20 CAL POLY Interview Questions and Answers

Prepare for the types of questions you are likely to be asked when interviewing for a position at CAL POLY.

Cal Poly is known for its hands-on, polytechnic approach to education, and this extends to the interview process. Prospective students can expect to be asked questions about their motivation for attending Cal Poly, as well as their skills and experience in areas relevant to their field of study.

The interview process at Cal Poly is designed to give students a chance to showcase their skills and abilities, as well as their fit for the university. With that in mind, here are some sample questions that students can expect to be asked during an interview for admission to Cal Poly.

CAL POLY Interview Process

The interview process at CAL POLY can vary depending on the position you are applying for. For some positions, such as a research assistant or teaching assistant, the process may be as simple as meeting with the professor to discuss your interests and experience. For other positions, such as a lecturer or full stack developer, the process may be more involved and include multiple interviews and/or a project demonstration. Overall, the interview process is generally professional and efficient, with interviewers that are welcoming and transparent.

Common CAL POLY Interview Questions

1. Tell me about a time you worked with a team, what was your role in the group and how did it go?

This question is a great way to show your leadership skills and ability to work with others. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention how you helped the team succeed or what you learned from working with them.

Example: “In my last internship, I worked on a team of five people who were all tasked with creating an advertising campaign for a new product. My role was to create the concept for the ad, which I did by researching similar products and finding out what their target audience wanted. After presenting my idea to the group, we decided to go with it. The campaign was very successful, and I learned that teamwork is essential in any job.”

2. How would you deal with an instance where one of your students is being disruptive to the class?

Interviewers want to know how you would handle a challenging situation with one of your students. They are looking for an answer that shows you can remain calm and professional, while also enforcing the rules of the classroom.

Example: “I have had this happen in my previous position as a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In this instance, I asked the student to step out into the hallway so we could talk privately. Once there, I explained why their behavior was disruptive to the class and gave them a warning about future disruptions. If they were to disrupt the class again, I would give them an immediate failing grade on the assignment.”

3. Do you have any experience working with children?

Interviewers may ask this question to see if you have any experience working with children in a classroom setting. If you do, they may want to know how your teaching style is similar or different from the way Cal Poly teaches its students. If you don’t have experience working with children, you can talk about other experiences that are relevant to working with young people, such as tutoring or coaching.

Example: “I worked as an after-school tutor for two years at my local library. I helped elementary school students learn math and reading skills through fun activities like games and crafts. It was rewarding to see their confidence grow over time.”

4. What skills do you feel will help you be a good Resident Advisor?

The university is looking for Resident Advisors who are organized, empathetic and have strong communication skills. These qualities help you manage a large group of students and ensure they’re all safe and comfortable in their living spaces. When answering this question, think about the skills you’ve developed over your academic career that helped you succeed as an RA.

Example: “I feel my ability to communicate effectively with others will be helpful when I’m working as an RA. As a student, I was able to use my communication skills to resolve conflicts between roommates and provide support to other students who were struggling emotionally or academically. I also believe my organizational skills will help me keep track of important information like emergency procedures and roommate agreements.”

5. Describe a situation that required you to work under pressure.

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to handle pressure and perform well in a high-stress environment. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a situation that you handled successfully while also highlighting the skills or abilities you used to do so.

Example: “In my last position as an event planner, I was responsible for organizing several large events each month. One of these events required me to coordinate multiple vendors, set up decorations and ensure everything went smoothly on the day of the event. The week before the event, one of our main sponsors pulled out, leaving us with less money than we had planned for. I worked closely with the client to find a new sponsor who could provide similar services at a lower cost. We were able to save the event from being canceled.”

6. Can you please describe how you handled a conflict with a fellow employee or student?

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your conflict resolution skills. This is an important skill for any position, but especially those in the education field. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a specific situation and how you handled it.

Example: “In my previous role as a teacher’s aide, I had a disagreement with my supervisor over whether or not we should allow students to use their phones during class. My supervisor felt that allowing them to use their phones would help them focus on the lesson, while I believed they needed to put their phones away so they could fully concentrate on the material. We discussed our opinions and decided to try out both methods of teaching. After a few weeks, we found that students who were allowed to use their phones did better than those who weren’t.”

7. Have you ever had to deal with difficult faculty members? If so, how did you handle it?

Faculty members can be difficult to work with at times, and employers want to know that you have the skills necessary to handle these situations. When answering this question, try to focus on your problem-solving skills and how you were able to resolve the situation.

Example: “I had a professor who was very strict about turning in assignments on time. I once missed an assignment deadline because of a family emergency, but he wouldn’t accept my late submission. I went to him after class one day and explained why I couldn’t turn it in on time. He still refused to accept it, so I emailed him every week for two weeks until he finally accepted it.”

8. Why are you interested in this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and why you are the best candidate for their open position. Before your interview, review the job description thoroughly and highlight any skills or experiences that match what they’re looking for in a new employee.

Example: “I’m interested in this position because I’ve always wanted to work at a university where students can get real-world experience while earning their degree. Cal Poly is known for its hands-on learning environment, which is something I value highly as an educator. I also love working with young adults who are eager to learn and ready to take on the world.”

9. Do you think you can handle the responsibilities of being a Resident Advisor while also balancing your academic career?

The interviewer wants to know if you have the time management skills necessary to succeed in this role. Show them that you can manage your time effectively and prioritize tasks by explaining how you plan to balance your responsibilities as a Resident Advisor with your academic career.

Example: “I think I can handle being a Resident Advisor while also balancing my academics because I am very organized and efficient at managing my time. As an RA, I will be responsible for overseeing the well-being of students living in my residence hall, which means I’ll need to make sure I’m on time for all of my classes each day. To ensure I don’t fall behind in any of my courses, I plan to set aside some extra time each week to study.”

10. Give us an example of a project that you worked on as part of a team.

This question is an opportunity to show your communication skills and ability to work with others. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific project that you worked on as part of a team and how the collaboration helped you achieve success.

Example: “In my last role, I was tasked with creating a marketing plan for our company’s new product launch. My supervisor asked me to create a team of three other employees who would help me develop the campaign. The four of us met weekly to discuss ideas and strategies for the campaign. We also had several conference calls with the rest of the marketing department to get their input. In the end, we created a successful campaign that increased sales by 20%.”

11. How do you plan to keep yourself organized when dealing with multiple projects at once?

This question can help the interviewer get a better sense of your time management skills and how you plan to stay on top of your work. Use examples from past experiences where you’ve had multiple projects or assignments due at once, and explain how you managed them effectively.

Example: “In my last role as an event planner, I often had multiple events going on at once. For example, I would be planning one wedding while also working on another client’s special occasion. To keep myself organized, I used several different project management apps that allowed me to create separate lists for each event. This helped me stay on top of all my tasks and ensured that I was able to complete each task by its deadline.”

12. Do you know anyone who has been a resident advisor? If so, what feedback did they give you about the job?

This question is a great way to show your knowledge of the position and how you would perform it. If you don’t know anyone who has been an RA, ask friends or family members if they have ever had an RA.

Example: “I do not personally know anyone who has been an RA, but I did speak with my friend’s older brother about his experience as an RA at Cal Poly. He said that he really enjoyed the job because he got to help students in any way he could. He also mentioned that the best part was being able to meet new people every day.”

13. Do you have any experience working with people from different cultural backgrounds?

Cal Poly is a diverse campus, and the university wants to ensure that students are able to work with people from different backgrounds. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention how you’ve worked with people of different cultural backgrounds in the past.

Example: “I have had experience working with people from different cultural backgrounds throughout my life. My parents immigrated to the United States when I was young, so I grew up in a bilingual household where Spanish was spoken often. In high school, I took AP Spanish and learned more about the culture and language. I also volunteered at a local community center where I helped teach English as a second language classes.”

14. We believe that diversity is important for our organization. What do you think makes a diverse organization successful?

This question is an opportunity to show your understanding of the importance of diversity in a workplace. When answering, it can be helpful to discuss how you have contributed to a diverse organization in the past and what you learned from that experience.

Example: “I think a diverse organization is successful because it allows for different perspectives and ideas. I’ve worked in several organizations where there was a lack of diversity, and I noticed that we were missing out on some great ideas because they didn’t fit with the status quo. In my last position, I started a mentorship program between students of color and white students to help everyone learn more about each other’s experiences and backgrounds.”

15. What qualities do you think make someone a good leader?

Leadership is a skill that many employers look for in their employees. They want to know if you have the skills and abilities to lead others, especially your team members. When answering this question, think about what qualities you possess that make you a good leader.

Example: “I believe that being a good leader means having integrity and honesty. It’s important to be honest with yourself and others so that everyone knows where they stand. I also think it’s important to be empathetic and compassionate when leading a group of people. You need to understand how each person feels and what their needs are.”

16. Please describe your teaching philosophy.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your teaching style and how you plan to help students succeed. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a specific example of how you helped a student in the past or what you hope to achieve with your students in the future.

Example: “My philosophy is that every student deserves an education that challenges them but also makes learning fun. I believe that if students are having fun while they’re learning, they’ll retain information better and have a positive experience overall. In my last position, I had a student who was struggling with one of his classes. He came to me for extra help after class, and we spent time going over concepts together until he felt confident again.”

17. Why do you want to teach?

This question is a great way to show your passion for teaching and the impact you hope to have on students. When answering this question, it can be helpful to share an experience that made you want to become a teacher or how you developed your love of education.

Example: “I’ve always loved learning new things, so I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue a career in education. In high school, my AP English teacher was one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. She taught us about literature and writing, but she also shared her own personal stories with us. It was clear that she cared deeply about each student and wanted us all to succeed.”

18. What’s the most challenging thing about being a graduate assistant?

Interviewers may ask this question to see if you’re prepared for the challenges of graduate school. They want to know that you can handle the workload and manage your time effectively. In your answer, explain what you did to overcome any challenges you faced as a graduate assistant.

Example: “The most challenging thing about being a graduate assistant was balancing my coursework with my research projects. I had two classes per semester, which meant I had a lot of reading and assignments to complete each week. To stay on top of everything, I set aside specific times during the day to work on different tasks. For example, I would read in the morning before class and write after class. This helped me get through all of my responsibilities without falling behind.”

19. What do you think the hardest part of being a research assistant will be?

This question is a great way to show the interviewer that you have done your research on the position and are aware of what it entails. It also shows them that you’re prepared for any challenges that may come with the job. When answering this question, be honest about what you think will be challenging but emphasize how you plan to overcome those challenges.

Example: “I know that being a research assistant means working long hours in a fast-paced environment. I’m excited to take on that challenge because I thrive under pressure and am always looking for ways to improve my time management skills. I’ve heard that some students find data entry tedious, so I’ve taken online courses in Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets to help me learn more efficient methods of organizing information.”

20. Are you familiar with university policy regarding discrimination and harassment?

The university wants to ensure that you understand the policies and procedures in place for reporting discrimination and harassment. This is an important part of working at Cal Poly, so it’s essential that you know how to report any incidents or concerns.

Example: “Yes, I am familiar with the university policy regarding discrimination and harassment. In my last position, I was a member of the diversity committee where we discussed these issues regularly. We also had training on how to recognize and prevent discrimination and harassment. It’s important to me that all students feel safe and supported while attending this university.”


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