Student speaking with an adult

Sample Interview Questions

To increase your confidence and potential for a successful interview you must research and prepare ahead of time. The most effective interviewees are those who have practiced answering (out loud) a wide-range of interview questions, and have created a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer(s). The S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method provides a format for answering behavioral interview questions in a succinct way. Use our Applications and Interview Workbook for guidance on determining examples to share in an interview and how to use the STAR method to talk about these examples.

Interview Questions for the Candidate

Personal and Career Objectives

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Why did you choose to study at Cornell? Why did you major in X?
  • What is the greatest personal challenge you have faced in college? How did you handle it?
  • What are your goals for the next three (or five, or ten) years?
  • How does this position fit into your short and long-term goals?

Abilities and Achievements

  • What are your current or past leadership roles and what have you learned from them?
  • Have you had to sell your idea to others who had differing points of view? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time when you successfully balanced several competing priorities.
  • Describe a conflict you've encountered and how you handled it. What was the final result? 
  • What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

Knowledge of the Organization

  • Why do you want to work for our organization?
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in an organization like ours?
  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?
  • What qualities do you seek in a supervisor?
  • How do you feel about overtime/traveling/relocating?
  • What are your salary requirements? How did you determine that? (View the Negotiating Offers PowerPoint and additional resources in this section before your interview to determine a reasonable salary range) 

Questions for the Employer

Don't ask questions that are easily answered by visiting the organization's website or reading the position description. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you've done your homework and are genuinely interested in learning more. 

  • Can you tell me about past projects on which employees in this role have worked?
  • What are the priorities over the next year?
  • How is success measured in this position and in this organization?
  • What kind of orientation or training is provided?
  • How much travel is required? How often is overtime required?
  • Does this position function mainly alone or in a team setting?
  • What is the greatest challenge currently facing this department or organization?
  • What are the major strengths/weaknesses of this work group?
  • How would you describe the organizational culture?
  • What do you enjoy most/least about working here?
  • What is the next step in the interview process? What is your time frame?
  • What can I do to further demonstrate my interest in this position?
  • Can you describe some aspects of living in this community?

Common & Difficult Interview Questions

The interview questions below were compiled by Cornell Engineering Co-op students.

  • What sets you apart from other Cornell Engineers? (Be specific: foreign language, project team, leadership experience, etc.)
  • What do you know about our organization? Why are you interested in working here?
  • What is your favorite activity on campus? What is you favorite and least favorite part of that activity/job?
  • Tell me about a time when you used your engineering skills to solve a real life problem.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Give an example of a project where you worked in a group. What was your role? Did you encounter any difficulties?
  • What was your favorite class? Least favorite class?
  • What will you bring to our team/organization?
  • What do you want from this position?
  • In a group situation, when there is negative tension between members and you're the leader, what do you do?
  • Talk about an event when you disagreed with an authority figure and how you resolved the issue.
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Name a time when you failed. What did you do to overcome your failure?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Describe a time when you gave up personal goals for the good of a team.
  • What was the most difficult decision you ever made and why?
  • What would you value in an employer?
  • Do you like constant feedback or can you work without it?