Typical questions asked during Coop interviews

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Typical questions asked during Coop interviews

Click any of the questions below to view the relevant answer.

1. What do you know about this company/organisation?

  1. Actually I didn't hear about the interview until yesterday. I did ask for a previous Coop report but none was available. So I'm afraid I don't know that much about the company.

    There is no excuse for not having some knowledge of the company. Employers quite rightly expect you to show an understanding of their business or services as well as the sector in  which they operate. Even with short notice, you can check the company website as well as searching on-line for newspaper articles on the company e.g. www.ireland.com,  www.financialtimes.com, www.irishexaminer.com. The www.idaireland.ie site has excellent information on both industrial sectors and individual companies.   Reading  a Coop report by a  previous student is obviously very helpful and often there is information in the form of company reports etc. available in the Cooperative Education & Careers Office.

  2.  It is a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Cork where you employ about 350 people. The main activities are the production of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and drug development. I see from your website that you are planning clinical trials of a new asthma drug. That sounds very interesting​.

    This answer shows that you have researched the company and its activities and you are also aware of current developments. It demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm, qualities that every employer will be looking for.

2. Why do you want to work for us?

  1. The pay and conditions are excellent for a Coop student. I like the idea of meeting new people. My friend worked with the company last year and had a great time during her Coop. A lot of my class are going to be in that city so it will be a good opportunity to get to know the city and socialise.​

    These may be your reasons but an employer is more likely to be impressed if your reasons show some understanding of their company and why you want to work for them specifically. Location, opportunity to socialise, friends or money are not impressive reasons.

  2. I have spoken to one of the students you took on last year and he said that the company was very supportive throughout his placement. He particularly benefited from the training provided by you. Also, I am very interested in working in the area of financial services when I graduate and your company is one of the key players in the financial services market in Ireland. I think the placement would offer excellent experience.

    This is a standard question in an interview and this answer shows that you have thought about your response and have taken the time to research the company. You also reflect on how the job fits with your career expectations in a very positive way.

3. What do you expect from your placement with us?

  1.  Having studied Mechanical Engineering, I see my placement as an opportunity to develop my management skills. I am interested in gaining direct experience of project management, particularly in the area of design engineering.

    This answer shows very unrealistic expectations of what an undergraduate placement can reasonably offer. Project management in the area of design engineering may be your long-term career goal. However, employers will not be able to offer this management level, specialist experience to an inexperienced undergraduate. See your placement as the opportunity to develop some of the skills that will be helpful to you in achieving your longer-term career ambitions.

  2. I have studied the relevant subjects but I don't have any hands-on experience of the job of course. So I would like to be trained in the job and shown what to do. I am prepared to put in the effort to achieve a better knowledge of this business. I want to develop professionally during my placement but I also understand that there will be routine elements to the job. I would be very keen to explore opportunities to do my final year project with the company and to continue this link after I leave my placement.

    This answer shows you are enthusiastic but realistic about your placement and the world of work. You are prepared for a range of work activities, both challenging and routine. You also show commitment to the company by your willingness to collaborate with the company after your placement through your FYP. Remember though, that if you do mention your FYP in this specific way, you must be prepared to expand on it.

4. Why did you choose to study this course?

  1.  I chose UL because I didn't want to move away from home. I play hurling for a local team so I have to be available for matches and for training. I got the points for my third choice on the CAO form and I am enjoying the course, though I'm not quite sure what I would like to do when I graduate.

    Employers select you for interview because they believe that you have the potential be a 'good fit' for their organisation. They are guided primarily by the course you have chosen. This answer gives the impression that you are unclear about why you have opted for this course and this lack of focus could work against you. You also imply that a placement outside of the Limerick area would not be acceptable because of your training commitments. Remember that you must work your social and sporting obligations around your Coop placement, not the other way around.

  2. I always liked accounting and foreign languages in school and by choosing this course I was able to combine both in one degree programme. The fact that UL offers a placement programme for this type of degree was also very attractive to me. I have been very happy with my choice so far.

    This shows your interest in the subject areas. It also shows that you value the Coop opportunity and this creates some common ground between you and the employer.

5. If I were to talk to a former employer, how would they describe the way you carried out your work?

  1.  As you can see from my CV, I worked in a hotel last summer. It was quite a pressurised environment and I didn't get on very well with my supervisor. To be honest, I found the work uninteresting and stressful. I certainly wouldn't like to work there again. So I'm not sure what my employer would say about me.

    Any employer would be quite concerned by this answer. In answering a question like this, you must be conscious that comments such as work being uninteresting may make the employer see you as difficult and unprepared to take direction. Most jobs have elements that are not very interesting but you should be able to find something positive to say about any work experience that you mention in your CV.

  2. I have worked in a busy restaurant in my hometown for the past three years. At the beginning I just had cleaning duties but after a while I worked mainly on the cash desk. Now when the owner is away, I am the key holder and also have responsibility for training in new staff. So I would like to think that my employer values my loyalty, commitment and willingness to take on additional responsibilities.

    This answer shows that you were willing to learn on the job. It demonstrates how your employer valued you and trusted you to take on additional responsibility.

6. This work environment can be hectic. Can you give me a specific example of you working effectively under pressure?

  1.  I work much better when I'm not under pressure. Most of my work experience is with the family garden centre business and I'm expected to work there when I'm home from college at the weekends.

    If you're asked for a specific example, you are expected to come up with one. This answer doesn't really answer the question. Working in a family business can be a positive thing. However the expression 'I'm expected' gives a sense that you are not that willing to work there and may cause an employer to build a negative picture of you.

  2. For the past two years, I have worked evenings in a city centre fast food outlet. I have to constantly deal with long queues of customers. This is particularly true after pub closing hours. I have to be aware that people can be impatient, difficult and on a short fuse. I simply concentrate on the customer at the counter and remain courteous. I also have a work plan and do as much preparation work as possible in advance of the busy period.

    Working in fast food is widely recognised as being fast-paced and this is a good answer. It shows the employer that you are prepared to work hard and to work unsocial hours, thereby showing your flexibility. You show that you have a proactive approach to work by implementing a work plan to cope with busy periods.

7. In this job, you will need to adhere to strict schedules and deadlines. Give me an example of any time management skill you have learned.

  1.  The course here in UL is very intensive and there's always another deadline around the corner. I have therefore successfully renegotiated deadlines with supervisors in order to complete my project or essay on time.

    This answer shows that you did not in fact adhere to the deadline. The ability to adhere to deadlines is the very skill this employer is looking for. So your explanation should include how you tracked your progress in meeting deadlines and how you ensured you did not fall behind.

  2. At any one time during this course, I might have three or four pieces of written work pending so anything that helps me to get more organised is great. For project work, I have used Microsoft Project to break the work down into its constituent parts and I have also organised regular short meetings with the project group to keep an eye on progress.

    This answer shows that you adhered to the deadline, had an organised and systematic approach to your work and used a known software package to track and record your progress. Be prepared to supplement your answer with some details around the project and its components.

8. Tell us about a time when you worked as part of a team and found it challenging.

  1.  Last semester I was part of a team of four students doing an engineering project. I found that one member of the team really dominated the project. He was very pushy, always putting pressure on me to complete work and not giving the rest of us a say in how the work should be organised or allocated. I felt it was really his project rather than the work of a team.

    This may have been the case but be careful. An employer might interpret this to mean that you needed to be pushed into doing the work and that, without this one person driving the project, it might not have been completed. Employers do not tend to choose students whom they believe may need prodding to work. Also the answer gives no sense of how you dealt with this issue or, even on later reflection, how you might have dealt with it more effectively. This insight would have made for a much stronger answer.

  2. I was part of a group doing a marketing project here at UL. A member of the team of five wasn't pulling her weight, by not turning up for meetings etc. The rest of us agreed that I was the best person to talk to the student concerned. After speaking to her, I could see that she was having personal difficulties at home and we were able to reallocate some of the work to make the burden on her easier.

    This answer shows a willingness to address issues effectively and to seek a resolution that is acceptable to the team. It shows support and sympathy for a member of the team experiencing difficulties while at the same time making it clear that each student is expected to contribute to the team effort. By seeking a greater commitment from the other team members and yourself in order to get the project finished, you are demonstrating strong leadership skills within the group.

9. Tell us about a time when you overcame what seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle.

  1.  My heart was set on studying Physiotherapy but I missed the cut off by five points. I was offered my third choice and I accepted it but I am still hoping to get into Physiotherapy at some point in the future, maybe as a mature student.

    This answer suggests that you are not fully committed to your current course. There is a sense that you are simply going through the motions with this course. Remember that many Coop employers use the programme to vet potential graduates. If you give this kind of answer, an employer may feel that there is no long-term benefit in taking on a student whose career ambitions lie elsewhere.

  2. My friend and I had arranged to go to the US for the summer. Everything was arranged - job, accommodation etc. At the last minute, the embassy refused my friend's visa with no right of appeal. I was devastated and didn't want to go on my own but after thinking about all the expense involved up to that point, I decided to take the plunge and try going it alone. I did and it turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

    Good answer. This shows your human side and natural reticence in going it alone. It showed that you were able to overcome your initial fears, develop some key survival skills and managed to really enjoy the experience.

10. Tell us about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer and how you handled this.

  1.  I worked in a call centre last summer and my job was to deal with customers whose accounts were overdue. While most of the customers understood why they were receiving the call, one particular customer reacted in a very aggressive and abusive manner. I tried to explain to him that I was only doing my job but he didn't hear me as he was shouting so loudly. Finally I had no choice but to put the phone down as nobody should have to put up with this kind of abuse.

    It may not have been your ideal job but, in terms of handling a difficult customer, this is not a good example. Your answer shows that when things got tough that you didn't cope. You had other options including perhaps putting the customer through to your supervisor or allowing the customer to vent their anger first and then ending the call in a professional manner.

  2. I worked part-time in a department store and a customer came to me demanding a refund for a faulty product. However, the customer had no proof of purchase. In this case, it was the store's policy to return the product to the manufacturer. When I explained this to the customer she became very irate. However I could see that it was not personal and I applied the training I had been given i.e. listening to the customer, responding to her concerns and firmly restating the company policy. In this case, as in most cases, this was successful.

    Shows a good understanding of how important it is to understand that the issue was not a personal one. It also shows an understanding of company policy and a confidence in applying it. The answer also demonstrates evidence of staying in the job even though this was a regular occurrence and not a pleasant one.

11. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

  1.  I feel I'm a bit young to answer that question but I hope that in the future that my career will be my greatest achievement. Come back to me in ten years!

    This is a question that comes up very frequently at Coop interviews so you should certainly have given it some thought before the interview. Answering questions in this rather flippant manner can be off-putting for many employers. Think about personal, academic or sporting achievements and don't be afraid to blow your own trumpet. After all, you've been asked!

  2. I work in the family business at weekends. As this involves some driving, I decided to take my driving test at seventeen. I paid for some lessons with my own money and didn't tell anyone I had applied for the test. I passed on the first attempt and it gave me a fantastic sense of achievement.

    This answer shows commitment in financing the lessons and a determination to get the test first time. It also demonstrates that you did something that has enabled you to make a better contribution to the business.

12. What motivates you?

  1.  Making my first million.

    This is a rather superficial answer, which is not supported by any example or further comment. Certainly it doesn't sound as if you have put much thought into the answer. Try thinking of things you need to achieve or skills you need to develop in order to make your "first million".

  2. For me, nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing a job through from start to finish. I worked on a project to design a website, which I developed for a local travel agent. I was responsible for the initial design, development, programming, testing and final presentation. When I saw the number of hits the site generated in its first week, I was thrilled.

    Good answer. You were able to support what you said with a clear example. This is very powerful in an interview situation. There is clear evidence that the project was a successful one and that you were interested enough to check the number of hits after the project was completed. The fact that the project was commercially viable obviously adds interest and weight to your example.

13. You will be working in another country if you are offered a placement with our company. How do you think you would cope with this?

  1.  I suppose it would be ok as long as there were others from my class in the same city. I'm not really worried about the foreign language element as most people in Europe speak really good English. I assume you will be able to sort out my accommodation.

    In this answer you are making a lot of assumptions. In most European countries English is not the working language and you will be expected to have a good fluency in the relevant language. Your employer may be able to help with accommodation but in most cases, this will be up to you. Don't assume that there will be others from your class in the same city. If you're going abroad, you must be prepared to rise to the challenge of being on your own in a city and of speaking the language of the country.

  2. I went au-pairing in Spain the summer after my Leaving Certificate. To be fair, I did find it difficult at first - the language, new culture, homesickness etc. But after three weeks I was so settled that I was even thinking in Spanish. I even went back the following year. What I'm really looking forward to is applying my language and cultural awareness skills in a business environment during my placement.

    Good. You have had an international experience and said how you found it at the beginning. However by making the commitment to going back you showed how you enjoyed it enough to wish to repeat it.

14. This company is located in a small rural town. How do you feel about that?

  1.  I wouldn't like to be the only student there. I mean I would like to be with some of my friends. To be honest, I was hoping to work in a city because you get a better experience in larger organisations.

    Employers are looking for students who can demonstrate flexibility and independence but there is no evidence of either in this answer. Of course it would be nice to be with some of your friends but this must not be an overriding focus. Many successful Irish companies and organisations operate from rural locations. Also, being the only student in a company can be a very positive experience as it can offer you a much broader professional experience.

  2. What I really want is to get relevant public sector experience. Where I get it is not that important to me. I have been living away from home since I started at UL so the idea of moving to a new place doesn't daunt me in the least. I don't have a car so I will be relying on public transport to get to and from work. What is the bus service like in the area?

    This answer shows that you are primarily interested in gaining professional experience and that you are independent and flexible when it comes to relocating. The question regarding public transport is perfectly reasonable and the employer should be happy to provide you with this information.