20 Princeton University Interview Questions and Answers

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

When it comes to interviewing at Princeton University, there are a few things that you can expect. For starters, the interview process is highly competitive. In order to even be considered for an interview, you need to have a strong academic record and extracurricular involvement. Once you’ve made it to the interview stage, you can expect to be asked a mix of general and specific questions about your qualifications and interest in the university.

To help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of common interview questions that Princeton University applicants can expect. From questions about your academic record to questions about your extracurricular involvement, we’ve got you covered.

Princeton University Interview Process

The interview process at Princeton University can vary depending on the position you are applying for. For some positions, such as an administrative assistant or research specialist, the interview may be relatively short and straightforward. For other positions, such as a librarian or director of financial aid, the interview process may be more lengthy and involve multiple rounds of interviews. Overall, the interview process is generally positive, with friendly and welcoming staff members. However, some candidates may find the process to be very long and drawn out, potentially lasting several months.

1. What is the most exciting project you have worked on?

This question is a great way to show your interviewer that you are passionate about your work and have the ability to complete challenging tasks. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a project that was particularly meaningful or exciting for you.

Example: “The most exciting project I’ve worked on so far in my career was when I helped create an online database of endangered species. This project required me to learn new coding languages and collaborate with other researchers. It was very rewarding to see our hard work pay off and know that we were helping protect these animals.”

2. Why do you want to work at Princeton University?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the university and why you are a good fit for this position. When answering, it can be helpful to mention specific aspects of Princeton University that interest you or how you would like to contribute to the campus community.

Example: “I am interested in working at Princeton University because I have always been impressed by its reputation as one of the top universities in the country. I think my skills and experience make me a great candidate for this role, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work with such a talented team. I also want to help students achieve their goals and develop into successful professionals.”

3. How would your research benefit from working with one of our faculty members?

Princeton University is a research-focused institution, and faculty members are an important part of the campus. Interviewers ask this question to learn more about your interest in working with their faculty members and how you would benefit from collaborating with them. Use examples from your resume or cover letter to show which faculty members you have already worked with. If you haven’t had the opportunity to work with any Princeton faculty members yet, use examples from other institutions to demonstrate your willingness to collaborate with faculty members.

Example: “I am excited to work with Dr. Smith on my thesis because I think his expertise in the field will help me develop my own ideas and theories. He has published several books on the subject matter that I’m researching, so he can provide valuable insight into my project.”

4. When was a time when you took initiative and leadership in a project or task?

This question can help the interviewer understand your leadership skills and how you approach a project. Use examples from previous work or school experiences to highlight your ability to take initiative, plan ahead and complete tasks on time.

Example: “In my last job as an administrative assistant, I noticed that our department was running low on supplies. Rather than waiting for someone else to notice this, I took it upon myself to order more supplies so we could continue working efficiently. This helped me develop my organizational skills and learn how to manage multiple projects at once.”

5. If we hire you, what can you bring to this department?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the department and how you can contribute. You should research the job description, as well as the university’s website, to learn about the department before your interview. Use this information to highlight any skills or experiences that match what they’re looking for in a candidate.

Example: “I’ve read through the job description and it seems like you’re looking for someone who has experience with data analysis. I have extensive experience using Excel and other programs to analyze large amounts of data. In my last role, I helped create reports on student performance based on their ethnicity and gender. This allowed us to identify areas where we could improve our curriculum.”

6. Describe a recent publication that has inspired you.

This question is an opportunity to show your passion for research and the impact it can have on society. When answering this question, you should choose a publication that relates to your field of study or career goals.

Example: “I recently read an article about how artificial intelligence could be used to predict the likelihood of someone developing Alzheimer’s disease. This technology would allow doctors to diagnose patients earlier in their lives so they can begin treatment sooner. I think this technology has the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world.”

7. Tell me about something interesting you learned recently.

This question is a great way to show your passion for learning and can help you connect with the interviewer. It’s important to choose something that shows you’re interested in what they do, so if they mention their work or research, it’s helpful to ask them about it.

Example: “I recently learned how to use my phone as a microscope. I was reading an article on quantum computing and wanted to see some of the nanotechnology mentioned. I downloaded an app called ‘Microscope’ and used my phone camera to zoom in on a piece of paper. The image quality wasn’t amazing, but I could still make out the individual atoms.”

8. Can you tell me about a time where you had to be creative to solve a problem?

This question is a great way to show your problem-solving skills and how you use them in the workplace. When answering this question, it can be helpful to think of a time when you had to solve a problem that was unique or challenging.

Example: “At my current job, I have been tasked with creating new marketing strategies for our company’s social media accounts. This has required me to come up with creative ways to engage customers on different platforms. For example, I created a Snapchat filter for one of our stores that allowed us to reach more people who were interested in our brand.”

9. Give an example of a time you made a mistake, how did you handle it?

Interviewers ask this question to learn more about your problem-solving skills and how you react when faced with a challenge. When answering, it can be helpful to focus on the steps you took to resolve the issue or mistake and what you learned from the experience.

Example: “When I was in college, I had an internship at a local hospital where I worked as a medical assistant. One day, I accidentally gave a patient the wrong medication. Luckily, they were able to return it before taking any of it. After that happened, I immediately went to my supervisor and explained what happened. They helped me create a new system for tracking medications so that it would never happen again.”

10. Tell us about a time you had to deal with ambiguity.

This question is a great way to assess your problem-solving skills and ability to think critically. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe the steps you took to solve the ambiguity and how you overcame it.

Example: “When I was working as an intern at my current company, there were times when I wasn’t sure if I should answer the phone or not. If I answered the phone and it was for someone else, I would have to interrupt them to tell them that they had the wrong extension. However, if I didn’t answer the phone and it was important, then I could potentially miss out on an opportunity to impress my boss. In this situation, I decided to take a risk and answer the phone. It turned out that the call was for me, so I was able to show my boss that I was willing to go above and beyond.”

11. Do you prefer independent or group projects?

This question can help the interviewer determine how you work with others. It’s important to show that you’re a team player, but also have experience working independently.

Example: “I prefer group projects because I find it easier to bounce ideas off of other people and get feedback on my own work. However, I’ve found that when I’m in an independent project, I take more initiative and am more motivated to complete the task. In my last internship, we had to create a marketing campaign for our client. My team members were all creative types, so we decided to split up the tasks among us. We each took charge of one aspect of the campaign, such as copywriting or design, and then presented our work to the rest of the team.”

12. What is the biggest challenge facing higher education today?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the current state of higher education and how you can contribute to its improvement. Your answer should include a specific example from your experience that shows how you helped solve this challenge.

Example: “The biggest challenge facing higher education today is the lack of diversity in faculty and student populations. I have seen firsthand how important it is for students to see themselves represented in their professors, especially when they are learning about different cultures and backgrounds. In my last position as a professor at a community college, I started a mentorship program between our school’s minority students and local high schoolers. This led to more diverse enrollment at our university.”

13. Do you feel comfortable collaborating with others?

Collaboration is an important skill for students at Princeton University. The university’s website states that “students are expected to work together in small groups and as a whole class on projects, papers and exams.” Your answer should show the interviewer you’re willing to collaborate with others and how you feel about it.

Example: “I have always enjoyed working with others on group projects. I find that when we all contribute our ideas, we can create something even better than what any one of us could do alone. In my last job, I was part of a team that worked on creating new marketing strategies for our company. We each had different perspectives and skills, which helped us come up with some great ideas.”

14. If a student came up to you with a question regarding their academics, what would you say?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you are willing to help students succeed. Use your answer to highlight your communication and problem-solving skills, as well as your academic knowledge.

Example: “If a student came up to me with a question about their academics, I would first make sure they understand what exactly they’re asking. Then, I would explain the concept in more detail so they can fully grasp it. If they still have questions after my explanation, I would offer to meet with them one-on-one or in a group setting to further discuss the topic.”

15. How long have you been using Python for?

Python is a popular programming language that many developers use. Interviewers may ask this question to see if you have experience with Python and how long you’ve been using it. If you don’t have much experience, explain what other languages you know. If you do have experience with Python, share your favorite features of the language.

Example: “I started learning Python about two years ago when I was looking for a new coding language to learn. I chose Python because it’s easy to understand and has some great libraries. My favorite feature of Python is its ability to integrate with other languages. This makes it easier to work with other developers.”

16. What are some strengths you possess that will make you a good fit for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your personality and how you would fit in with their team. When answering, it can be helpful to think of a few specific examples that relate to the job description. This will show the employer that you have researched the position and are prepared for the interview.

Example: “I am an extremely organized person who is always on time. I also work well under pressure and thrive when given new challenges. These skills helped me complete my previous internship where I was responsible for organizing all of my manager’s paperwork and projects. She often praised me for my organization and ability to multitask.”

17. What are your thoughts on the current state of science communication?

This question is an opportunity to show your passion for science communication and how you can improve it. You should discuss the importance of communicating scientific information in a way that’s accessible to everyone, including those who aren’t familiar with the subject matter.

Example: “Science communication is incredibly important because it allows us to share our research with the public. I believe we need to find ways to communicate complex scientific concepts in a way that’s easy to understand. For example, I’ve found that using analogies or metaphors helps people relate to what I’m saying. Another thing I do is provide visuals when possible so people can see what I’m talking about.”

18. Have you ever used git before?

Git is a version control system that allows users to keep track of changes in files. It’s often used by developers and programmers, so it’s important for employers to know if you have experience with the software. If you have worked as a developer or programmer before, include your previous experience using git. If you haven’t, explain what version control systems are and how they work.

Example: “I’ve used git before when I was working at my last job. My team had to use it because we were developing an app that required us to keep track of all our changes. Git is a great tool for keeping track of changes and collaborating with other people on projects.”

19. There’s a lot of competition for postdoctoral positions, why should I choose you over other candidates?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to assess your confidence and self-awareness. It’s important to be honest in this situation, as it can help you stand out from other candidates if you have unique experiences or skills that others don’t.

Example: “I’m confident I would make an excellent postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University because of my extensive research experience and passion for science. In my previous position, I was able to develop new methods of testing for diseases using genetic sequencing technology. This skill set makes me uniquely qualified to work here.”

20. What would you say is your greatest weakness as well as strength?

This question is a common one in interviews, and it’s important to be honest. Interviewers want to know that you are self-aware and can recognize your own weaknesses as well as strengths. When answering this question, try to think of two things:

Something that you’re working on improving
Something that you do well
Example: “I would say my greatest weakness is being too hard on myself when I make mistakes. However, I am actively trying to improve this by practicing positive affirmations daily and reminding myself that everyone makes mistakes. My greatest strength is my ability to work independently. I have always been someone who prefers to work alone, so I’ve developed many skills that help me succeed in this environment.”


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