If you’re currently a student or a recent graduate and look for an entry-level job, this might seem like a challenge. Because how are you going to make a strong impression with no experience relevant to the job?
Usually, during entry-level interviews, the hiring manager asks you questions focused on why you are interested in the position and why the organization company should hire you for the job. This means that even though you might have limited experience, you should still be able to answer these questions. However, this does take some preparation in order to make a strong impression.
In this article, we discuss entry-level and no experience job interview questions. Furthermore, we discuss how you should answer them to land the job. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.
What are Entry-Level Job Positions?
Entry-level positions are jobs that require minimal professional work experience. Usually, these jobs are used to start careers and eventually move up to larger, work-related opportunities. These positions are generally filled by young professionals who have no experience or maybe some prior work experience, such as an internship. The candidate that the interviewers look for is not necessarily required to have full-time work experience.
Even though you might have significant internship experience, it’s not a substitute for actual professional work experience. This means that it’s almost impossible to bypass an entry-level position when you’re starting your career after graduating.
Most of the time, you can recognize entry-level positions by the way they are marked in the job description. You’re likely to encounter titles such as assistant, junior, analyst to associate.
Entry-level positions are a great start of your career. One of the most important characteristics of an entry-level position is that they often offer valuable training, development, and work experience. This means that it’s likely that you will be exposed to different kinds of aspects of the industry while also working on tasks that will help you learn more about the job, company, and field. Entry-level jobs offer you a perfect chance to expand your skills and learn as much as you can along the way.
No Experience Interview Questions and What The Interviewer Wants to Know
For interviewers, interviews with junior candidates and graduates can also be challenging. The lack of professional work experience can make it hard for them to assess the skills of candidates. However, specific, targeted entry-level questions can help them gauge the abilities of job candidates.
The interviewers are interested in evaluating a couple of basic skills that you possess, regardless if you have professional work experience. These skills are, for instance, clear communication, time-management, and problem-solving.
When discussing your communication skills, the interviewer is probably interested in how you approach situations, how you present yourself, and what your goals are. Here it’s important that you show confidence in your communication skills and that you are able to provide a strong answer.
With regard to time-management, the interviewer wants to know more about your ability to successfully meet set deadlines and how you did so in the past. You could, for instance, demonstrate your time-management skills by recalling situations during college, internships, or maybe even a side job. Questions that require you to provide the interviewer with an actual situation you experienced to answer your question are called behavioral interview questions.
Questions to assess your problem-solving abilities are, most of the time, hypothetical. Think, for instance, about questions such as how you would approach job-related challenges. These types of questions are called situational interview questions.
Why Interviewers ask Entry-Level / No Experience Interview Questions
Experienced interviewers will know how to gauge your qualifications by using behavioral and situational interview questions.
The main goal of a job interview is to assess whether or not you have as much potential as other candidates who actually may have some work experience. The interviewer wants you to demonstrate that you possess the required qualifications, as listed in the job description.
During your interview, you should set the tone and present yourself as a confident candidate. Furthermore, the interviewer wants to know if you can thrive in their company culture and how your values and goals align with those of the company. It’s therefore important that you research the company just as well as you study the job description.
What Interviewers Look for in Successful Candidates
When you’re invited to an interview for an entry-level position, this can be a nerve-wracking experience. The first thing you need to realize is that you already made it to the interview round(s). Not everybody who applies gets invited for an interview, so this means that the employer likes what he saw on your resume, cover letter, and/or motivational letter.
The interviewer is looking for you to demonstrate who you are and your experiences so far, to see if you’re a good fit for the position, but also if you can grow within the organization. Because you do not yet have a professional track record, the interviewers will focus on different skills during the interview. They search for candidates who fit into their company culture and who possess basic but important skills such as being able to clearly communicate, solid time-management skills, and problem-solving skills.
Another important topic that interviewers want to discuss is your educational background. Your educational background is your chief credential when you have applied for an entry-level job. Employers expect you to demonstrate that you have successfully completed a degree, training, or any other relevant professional certification.
In short, interviewers want to get the following questions answered:
- Are you, in general, easy to get along with?
- Are you able, or do you have to potential to adequately respond to situations that occur during work?
- Can you communicate effectively with different personalities?
- Are you able, or do you have to potential to adjust to changing work environments?
- Are you flexible in your approaches to situations at work?
Behavioral Interview Questions to Gauge Your Potential
Behavioral interview questions are used by interviewers to predict your future behavior and potential job success. They use these types of questions to help determine if you have the right skills required for the job you need to fulfill.
These strategic interview questions require you to provide the interviewer with an example situation that you have experienced, whether this was during college, a side job, or during an internship.
The interviewer wants you to answer the question by, for instance, giving an example of a time you successfully worked with a team. An example question could be ‘tell me about a time that you worked as part of a team to accomplish a goal.’ In this case, you need to have a success story ready of a time you did accomplish a goal.
The rationale behind behavioral interview questions is that analyzing your past behavior is the best indicator to predict your future job performance. It tells the interviewer how you are likely to behave in certain situations and what actions you are likely to take.
Behavioral job interview questions usually start with:
- Give me an example of..
- Tell me about a time when you..
- How do you..
- What do you do when..
- Describe a time when..
Examples of entry-level behavioral interview questions:
- Give me an example of a project you worked on during your internship. What was your role, and what challenges did you face?
- Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team to accomplish a goal.
- How do you organize your schedule when you have to complete several projects and assignments on tight deadlines?
- What do you do when your manager assigns you a task that you do not know how to approach?
- Describe a time when you received negative feedback from a manager or professor. How did you react?
It’s also very common for interviewers to follow-up with the question ‘what did you learn from that situation?‘. It’s important that you are able to discuss this, as well. The interviewer wants to know what you learned and how that experience made you a better professional.
Situational Interview Questions to Assess Your Potential
When you’re applying for an entry-level position, situational interview questions are often hypothetical because you probably do not yet have (a lot) professional work experience. Situational interview questions are used to assess whether or not you are able to handle real-life scenarios you may encounter in the workplace. They are similar to behavioral questions; only situational questions are focused on the future instead of the past.
Interviewers want to understand your thought process and gauge your problem-solving skills. Furthermore, they want to get more insight into your self-management and communication skills.
Situational job interview questions usually start with:
- What would you do..
- How would you handle..
- What steps would you take..
- How would you deal with..
Examples of entry-level situational interview questions:
- What would you do if you disagreed with a decision made by your manager?
- How would you handle a situation in which you’re working on a project that you can’t complete because you’re waiting on work from a coworker? What would you do?
- How would you deal with a colleague that you have trouble getting along with?
- What steps would you take if you had to make an important decision at work?
Frequently Asked Entry-Level / No Experience Interview Questions
Below you can find commonly asked entry-level and no experience interview questions divided into categories:
Entry-Level / No Experience Behavioral Interview Questions:
- Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult situation. What steps did you take to resolve the situation?
- Give me an example of a time you had you perform under pressure.
- Tell me about a time you worked as part of a team. What was your role?
- What kind of projects did you work on during your internships? Can you tell me about your role and the challenges you faced? What did you learn from those situations?
- Describe a team when someone critiqued your work. How did you respond? What did you learn from that situation?
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with a team member. What actions did you take?
- Describe a time when you failed at something during your study.
Entry-Level / No Experience Situational Interview Questions:
- How would you handle a situation in which you disagree with a decision made by your superior?
- How would you deal with a situation in which you’re working on a task that you can’t complete because you’re waiting on work from a coworker? What would you do?
- Tell me what steps you would take to resolve a conflict with a coworker.
- How would you approach a situation in which you have to persuade a colleague?
- Tell me about what you would like to learn during your first year at work.
- What would you do if your manager assigned you with a task that you have no experience with? How would you approach that situation?
- Pretend that I’m a potential client and you want to sell me your product/service. How would you approach this situation? What would you ask to learn more about my needs? How would you try to convince me to but the products/services?
- How would you handle a situation in which you’re on the phone with a client and don’t know the answer to their questions?
Entry-Level / No Experience General Interview Questions:
- Why do you believe that you are qualified for this position?
- What is your availability?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you consider your strengths? How will they help you in this new position?
- How does this job fit into your career goals?
- Walk me through your resume.
- What do you think will be the greatest challenge for you in this position?
- Why did you apply for this position? Was there anything specific in the job description that drew your attention?
- What are you exactly looking for in a job?
- How do you plan to achieve your career goals?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in this particular role?
- Are you willing to travel for work?
- Do you have any questions for us?
- What do you want to know about our company?
Entry-Level / No Experience Academic & Interest-Related Interview Questions:
- Why did you choose to study this field?
- Would you consider expanding your studies in the (near) future? Tell me about what you would want to learn more about.
- Tell me about a time during college/an internship when you worked as part of a team to accomplish a goal.
- What was your biggest challenge as a student? How did you handle it?
- During your study, how did you organize your schedule when you had to complete several projects on tight deadlines?
- What were your favorite and least favorite classes? Why?
- Why did you choose your major?
- What activities are you involved in outside of work or school?
- Have you worked any part-time jobs during your studies? Tell me what your responsibilities were in those positions.
- How do you think your studies have prepared you for the challenges you will face on the job?
Red Flags for Interviewers Assessing Entry-Level / No Experience Candidates
There are a couple of elements that interviewers look for in successful candidates. However, there are also signs you could give unintentionally that are considered red flags by the interviewer. Below we discuss a couple of common red flags that could be considered warning signs by the interviewers.
When a candidate has different career goals
Interviewers look for confident candidates who are able to explain why they want to work for the company. Furthermore, they should demonstrate how their career goals align with what the company can offer.
It’s therefore important that you study the job description and company to gain knowledge about, for instance, the training and development opportunities. You should also be able to explain how this position contributes to you achieving the career goals that you’ve set.
If the interviewer gets the idea that your goals don’t match with the job you’re interviewing for, it might be harder to retain you in the long-run. This is a clear red flag for the interviewer.
When a candidate is arrogant
Confidence does not mean arrogance. A know-it-all attitude won’t help you land the job since every employee in a junior position requires training and mentoring. Such an attitude may even prevent you from developing yourself as a professional. This is also the reason why interviewers view this as a warning sign.
When a candidate is unprofessional
During a job interview, such as an entry-level position, it’s logical that you’re a bit nervous. The interviewers know this and won’t judge you too harshly if you do not yet have all the answers. However, signs of unprofessionalism can negatively impact your chances of getting hired. Behavior such as showing up late, not being dressed properly, not showing genuine excitement and enthusiasm in the position and company is considered a red flag.
When a candidate lacks motivation
Motivation is key in any position. Demonstrating enthusiasm for the job and a can-do attitude is essential to impress the interviewers the right way. If you, for instance, are not engaged in the conversation or do not ask questions back, the interviewer might think you lack motivation and are not really interested.
Preparing Answers to Entry-Level / No Experience Interview Questions
There are several steps you can take to start your entry-level interview preparation in the right way. Ensure that you consider the following steps during your interview preparation:
Even though this sounds like an open door, it still happens that job candidates are not aware of the essential information that they should’ve known. It’s therefore important to do the necessary homework before you go to your interview.
Start by thoroughly researching the job description and company. Your research should help you prepare by figuring out what topics are likely to be discussed during the interview. Furthermore, use your research to identify the required competencies, skills, and abilities for the job that you’re interviewing for.
2. Think of questions you’re most likely to get asked
Based on the required competencies, skills, and abilities, you can create a list to use to your advantage when structuring your answers. Behavioral and Situational interview questions are great opportunities for you to demonstrate your talent and skills. However, this does require some preparation.
The research on the position and company should help you identify which questions you are likely to get asked in your entry-level interview. A lot of companies are looking for similar but strong ‘basic’ skills such as communication skills, leadership potential, adaptability, teamwork skills, work ethic, problem-solving, taking initiative, etc.
Rank the competencies and skills on importance in relation to the requirements of the entry-level job that you are interviewing for. Based on this rank, you can research commonly asked interview questions to prepare answers prior to your interview.
3. Prepare answers to questions you expect ahead of time
You finished your research and made an educated guess about which questions and skills are most likely to be discussed during the interview. Now it’s time to prepare answers to those questions. Start off by thinking of past experiences that relate to the job you’re interviewing for.
Make a list of past work experiences that demonstrate you performing the skill that the interviewer is questioning you about. You can think of experiences for each skill that you will think will be discussed in your interview. Also, make sure you highlight successful situations where you demonstrated behavior related to the skills and experience required for the job. Focus on giving the interviewer a concise and to-the-point answer.
4. Prepare successful situations and challenging ones
This is an important part of your interview preparation. The interviewer is, of course, interested in times you successfully performed a skill or got great results. However, they are most likely also interested in how you deal with challenging situations. It’s, therefore, important that you prepare to discuss challenging situations as well.
The interviewer could, for instance, ask, ‘During your study, what was the most challenging project you have worked on?‘. They want to hear you explain a situation in which you faced certain challenges. Your answer should either demonstrate how you came out successfully or at least what you have learned from that situation and how you would approach a similar situation differently now. Focus on demonstrating problem-solving skills, adaptability, and the ability to handle challenging situations.
5. STAR method to structure your answers
Behavioral and situational interview questions require you to describe how you have handled or would handle a specific situation. It’s important that you structure your ‘answer story‘ logically. The STAR interview technique helps you do just that! It allows you to provide a concise and to-the-point answer.
STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps you take in your answer story walkthrough. Below the STAR method is discussed in more detail.
STAR Interview Technique
The STAR interview technique will help you logically structure your answers to behavioral and situational interview questions. This way, you give the interviewer exactly the information that he or she is looking for, nothing more, nothing less. Furthermore, it’s a perfect way to demonstrate how you acted in previous situations. In other words, the STAR technique is a way to ace your interview with storytelling.
Focus your answers on situations in which you demonstrated the skills required for the job. Also, ensure you match your qualifications to the job and required skills, as mentioned in the job description. Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.
Start your story by explaining the situation that you faced. The start of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:
- What was the exact situation?
- Who was involved in the situation?
- Why did the situation happen at that time?
It’s important to provide context around the situation or challenge you were facing. Furthermore, make sure to provide relevant details.
Next, explain your specific role in the task ahead. Include important details, such as specific responsibilities. Your goal here is to give the interviewer an understanding of your task. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:
- Why were you involved in that specific situation?
- What is the background story?
After you describe your task, it’s time to specifically discuss the actions you took to resolve the situation. Give the interviewer a step by step description of the actions you took. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:
- What exact steps did you take to resolve the situation you were in?
- Why did you choose to complete your tasks this way?
To finish your answer discuss the results you got from your actions. Clearly detail the outcomes of your actions and ensure to highlight your strengths. Also, make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Make sure to focus on positive results and positive learning experiences. This part of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:
- What exactly happened?
- What did you accomplish?
- How did you feel about the results you got?
- What did you learn from the situation?
- How did this particular situation influence who you are as a professional today?
Sample Answers to Entry-Level / No Experience Interview Questions
Below we discuss some example questions and answers to entry-level and no experience interview questions. When applicable, the answers to the behavioral or situational questions are already written in the STAR format so that you can clearly see how you can structure your answers. The first answer is completely discussed step-by-step in the STAR format.
Note: these are ‘general’ examples. Don’t forget to structure your answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the position you’re interviewing for!
Entry-Level / No Experience Interview Question 1 – STAR-Method Example:
‘Tell me about a time you took the lead on a difficult project.’
‘During my study, I worked as a sales agent in a department store. One day we were called into the managers’ office, and he gave a presentation on how we had increasingly been getting negative reviews about the services provided to customers. My manager suggested to set up a committee of volunteers that would analyze and monitor the current situation while also coming up with actionable improvements.
For me, this was a great opportunity to demonstrate that I was capable of taking on more responsibilities. As I enjoy working in teams, I volunteered together with three other colleagues. My manager appointed me as a team leader, where I was tasked to combine all the results to present to my manager.
Over the next month, my colleagues and I monitored customer service reports. Our research of these reports turned out that the majority of negative reviews cam from a result of long waiting lines for our customers. As soon as we knew this, I gathered the team for a brainstorm session to find a solution to decrease the amount of waiting time. We focused on working in teams behind the counter during extremely busy hours. One colleague would take charge of the payments while the other one already started packing the purchases of the customer.
I pitched our solution to our manager, and he decided to implement it for a two-week trial. After implementing my suggestion, store workers were able to focus mainly on directing customers to the right counters, while teams of two took care of the payments and packing of the stuff bought. This translated into a drop in waiting times of over 20%. Even though this was a challenging project in which I led three colleagues, we came up with a successful solution that solved a critical issue in the workplace.’
Why this is a strong answer:
- This answer demonstrates that you’re proactive in your work. Furthermore, it shows that you possess some leadership skills but also have leadership growth potential.
- The example answer is related and relevant to the workplace. It demonstrates that you’re able to adapt when situations ask for it but also that you’re a team player, which is essential for most employers.
- This answer shows important skills, such as being proactive, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and creative thinking skills.
- Your decision to volunteer and become the team leader turned out successful, which gives more weight to the situation you discuss in your answer.
Entry-Level / No Experience Interview Question 2 – STAR-Method Example:
‘How would you handle an angry and dissatisfied customer that confronted you? How would you go about resolving their concerns?’
‘During my time in university, I worked part-time as a customer service representative at a car repair shop. I used to help out with planning, organization but also with customer service.
One day I got a call from an angry customer who was frustrated that their car was not ready yet and that she did not hear back from our company. The most important thing during such a situation is trying to defuse it. I listened carefully to her complaints and told her I completely understood the situation and her frustration.
Next, I wrote down all her information and told her I would call her back as soon as possible. I found our chief technician who worked on her car and learned that the issue with her vehicle was more serious than initially anticipated. Furthermore, it would still take a couple of days to fix the car. I arranged a loan vehicle for the client and called her back to tell her the situation.
Not only did she appreciate my help and effort to clear up the situation, but she called the company owner to praise my efforts.’
Why this is a strong answer:
- This example demonstrates several important skills, such as oversight, problem-solving, coordinating, communication, and customer service.
- The answer is related and relevant to the workplace and any professional environment for that matter. It shows that you are able to solve situations by yourself while still maintaining a professional attitude.
- The solutions you offered turned out successful, which gives more weight to the situation you discuss in your answer.