Interesting Interview Questions from a Real COO

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the chief operating officer for equity capital markets for a premier global financial services provider. The COO, who has interviewed countless people throughout her career from interns and recent graduates to more experienced applicants, is a personal friend and colleague. I’ve know her for many years, and we’ve never had a conversation that I’ve not found very educational.

This time, I asked my friend what are three of the most important questions she asks recent graduates during their interviews, and what kind of response is she anticipating for each one. I’m excited to share her refreshing and honest responses.

Question 1: What was your most difficult class? Why?

This seems like a fairly simple question, but that doesn’t mean the interviewer won’t learn something from your response. Not only does it reveal why you found the class difficult, but also how you handled the challenge. This provides insight into how you will respond to challenging situations that you confront professionally.

She gave an example. If you couldn’t understand a certain professor, and that professor wasn’t lecturing from a textbook, what would you do to solve this problem? One solution might be to form a study group, another would be to talk to a TA, and yet another would be to solicit help from students from another section of the class. The key is that it’s important for you to find a solution to the problem.

Question 2: What was one of your most enjoyable experiences? Why?

What is the interviewer trying to learn from this question? It’s an opportunity to learn about things you like and why. The interviewer wants to hear you talk about yourself, and will be paying careful attention to how you express your enthusiasm and passion for the things you enjoy.

Questions 3:  Tell me in depth about one particular item on your resume.

In this question, you’ve been given the opportunity to speak. You can pick a course, an interest, a job, an internship, or anything that you have done where you can paint an in-depth picture of the experience and how it’s helped you grow.

After we discussed these three questions, our conversation veered in a slightly different direction. We moved on to the question of what you should say when the interviewer asks if you have any questions.

Here are a few tips we came up with:

  1. It is totally appropriate to ask many of the same questions to each person you interview with, because you may get different responses from each individual.
  2. Ask each interviewer some personal questions, which show an interest in their professional development and skills. For example, “How did you get this position?” or “What do you like most about your job?”
  3. Never say that you don’t have any questions, or all of your questions have been answered. That puts an abrupt end to the meeting, and likely the probability of an offer.

And one final thought emerged. A lot of young job seekers think they have to know what they want to do now. Don’t let that influence your approach. Your job is not to pick a career, but to pursue every opportunity presented to you and try to generate offers. That way, you are guaranteed to have choices.


Lesley is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs.   Previously, Lesley spent more than 25 years in executive search, working with candidates from entry level to C-Suite executives in organizations ranging in size from small, family owned businesses to large international organizations.  Her fundamental knowledge of what hiring manager’s look for is the core of what Priority Candidates does to prepare college students/recent grads to get hired now.  An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, ABC’s New York Viewpoint with Ken Rosato, ABC News with Art McFarland, The New York Times, NY Nightly News with NBC4’s Chuck Scarborough, eCampus News and John Tucker’s Small Business Report on Bloomberg Radio.   Lesley always welcomes connections via LinkedIn, on Twitter or by email or phone, available on her website.

Related posts:

  1. 3 Interview Questions to Know How to Answer
  2. Ask Questions During a Job Interview
  3. What Questions Do You Have For Me?

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