Interview Questions’ Company’s WILL Ask When Applying For ANY Internship or Graduate Programme’ & How To Answer – Students & Grads


InterviewThroughout my time at university, I have spent time applying for several types of jobs; from retail jobs to summer internships and currently graduate schemes. I have had the experience of working within the Financial Services at companies such as Freshfields LLP, Aviva, Beazley and Schroders. I have noticed that there is a common trend when it comes to questions that companies recruiting for internships/graduate schemes ask. The interview stage, in my opinion, is the most crucial and if there is no structure to one’s preparation for it- all efforts are in vain. I thought to demystify the interview process; especially as one of the modules I take a university teaches me what employers really look for in candidates. 


Questions that companies usually ask are divided into 3 main categories- motivational, competency-based and technical. But, for the purpose of this post, I will focus on the two main categories -motivational and competency-based questions.


Motivational Questions aim to test your motivation in applying for a role and how well your views and beliefs are aligned to the company’s core values. Core values are the company’s beliefs that they live by, examples such as sustainability and teamwork; it usually varies from company to company but there are some similarities. Having said this make sure you are aware of the company’s core values this is crucial; I will explain further later.


Typical Motivational Questions Include:

  • Why this company?
  • Why this industry?
  • Why this department?
  • What makes you a suitable candidate?
  • What type of tasks do you think you will be carrying out?

When the interviewer asks you ‘Why did you apply for this company?’ its vital for you to mention the company’s core values and explain how you share similar values to theirs. For instance, most companies believe in collaborative working (teamwork) and if you also share this value you can explain this is the reason why you have decided to work for this company. Then you can explain a situation where you have worked successfully within a team to support the statement you have made. At interviews try to support everything you say about yourself with your experiences this makes you come across as a stronger candidate.


Example Of An Answer– Why would like to work us? Through researching the company I understand that one of their core values is teamwork. I also share this similar core value and take pride in working in a team, this is because I understand that innovative ideas can be created. For instance, at university, I worked on a group project where I suggested an idea and my group mates were able to build on my idea and we created a unique project. This explains my motivation in wanting to join the company because I share similar core values. 


Why this industry?– is where you need to explain why you are interested in this industry. You would need to explain what is going on in this industry at the moment and why this interests you. Maybe you haven’t yet been able to secure a spring or summer internship, but perhaps this interest made you take up an online course to understand more about the industry; here you’ll explain what you learn from the course. Essentially, this question is testing your interest in the industry.


FYI- -Saying the salary pays well won’t get you anywhere lool.


Why this department– follows the same style as ‘why this industry?’. If you have completed worked experience in the past in a similar department that you are applying for – perfect- you can bring it up here and explain why it excites you. If not, you need to explain how you navigated around selecting this department; your answer must sound intentional and coherent. Answers such as ‘I want to try something new… I want to push myself out of my comfort zone’ are easy and lazy answers. Try to add substance to it for instance ‘I want to try something new, I did some reading around this department and I found X really interesting. This led me to attend this event where I learnt X and I decided to apply for this department because I have transferable skills such as X’. Do you see the difference?


What makes you a suitable candidate?– this is where the job description becomes your best friend. Most job descriptions include ‘must be able to work collaboratively within a team.. must have an interest in Insurance’ – what you have to do is very simple; for each point on the job description explain why you meet it and use an example where possible.


What type of tasks do you think you will be carrying out? – You can use the job description for this, but it is very limited. The best thing to do is look through the website and read what past interns have done. Reach out to interns on LinkedIn and ask them what they did in their roles. Then name-drop them in the interview, you will come across as “well-polished”.


The key takeaways from answering motivational questions: make sure you know the company’s core values, demonstrate a genuine interest in the department/industry through extracurriculars, know the job descriptions inside out and reach out to previous interns/grads at the company you wish to apply for. 


Competency Questions are behavioural questions that test how you have reacted to a situation in the past. These questions usually start off with ‘ Tell me about a time when…’. A top tip, make sure you know the companies core values inside out because the competency questions are closely related to the company’s core values.


For instance, if a company has core values in teamwork, leadership, and innovation; expect questions on these areas. For instance ‘Tell me about a time when you worked in a team with a challenging colleague… Tell me about a time when you took a big risk (leadership)…  Tell me about a time when you challenged the status quo (innovation)’. And of course, online there are several practice examples.


Useful links:


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