance, you can impress a hiring committee with your skills and qualifications.

Resume-Based / Traditional Questions

Breaking the ice

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • What do you want me to know about you that isn't on your resume?
  • How would your academic advisor or mentor describe you?

Your Princeton graduate experience

  • Why did you choose to attend Princeton for grad school?
  • Describe your most rewarding graduate experience?
  • Tell me about your research.
  • What did your research contribute to the field?

Show and tell

  • Why did you apply to our organization? Why do you want to work here?
  • What can you tell us about our organization?
  • What interests or impresses you about our organization?
  • What criteria are you using to evaluate organizations?
  • Are you seeking employment at an organization of a certain size? Why?
  • Do you have a geographic preference?
  • Do you think you would enjoy living in this area?
  • Why should I hire you and not the next candidate who walks in the door?

Your interests and motivation

  • How did you become interested in this field or organization?
  • Tell me about an interesting article you recently read in the news.
  • If you had six months ahead with no obligations and no financial constraints, what would you do?

Your experience

  • Tell me what you learned from your volunteer or work experiences.
  • Describe the job or experience that has had the greatest impact on your career goals.
  • What specific skills have you acquired or used in previous experiences that relate to this position?

Your strengths and developmental areas

  • What is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?
  • Which of your qualifications make you think you would be successful here?
  • What have you accomplished that you are most proud of? 

Your work situations

  • In what kind of work environment do you best perform?
  • How would you motivate other people?
  • How would you persuade others to consent to your ideas?
  • What kinds of tasks and responsibilities motivate you the most?

Behavioral Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you used your quantitative/analytical skills.
  • Describe an experience in which you showed initiative.
  • Describe an experience in which you showed creativity.
  • Tell me about your most recent group or team effort.
  • Tell me about an important goal you set in the past, and what steps you took to reach that goal.
  • What would you do if someone asked you to do something unethical?
  • Tell me about a time when you have managed multiple priorities at once.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to take a risk.
  • Tell me about a time when you went the “extra mile” to get a project done.
  • Describe a situation when you had to persuade or convince someone. How did you do it?
  • Describe a time when you had a difficult decision to make and how you arrived at your decision.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work on a project that didn’t work out the way it should have. What did you do?
  • Give me an example of when you failed at something and what you learned from that experience.
  • Describe a group work situation where you and your partner were having trouble getting along with each other. How did you resolve the conflict?
  • Describe a situation when you had to learn a large amount of material quickly. How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a personality conflict or disagreement with a supervisor. How did you resolve it?
  • Give me an example of how you would motivate a co-worker who was performing poorly on a team project?
  • Tell me about an unpopular decision you made. How did you make the decision? If you could handle that same situation again, would you do anything differently?

Case Questions

  • If you wanted to buy a local Thomas Sweet Ice Cream shop, what factors would you consider?
  • You are asked to perform a cost benchmarking study for your client, a toy manufacturer. Explain the methodology you would use to ascertain the competition’s cost.
  • Your analysis of the client’s problem leads you to solution A. However, this is not the solution your client favors. Your client likes solution B. You are convinced that solution A is the most effective plan. What do you do?
  • Our client manufactures sunscreen products. It’s thinking about entering the hair products market. Is this a good idea? What marketing strategies might you implement?

Questions to ask the interviewer

  • What does it take to be highly successful in this organization?
  • What do you consider the five most important day-to-day responsibilities of the job?
  • Tell me about the organization’s culture.
  • How will the duties change once the training program has been completed?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • What is the next step in the hiring process?