Sample Interview Questions by Career Field

Academic Administration
Legal Services
Biotech/Pharma/Chemical Industry
Computer Science/Technical
Medical Writing
Data Science
Nursing / Health Care

Medical School
Graduate School

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  • Reverse a linked list.
  • Swap two numbers without using temporary space.
  • Write STPCPY(), function, optimize.
  • Design a checkbook program:

a) Open a new account
b) New entry
c) Delete an entry
d) Compute balance

  • How would you test this program? Design an interface.
  • What is a DLL?
  • Describe a time when you used data to prove a point.
  • Explain to your grandparent how photos are sent over phones.
  • Describe what a telnet session entails.
  • Given a binary tree, we need to keep track of all the parents of a given node. What's an efficient way of doing this?
  • Tell me all about Sparc RISC architecture.
  • Look at the picture below. Will the water depth, d, rise or lower after rock, R, is thrown into the lake? (Do not write out equations. Argue by waving your hands)
  • Explain relational databases as if I were not computer literate.
  • What temperature (C) is 212F?
  • What does NEMA stand for?
  • After being shown 6 plastic and metallic objects, describe what material was used and how each was made.
  • Describe telecommunications protocols.
  • You mess up a depreciation/amortization number in your model, i.e. too low / too high. Walk through your income statement, balance sheet, CF and describe the net effect of your mistake.
  • What are the major challenges in computer security?
  • What is the biggest accomplishment you feel proud of?

If you would like further help with technical interviewing, here is a great source for more assistance.



Behavioral based questions:

  • What is the most complicated project you have worked on? 
  • Did you have any trouble with people in your team during this project? What were they and how did you solve those problems?
  • What kind of people do you have trouble interacting with? How do you deal with them?
  • How do you deal with difficult clients?
  • How important is diversity to a team's output? Can you support your answer with a real life example?
  • Tell me about a time in your life when you've demonstrated leadership/have had significant impact.
  • Tell me about a time in your life when you've had to influence a peer or superior to do something that they don't initially believe in.
  • Tell me about a time when you helped resolve a conflict in a team situation.
  • Tell me about the most valuable feedback/criticism you've ever received.
  • You have just wrapped up a 6 month engagement with a major healthcare insurance client who does not seem too thrilled with your recommendations. How would you address your client's concerns?
  • Tell me about a time where you initiated change in an organization.
  • Tell me about a time you persuaded a senior person to adopt your perspective on an issue.
  • Why are you interested in consulting?
  • Tell me about a time when you tried to help someone but felt ineffective.
  • How do you feel about working on topics that you don't know anything about?
  • How would you handle a situation where you've given a recommendation to a superior and they tell you Thank you but I think we'll go in a different direction?
  • How would you present the information you collected to a client or a group of people that knows nothing about the topic.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a recommendation that the client didn't take well to. How did you handle this?
  • Tell me about some of our recent work that you are familiar with
  • When you have a client, what do you do to define the problem?
  • For more examples of behavioral-based questions, click here

    Case Questions - These questions are designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to handle ambiguous data. The process that you follow to answer the question is much more important than arriving at the "right answer." Your quantitative ability will be judged. Consequently, it is important to have the figures that you develop in your answer be correct.

    • If you wanted to buy a ski resort, what would you consider? Draw a graph of cost and revenue per skier. Questions regarding graphs - how they would move/change with certain contingencies?
    • Estimate the total value of all the personal items on a commuter flight that arrived at La Guardia airport at 8:30 am this morning from Boston given that the plane was approximately 2/3 full. (Tip:` Don't forget to include checked luggage.)
    • You are a manufacturer of toys and you have a product that cost US $1,000. Estimate how many of those you can sell in Hong Kong.
    • You're taking a trip to Indonesia tomorrow to work with a company for a period of time. You don't know anything about this firm but you are provided with the financial statement of this firm from last year. How do you get the general idea about the firm's "health" condition, given that you only have one hour to report your opinion to your boss?
    • How would you go about advising a bank if it should implement an ATM system?
    • You are the consultant for a bank. Give some quantitative measures that can indicate the productivity of the operations department.
    • How many skis will be sold in the U.S. next year?
    • What is the market size for wall paper?
    • Estimate the number of airplane flights in a year.
    • Estimate the size of the paper clip industry.
    • A company dealing with a commodity product is thinking about expanding internationally. If its labor costs are competitive with industry standards, what issues might influence its decision?
    • What is the population of dogs in the United States?
    • Where would you put a gas station if there were none in New Jersey?
    • How many drug stores are there in Manhattan?
    • How would you estimate demand for forks in one year?
    • Estimate the number of printers in Hong Kong.
    • The sales of a travellers cheque company are falling. How would you go about deciding what should be done about it?
    • Estimate the demand of airplanes for a select category 10 years into the future. There are three producers and 10 airlines.
    • How much does a 747 weigh?
    • How would you respond if a client asked for someone in a more senior position to be doing his/her company's work instead of you?
    • A Dominican manufacturer of hair care products is looking to expand its current market. What new markets should the manufacturer enter and how?
    • A national hotel chain has hired your company to determine whether or not they should keep their frequent guest program. The program is currently unprofitable. Should the hotel maintain the program?
    • A national pest control company is considering a new organic pesticide product. The company has hired you to determine market demand and pricing. Is this a viable product?
    • How many truckloads of earth are required to move Mount Fuji?
    • If a wine maker were thinking about launching an on-line winery, what would be its estimated annual sales?
    • The newspaper industry has recently experienced a severe reduction in revenues due to the emergence of many popular online news outlets. While revenues are available from online advertising, this revenue stream replaces only a small percentage of the revenues (more to follow...)
    • What is the market for hybrid cars likely to be in 10 years?
    • A retailer discovers that its customer returns are 20 percent higher than the industry average? Why?
    • How many cell phones are in Canada?
    • A company is having cash flow problems and needs to reduce costs or else face layoffs. How should they proceed?
    • A husband and wife team want to start a restaurant and come to us for strategic advice and a business plan. What do we tell them?
    • ABC retailer has developed a new hair-care product which is eating into the sales of our bestselling hair-care line. How should we respond?
    • Estimate the size of the bubble gum market in the United States.
    • How many gas stations are there in the United States?
    • How much steel is used in a locomotive?
    • Jamba Juice wants to increase its sales so it can claim that it is the largest specialty drink retailer. How can it reach its goal?
    • Our client has developed a new biodegradable product which is both a soft drink and a car wax. What should they be thinking about?
    • Starbucks is buying a winery. Does this make sense? What should they be thinking about?
    • XYZ Corporation has a high cash reserve. How can we best use that money to grow the company?
    • Your client manufactures frozen yogurt. It's thinking about entering the coffee market. Is this a good idea?
    • How many car batteries are sold in the US each year?
    • How many gas stations are there in Chicago?
    • How many sheep are there in New Zealand?
    • The LA Philharmonic is losing money. What would you suggest they do?
    • Toyota is considering the release of a new model. What issues need to be thought about?
    • Two engineers want to start an interactive multimedia business. What is your advice?


    Data Science

    • What could be some issues if the distribution of the test data is significantly different than the distribution of the training data?
    • When can parallelism make your algorithms run faster? When could it make your algorithms run slower?
    • Given draws from a normal distribution with known parameters, how can you simulate draws from a uniform distribution?
    • You are a data scientist at AirBnB and you want to test the hypothesis that a greater number of photographs increases the chances that a buyer selects the listing. How would you test this hypothesis?
    • What is the curse of dimensionality? When would you suffer its effects? How will you compensate for it?
    • What would be good metrics for a productivity tool? (Evernote, Asana, Google Docs)
    • How would you explain an A/B test to an engineer with no statistics background?



    • Tell me about the CAPM (Capital Asset Pricing Model).
    • What are some flaws in the DCF analysis and how can they be corrected?
    • Describe what you believe to be the future of the derivatives market?
    • What is .125 squared?
    • How would you trade a butterfly with the following option prices?
    • How would you go about selling the idea of a derivatives hedge to a prospective client?
    • What is 5 2/7 - 3 7/8?
    • Two retail banks have different return rates on their loan portfolios, although default rates are similar. What might explain the difference?
    • Why would the cap rate on a Holiday Inn be the same as the Plaza Hotel?
    • How can you convince your client that the "higher yield" bond does not really give a higher yield?
    • How would you go about valuing a firm? How would you value a hotel in Minnesota if you only had one day to look around?
    • Give some suggestions to improve the credit card business of your bank?
    • What is the relationship between the forward and spot interest rate?
    • What is the difference between enterprise value multiples and P/E multiples. Why would you use Enterprise Value to EBITDA, and Price to Earnings?
    • How does depreciation affect the 3 financial statements?
    • About what price was the Dow Jones today?
    • Would you rather have a dollar today or two dollars tomorrow?
    • How would you value a hotel in Minnesota if you only had one day to look around?
    • Use 12 equal sided sticks to construct 6 equal size squares?



    • Discuss your analytical and organizational skills.
    • You don't have any experience in law, so why are you interested in working at a law firm?
    • Are your plans to go to law school?  If so, when?



    • Interviewer picked up a paperweight and said "sell me this."
    • If you were to introduce a new product into a foreign market, what are some of the factors you would first study in that country?
    • You need more shelf space in a store, how do you convince the store manager to give it to you?
    • Put 4 things in order of importance. I believe they were money, happiness, security(like not losing your job), etc.
    • Pick one from each of the following that best describes your team or individual, at a desk or out on the streets, leader or follower, etc. 
    • Tell me something that's not on your resume.
    • What do you like to do for fun?
    • What experience have you had with sales and cold calls?
    • Discuss your experience with public speaking.
    • How would you bring in new clients to our business?
    • Let's do a mock phone call where you are speaking to a prospective client about our business.



    • Why did you chose to specialize in ___________________?
    • How would a preceptor or colleague describe you?
    • Tell me about the most difficult clinical experience you've faced and how you handled it.
    • What do you consider the most important qualities a nurse needs to do this job successfully?
    • What did you like best/least in your clinical experiences?
    • How did you motivate a resistant patient to comply with your instructions?
    • What do you think is the most significant problem in health care today?
    • What would you do if.......... (cites clinical situation; here the interviewer is looking for your judgement and maturity in handling complex situations)




    • Why are you interested in this particular university/college?
    • Why are you pursuing a career at a liberal arts college?
    • What are your expectations teaching at a small institution versus a research I level institution? 
    • What might you say to a prospective student to get them interested in our school?
    • What do you consider to be your strengths that qualify you for this position?
    • Tell us about any areas you need to improve in.
    • Tell us about a conflict or challenge you've had either with teaching, research, or a colleague and how you resolved the issue?
    • Tell us what you know about our college.
    • How do you fit into the school?
    • How would you integrate our mission into your teaching/scholarship?
    • Do you have questions about the tenure process?
    • What's your brand? [question from actual interview]
    • Is there any additional information you would like to share with us?
    • What do you think makes a good colleague?
    • How do you view this position?
    • What would you like to know about us?
    • Why do you want to work here?
    • How do you envision your new lab at this school?
    • What other schools have you applied to?
    • If you get more than one job offer how will you decide?
    • Who else is interviewing you?
    • If we gave you an offer, how much time would you need?
    • What are your plans for publishing?
    • What course, not currently in our catalogue, would you like to develop?
    • What textbook would you use in a particular course?
    • Describe how you'd teach an introductory survey course in your discipline (or in an advanced seminar)?
    • Describe your research. What are you currently working on? What is your five year plan?
    • How do you structure your courses?
    • How will you seek funding to support your research?
    • What are your plans for integrating students into your research?
    • What classes have you taught?
    • What courses would you like to teach?
    • What is your teaching philosophy?
    • How well has your college/university prepared you for the field of teaching?
    • Describe the best lesson that you have delivered. Why was it successful?
    • How do you deal with an unmotivated student?
    • How would you employ technology in the classroom?
    • How well organized are you? Why is organization important for a teacher?
    • What do you feel are the most important factors in classroom control?
    • Why do you want to be a teacher?
    • How would you instruct students of varying abilities?
    • What are your plans for your continued professional growth?
    • Describe your research.
    • If you could teach any course you wanted to, what would it be?
    • What are your research plans for the next 5-10 years?
    • What is your basic teaching philosophy?
    • What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
    • What motivates you?
    • Do you have any questions for us?


    • Tell us about your teaching style or philosophy.
    • What classes could you see yourself teaching?  What new courses would you develop?
    • How would you teach the introductory course in your field?
    • What do you consider to be important attributes of a good instructor and what strengths do you have that will make you a good instructor?
    • What's your approach to advising and mentoring?
    • Tell us about your teaching experience. 
    • Tell us about a lesson in an introductory course that went well and why it went well.
    • Tell us about a lesson in a course that did not go well and what you did/would do to improve it.
    • If you could teach anything, what would be your ideal course? Lab?
    • What challenge in teaching have you faced and how have you overcome this?
    • How would you assess the effectiveness of your teaching?
    • What would you perceive some of the challenges might be with teaching at our institution?
    • Many of the students taking our intro classes are non-majors. What do you want non-majors to get out of your class?
    • How have you planned and delivered lessons?  How have you involved all students in your lessons?
    • What is your overall vision of teaching/research over the next 5 years and eventual goal?
    • What do you consider to be important attributes of a good instructor and what strengths do you have that will make you a good instructor?
    • How do you feel about textbooks vs. lay publications vs. peer-reviewed publications?
    • What textbook would you use for an intorduction course in your field, and why?
    • In what ways have you been involved in interdisciplinary education and how might you contribute to interdisciplinary education here?
    • How will you use technology in the classroom?
    • What was largest class size and smallest size that you have taught, and what were challenges of each? 
    • Would you be comfortable designing web courses (including laboratory)?
    • What are 2-3 issues in teaching your discipline today?
    • How would you handle a disruptive or difficult student?
    • How do you define effective teaching?
    • How would you encourage students to major in your field?
    • How will you attract grad students?
    • What topics would you like to teach for an advanced topics/proseminar course?
    • What sorts of things are important in undergraduate teaching?
    • What sorts of things are important in graduate teaching?
    • Which classes on our list are you willing to teach?
    • What would you like to teach?
    • What textbook/materials would you use?
    • How do you deal with a poor student who just doesn't care about the material?
    • What concepts would you want the students to understand and apply from your course?
    • What experience do you have in teaching diverse populations?
    • Describe a course you would teach in your discipline.
    • How do you structure/organize courses?
    • How will you bring the insights of your research into the classroom?
    • What classes have you taught and what courses would you like to teach?
    • What is your basic teaching philosophy?
    • How do you handle classroom discipline?
    • How do you use technology in your classroom?
    • How important is it for you to be liked by your students?
    • Have you had any experience with interactive on-line instruction?
    • How do you feel about teaching required courses?
    • How do you integrate technology into your teaching and lab activities?
    • How do you motivate students?
    • How has your experience and training prepared you to teach the courses required?
    • If you could teach any course you wanted
    • What course(s) would you like to teach and what will be your basic teaching model? (e.g. lecture)
    • What courses outside your discipline would you encourage your students to take?
    • What do you find most satisfying about teaching?
    • What do you think is the optimal balance between teaching and research?
    • What is your teaching philosophy?
    • What role can you play in developing/team-teaching interdisciplinary courses?
    • How would you teach a survey/core course in your discipline?
    • What are the key themes or questions you would explore in class?
    • How will your understanding of the objects and methods of study in the field inform the assignments you design and the grading criteria you use?
    • How will you address current intellectual or pedagogical debates in your field in the classroom?
    • What technologies do you anticipate using, and why?
    • How will you evaluate student learning both formally and informally throughout the semester?
    • What kinds of activities will you use to lead students to understand what constitutes appropriate evidence in your discipline?
    • What parts of your research can you teach to undergraduates? What ideas or assumptions are likely to be challenging for them?
    • Tell me about your long-range plans and your commitment to this department? (How long do you plan to stay?)
    • What role do you think our mission will play in your life as a faculty member
    • How would you teach a classroom filled with students who have different levels of academic preparedness?
    • Describe your experience working with a diverse student body
    • Describe one of the most successful teaching activities you have conducted? What did you do? What was your objective? Why did you select the method you did? How did you know that it was successful?
    • Describe one of the least successful teaching activities you have conducted? What did you do? What was your objective? What went wrong? Why? How did you know that it did not succeed?
    • Describe a difficult encounter you have had with a student? What was the nature of the problem? How did you diagnose the problem? How did you try to resolve the difficulty? What was the outcome?
    • What professional development activity has had the greatest impact on your classroom instruction?
    • What do you consider to be the most important aspects of working with adult students?
    • What are your expectations teaching at a small institution versus a research I level institution?
    • How would you assess the effectiveness of your teaching?
    • Many of the students taking our intro classes are non-majors. What do you want non-majors to get out of your class?
    • How do you feel about textbooks vs. lay publications vs. peer-reviewed publications when it comes to teaching?


      • Tell us about your research. 
      • Tell me about your dissertation. 
      • Describe your dissertation to a lay person and convince them it's important.
      • Will your dissertation be complete by the start date of this position?
      • Tell us how you have/plan to involve undergraduates in your research.
      • What resources and space will you need to conduct your proposed research here?
      • Given that research with undergraduates is slower, how do you plan to make a scientific impact in your area of research (i.e., how do you plan to move your research forward and not get scooped)?
      • What is the relationship of your research to your teaching?
      • How could you bring your research into the classroom?
      • What will be the next direction of your research?
      • What research direction do you think you'll take over the next 5 years?
      • Describe your research agenda and how you have developed publications in the past.
      • What will be the title/topic of your 1st research proposal and what kind of funding opportunities would you seek?
      • What contribution has your research made to your field?
      • How would your research be innovative compared to everyone else's in the field?
      • What is the most significant piece of research you have read in the last year?
      • What journals do you see yourself publishing in?
      • What do you envision for creating a research program here?
      • Do you plan to apply for research funding?
      • What sort of grants are you planning to apply for? What specifically would you use that money for?
      • What do you see as the major trends in your field for the next 10 years?
      • What is your 5-year plan?
      • What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
      • Do you have experience with grants and grant proposals?
      • What does it take to equip a lab?
      • Do your theoretical interests have practical applications?
      • What are some of your other research interests?
      • Can you incorporate undergraduates in your research? OR How will you incorporate undergraduates in research?
      • How does your scholarship/training relate to this position?
      • Tell us about your dissertation. Please include your choice of topic
      • What are your research plans for the next five years?
      • What facilities and critical resources do you need to carry out your research plans?
      • What specific research will you pursue if you are selected and how do you anticipate funding it?
      • Why did you choose your dissertation topic?
      • What skills do you bring to the program? How will you help your mentor in his or her research?
      • Given that performing research with undergraduates is slower, how do you plan to make a scientific impact in your area of research?
      • What kind of scholarly activity would you pursue outside of the lab as an outreach to the community?
      • All of our applicants have strong rationales for studying abroad. What distinguishes your reasons for wanting to conduct research overseas?
      • Describe a situation where you were able to have a positive influence on others.
      • How well do you take criticism?
      • How do you plan to support your research?
      • How does your research inform your teaching?
      • In what journals do you plan to submit your research?
      • What resources will you need for your research? Where are you looking for funding?
      • Describe your dissertation research.
      • Do you plan to revise your dissertation for publication? What do you need to do to accomplish that?
      • How will you use your research to engage your students?
      • In what way does your research contribute significantly to your field of study?
      • Tell us about your mentor(s).
      • What are your future research plans and how will your research shape your field?
      • What is the most significant piece of research that you have read in the last year?
      • Tell me about your research?
      • How does it contribute to the field?
      • What direction do you plan to take your dissertation in?
      • What other types of research/questions do you intend to pursue?
      • Do you have a publisher lined up or in mind?
      • How do you see your research complementing or adding to the research currently being done in our department?
      • Are you engaged in collaborative work with colleagues from other institutions or is that something you're hoping to do at that institution and have you talked to the faculty in question?

      Service Questions

      • How will you contribute to the community and distinguish yourself as a teacher?
      • Describe committee work you have directed.
      • What skills/attributes would you be able to contribute to committee work?
      • How are you currently involved or how would you like to be involved in service to the community, professional organizations, and the University?
      • What kind of scholarly activity would you pursue outside of the lab as an outreach to the community?
      • To what extent are you willing to participate in departmental committees and extracurricular events?
      • At our institution, teaching is the first priority and the teaching load is significant. How will you survive/thrive in it?
      • Describe some innovative approaches for increasing enrollment in our discipline.
      • In what ways do you see yourself making professional contributions in the next five years?
      • This is a research institution. What would make you a successful candidate for tenure?
      • What can you contribute to our department?
      • What experience have you had with diverse student populations?
      • Why do you want to be a faculty member at our institution?
      • Are you willing to be involved in committee work?
      • Can you summarize the contribution you would make to our department?
      • How can you contribute to the mission of our school?
      • How do you view your role as a faculty advisor?
      • What has been your experience with grant writing?
      • What institutional issues particularly interest you?
      • What interested you in our school?
      • Why are you pursuing a career at a liberal arts college?


          Academic administration (various positions)

          • We work long hours here, and we all like to work from home. Are you prepared for that? [question from actual interview]
          • How do you see this position fitting into your future career path?
          • What particular strengths do you think you would bring to this job?
          • How would you get faculty to respond to student emails?
          • Tell us about a time when you failed.
          • What about this job appeals to you?
          • Tell us about a time when you had to coordinate something and tell us about how you handled unforeseen obstacles/challenges?
          • Is this a backup job for you as you search for a tenure-track faculty position? [question from actual interview]
          • What strengths would you bring to this position?
          • Is there anything else you want to tell us about yourself?
          • How do you think the students at this university will differ from students at Penn?
          • How did you decide you wanted this kind of job?
          • What is your ideal work environment? 
          • What kind of worker are you?
          • What kind of communicator/collaborator are you?
          • Why did you go to graduate school if you didn't want to be a professor of English? [question from actual interview]
          • How do you see yourself contributing to the initiative here?
          • What is the biggest factor in determining student success/failure today?
          • Have you ever read research on student success before?
          • Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with a supervisor or co-worker and tell us how you resolved it.
          • What does diversity mean to you?
          • What makes you want to work on the administrative side of things?
          • Who are you? [question from actual interview]
          • Do you have any questions for us?


          Non-profit (various positions)

          • Tell me about yourself.
          • Tell me about the situation where you had a conflict with other people and how you handled it.
          • Tell me about a good manager you have had.
          • Tell me about a bad manager.
          • Tell me about a mentor.
          • What are your weaknesses?
          • Why do you want this job?
          • Tell me about a challenge.
          • What words would your colleagues use to describe you?
          • What are some things they would say you could work on?
          • Will you be able to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of this position?
          • How do you expect to grow and benefit from this position?


          Biotech/pharma/chemical Industry

          • Why do you want to work for this company?
          • Tell me what you know about our company?
          • Do you know anyone at our company?
          • Why are you interested in this position? 
          • Why is your research important?
          • Did you come up with the original idea for your research?
          • What is the most challenging aspect of your research?
          • What research would you do next?
          • How is your research different from the research performed by other researchers in your field?
          • Describe a time when you worked in a team
          • Do you collaborate in your research? How did you initiate this collaboration?
          • What types of collaborations have you had outside of your lab, and how were these handled?
          • What is your favorite kind of beer? [question from actual interview]
          • Have you ever performed an experiment in which the results were the opposite of what you had expected? What did you do in this situation?
          • What most surprised you when you began researching our company?
          • Do you have any preference of the job location?
          • What is the most difficult thing you have overcome?
          • Do you have any conflicts between your research and your other activities?
          • Can you tell me about a person that you helped to motivate or develop?
          • Describe a time when you anticipated and averted a problem at work.
          • Did you ever have a job in which your duties were not what you expected when you took the position? How did you resolve this?
          • Tell me about a time when you promised an advisor or collaborator more than you could potentially deliver, and how you handled this situation.
          • What is your desired salary?
          • Do you have any questions? [you should always have questions!]


          Medical Writing

          • What is your learning style?
          • How are you at making deadlines?
          • What was your approach to the writing test you were assigned? [question from actual interview]
          • What would you do if you had a deadline that you could not make?