Interview? Congratulations! Your application has impressed the hiring manager and you must officially pass an interview for the internship of your dreams.
Now is the time to get ready. As someone who recently completed the hiring of the 2019 summer intern class for the Oakland Museum of CA, I have a lot of advice on this subject.
First of all, keep in mind that an internship is a two-way street. Yes, there are tasks, and probably one or two more important projects, that your employer wants you to do during your working time. You are expected to be a committed and productive member of the team. But the company also wants to offer you an incredible learning opportunity.
This means that you are not expected to be an expert in the field or have a wealth of “professional” experience to talk to in an interview. The interviewer mainly wants to know you, know your experience so far (including professional, educational and volunteer opportunities) and how you manage (and manage) different types of work situations.
They also want to understand why you are interested in this internship. What do you hope to win? Is it in line with your career path or are you just looking for something to do this summer? Hint: they want to hire someone who is really passionate about the field!
With all this in mind, here are eight common interview questions you can expect during your conversation:
1-Why are you interested in this internship/company/industry and what skills or experiences do you hope to acquire?
As you can guess, this question is used to measure whether your expectations and career goals match the internship and what the company can offer you. The investigator also wants to make sure that you are really excited about this opportunity and that you want to work with them.
How to Answer It
Be enthusiastic, do your research to find a thoughtful answer to what attracted you to the company or position, and be specific. The investigator knows that you are looking for a learning opportunity – tell him what you want to learn from this particular internship, and make sure it fits the organization and what you know about the role so far. You can also use this question to talk about your experience, passions and values.
For example, if you’re interviewing for a marketing internship, you have to go beyond saying, “I’m really interested in gaining marketing experience.”
“I’ve always been very interested in mission-oriented businesses, and your commitment to the community truly reflects the values I seek in a company. I am really excited about this opportunity because I think it will allow me to think about messaging for many different audiences and via many channels.
I was looking at your social media and I’m really fascinated by how you create publications for all your different initiatives. “
Read this article on Guide To Job Interview Answers for more advice on answering this question
2-What is the best team you have been part of, and why? / What is your ideal team?
The “team” question can take many forms and sizes. No matter how it is delivered, the interviewer wants to understand how you work with others to imagine how you will work within their team.
In simple terms, do their team culture and your potential boss’s management style make sense to you?
How to Answer It
If you have real examples of past experiences that you can rely on to explain your dream team, this is perfect! If not, go into detail about what you think makes a stellar group dynamic.
For example, “Good communication is important for a good team” is the beginning of your answer, not a complete statement. You’ll also want to define what good communication means to you and what it looks like in practice. A better answer would look like something like:
“Good communication makes a great team, and it’s very important to create best practices on how a team will communicate. For example, for my last class project, our team met weekly and created shared Google documents so we could collaborate even when we weren’t with each other, and we all agreed that we could call each other whenever we needed something.
This synthesis of work styles has helped us stay on track, work effectively and finally get along. »
If you think it’s appropriate, you can also explain how you like to be managed. Do you like a lot of direction and check-ins, or do you like to discuss your projects and then run with them by yourself?
If you have no idea how you like to be managed because you’ve never had a boss before, it’s OK! Think of the best teachers or mentors you’ve ever met. What did you like about their leadership style? How have they guided you or others, and what about that that concerns you?
Remember: this is not supposed to be a ventilation session where you hit former teammates (this attitude says more about you than them). If you use a negative team experience as an example of what you don’t want, focus more on what you’ve learned from that experience than on what hasn’t been good.
3-Tell us about a situation where you took the initiative or played a leadership role.
This question helps the interviewer decide if you are a motivated person. In other words, will you be able to intervene if you need to?
How to Answer It
Candidates often answer this question with an example of how a group project is conducted, which works completely as an option. But it can also be answered with an example of when you noticed something that needed to change and took the initiative to change it, whether or not you have a title or a “leadership” role.
For example, perhaps in your role as part-time program coordinator on campus, you realized that some of your colleagues were having difficulty with a certain part of the program because the instructions were not very clear.
So you took the initiative to ask the other coordinators what might be clearer, and you recreated the instructions so that the program could be implemented more transparently for current and future team members.
4-Tell us about a mission or a project from start to finish – What went well and what would you have done differently?
The investigator wants to know how you do things. This question does not necessarily concern the final product, but be sure to share it and the impact of the project. This is an opportunity to understand your process and how you handle missions.
- Are you organized?
- A team player?
- Do you:
- change course when you know you need it?
- learn from your mistakes when things go wrong?
- think strategically about why you are doing certain things?
How to Answer It
You want to get into the details about how you finished something. Have you done any planning? Have you used any tools? Did you have to do any research? Explain clearly and concisely how you went from A to Z and why you chose to do what you did. For example, “I’ve planned a talent show” should really be:
“As an RA in my dorms, I planned a student talent exhibition to bring students together and build a community. I started by recruiting a few volunteers to help me, set a date and confirm the location. Then I talked to all the students about registering for the show by going door-to-door in the dorms, distributing flyers that I designed and printed, and making announcements at our monthly dorm meetings. I created the program for the show, emailed it to all the participants, and then made sure to stay in touch with all the students so they wouldn’t drop out.
I’ve created shared Google spreadsheets to stay organized and delegate tasks to other volunteers. To encourage people to participate and come, I coordinated with the food services to ensure that food and beverages were served at the event.
On the day of the show, I coordinated a quick presentation, then directed and managed the entire series. It ended up being the busiest dorm event of the year! Having said that, if I had to do it again, I would partner with other school clubs to organize a more diverse and inclusive set of shows. “
5-What challenge did you face and how did you overcome it?
It’s about checking if you’re adaptable and getting an idea of your level of self-awareness. How a person handles challenges, mistakes and failures can tell a lot about the intangible attributes that will make them a good intern and a good culture.
How to Answer It
Describe a specific example, but keep it high. This also doesn’t have to be a huge challenge – having to solve a small problem or do something difficult works perfectly. You certainly don’t want to emphasize the negative, but rather spend most of your time talking about what you’ve learned and maybe what you would have done differently. The goal is to show resilience and a desire to grow and improve.
For example, I am always impressed by candidates who share when they have had to have difficult and direct conversations, such as when a team member does not carry their weight and the problem must be solved head-on. A candidate I spoke to shared an example like this, where she decided to speak directly with the team member. She asked to speak to them in private and took the approach of asking pointed questions to understand why the person was not doing what she said she would do.
Because the problem was treated thoughtfully and without blaming or categorically blaming the person, she was able to learn that she had too much on her plate and that the work had to be redistributed so that her workload would feel less overwhelming.
6-Tell us about a time when you had to learn something completely new.
Basically, the head of recruitment wants someone who is open and willing to learn, not someone who is going to be closed-minded, do the bare minimum or get nothing out of his experience.
They also want someone who is willing to develop a new skill or accept a new mission for the good of the team.
How to Answer It
Identify a time when you had to learn something completely different from your area of expertise or interests, and then focus on why you decided to pursue it in the first place and how you actually chose it.
Your classes or class projects will provide good examples. As once, you decided to take this introductory course in biology outside of your specialization in communication because the lab sounded cool, but you quickly realized that you were not used to major conferences and that everything seemed to be a foreign language.
So to prepare for the labs, you did your own research, you spent time in the library reading research journals and you took advantage of your professors’ office hours.
7-Can you tell us about a project or achievement that you are proud of and why?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask, because I want to know what enlightens the person. Interviews are agonizing and it can sometimes be difficult to determine how a candidate will run for work. This question is meant to put a smile on your face and give you the floor to brag a little!
How to Answer It
Choose something you’re really proud of, not just something that relates to what you think the interviewer wants to hear. It doesn’t even have to be something you did at work.
One candidate recently told me about a solo volunteer trip he took to Central America, and all his behaviour changed when he explained how he felt after the trip (and talked about his plans for another) – which immediately impressed me.
Share the details of your achievement, but also focus on why. What exactly made it a proud moment? Have you overcome a huge challenge? Have you taken anything new? Has your accomplishment had an impact on the greater good?
8-Do you have any questions for us?
You should always have questions to ask at the end of the interview – about the internship, your potential manager, the team or the company as a whole. You literally have an expert at your disposal, so use your time with him wisely by digging into the details and solving persistent problems.
The investigator wants to know that you are engaged in the interview process, and asking thoughtful and provocative questions is a great way to show it.
How to Answer It
Prepare two to three questions that show not only that you have researched the company and that you know what it is doing, but also that you are excited about the role and all that it has to offer.
Here are some good questions you can ask, depending on what you’re looking to get out of the conversation and the person you’re talking to:
- “What has been your career path so far that has led you here and what has driven you to stay in this business?”
- “What was your most memorable experience here and why?”
- “What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on?”
- “How do you measure the success of this internship?”
- “What is the thing you hope to get from an intern? How can an intern make your life easier? »
- “What do you like most about your work? This company?”
Check out this Guide To Job Interview Answers for more good ideas.
Pro tip: it is perfectly normal – and encouraged – to write your questions in advance and remove your notes when the time comes. This allows you to remember nothing, and if you bring a pen and take notes, it shows the interviewer that you are paying attention and that you take his answers seriously (don’t be head down all the time).
During an internship interview, you may also encounter specific questions that directly relate to the position for which you are interviewing.
So make sure you have examples and related experience ready to respond to one of the “required” skills or specific projects and tasks listed in the job description.
For example, if you are working for a human resources internship that will give you access to sensitive employee data, be prepared to share an example of where you have handled confidential information and explain your specific work experience in databases.
For technical questions, even if you haven’t used the company’s specific system, describe the similar systems you used and your ability to learn quickly (with concrete examples of these skills in action).
Above all, remember that the investigator wants to get to know you and make sure that the internship will be mutually beneficial. So be yourself, take a deep breath and know that you are going to do good!
And if you need more maintenance advice, check out these Guide To Job Interview Answers for any job.