Summer Job Interview Questions

On 06/03/2011, in Career, Interviewing, by Jordan Wilson

Interviewing for a summer job is slightly different than a full-time position.

The reasons are two-fold.

One, the summer applicant has less experience and skills than most full-time employees. The job is to develop some relevant experience and earn a little cash to pay tuition.

Two, the company is looking for a junior employee to assist with summer work. The skills required are typically not extensive and if the company errs in their selection the ramifications are not significant.

As a result, the interview process for a summer position tends to be fairly generic.

Today we will look at some considerations for students preparing for interviews. 

The Position Itself

The job advertisement should give you specific information about the open position.

It should inform you of the basic educational and technical requirements for the position.

It should also tell you what tasks you will perform in the function. As well, the type of work environment you will be in.

Note all the key words in the advertisement. Then link them to your resume, extracurricular activities, and life’s experiences.

Be prepared to respond directly to questions about stated job requirements and daily functions.

What Companies Really Want

As I have previously written, companies desire certain traits in employees regardless of the position.

Yes, companies need employees that possess the basic necessary skills to function in the position. But they want more than that.

Companies want employees who are intelligent, with the ability to quickly learn new skills.

Companies want employees who are self-motivated and disciplined in their life.

Companies want employees who have a track record of success. That the employee will complete tasks on time and in a correct manner.

Companies want employees who are team players and will comfortably fit into the corporate culture and family.

Regardless of the specific question, it tends to boil down to how well you meet these criteria. As such, your responses to questions should try to incorporate at least one, usually more, of the above requirements.

Typical Interview Questions

As students may not have significant experience or skills and summer jobs tend to be less complex, questions may not be large on skills.

Of course, there are exceptions, so consider your own situation on its own merit.

Outside of any job specific questions, typical questions a summer employee may face, include:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why do you want this position?
  3. Why did you apply for this specific job?
  4. What do you expect to get from this experience?
  5. If I spoke with one of your teachers or past bosses, what would they say about you? Both good and bad.
  6. What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
  7. Tell me about a problem/mistake you had and how you solved/dealt with it
  8. Tell me about your last job.
  9. What are your short and medium term career plans?
  10. Why should we hire you over another candidate?
  11. Tell me about this company.
  12. If we call your last employer, what will they say about you?
  13. What areas in life do you want/need to improve upon?
  14. What was the most fun you had in your last job or in school? What was the worst aspect?
  15. Tell me 3 things that are important for you in a job.

Not rocket science. They tend to be fairly generic in nature and serve to get the candidate talking about themselves, their short-term goals, and career aspirations.

Give some thought to questions of this nature prior to the actual interview.

The Key Thing to Remember

When responding to these types of questions, always remember that they often reflect a company’s main desires.

Some intelligence with the ability to learn; self-motivated and disciplined in order to work hard; a track record of success that suggests you will perform your tasks quickly and accurately; a team player who will comfortably mesh with other staff.

Incorporate these points as mush as possible in your responses. No need to go overboard, but make sure the interviewer leaves with the impression that you are a bright, hard-working, successful person.

Work on Your Responses

Write down your responses.

Be as specific as possible.

Cite hard data if you can as that comes across as professional.

For example, perhaps you are asked what you do in your spare time.

You could respond by stating that you take dance classes.

Or you could say that you have been involved in various dance forms ranging from hip-hop to ballet since you were 8. That you achieved specific levels in your progression, that you actively mentored and taught younger students, and that you have toured with an Ukrainian dance troupe and won awards for your performances at a state competition last March.

The first response shows me that you enjoy dance. Okay. Nice activity.

But the second tells me a little more. That you had the ability to learn new and varied dance techniques over time (ability to learn). That you have stayed with dance for many years (work ethic, self-motivation, discipline). That you have done well as evidenced by mentoring, teaching and touring (track record of success). That you have been part of a large and diverse dance group (team player).

Same extracurricular activity. But by thinking about what a company really wants you can tailor your response to address the key points.

And no need to specifically tell your potential employer that you are motivated, can learn new skills, etc. Your examples will demonstrate your strengths.

Tailor a Few Responses for Many Possible Questions

I like developing specific responses that can answer multiple questions with minor fine-tuning.

Why do you want this job? What are your short-term goals? What do you expect to get from this experience?

All can be answered with the same response.

For example, consider a summer position as a bank teller.

“In university, I am learning about finance, accounting, and marketing and I have done well in my courses.  I am contemplating a career in finance and this would be an excellent opportunity to develop some practical skills in this field. It would help me tie my academic learning to the real world which should assist in my education. Also, it provides me an opportunity to see what other employees do in the bank which will help me in my future career choices.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Rehearse your responses.

Have a family member or friend ask you potential questions so you can make your responses sound fresh. Not as if they were written down and memorized.

If you follow this approach, you should be ready to tackle your summer job interview.

Now go get ready. And good luck.


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