Best internship interview questions to ask
A good interview can be a lot like a good conversation, especially when you’re hiring an intern. Maybe that’s because you can be more relaxed when you’re not making a permanent hire.
Most college students don’t have on-the-job experiences to discuss. But when interviewing interns, you can always chat about the three things that are common to all students:
- Where they are now
- Where they hope to be
- How the internship can help get them there
More importantly, your internship interview questions should help you determine whether the intern has the skills, knowledge, and temperament required to succeed in your business. These interview questions can be helpful when hiring interns:
Why did you choose to go to your college?
People learn well in different environments, says Lisa Gavigan, director of career services at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. “Someone who’s at a smaller school prefers a relationship-based learning environment,” she says. Knowing the right learning environment for an internship candidate can help you determine if they would fit in.
What do you want to do with your degree?
It’s important to know whether the applicant is a cultural fit for your internship. “We like entrepreneurial-minded interns,” says Everett O’Keefe, CEO of The Solution Machine, a Fresno, California, marketing consulting firm. If the intern’s goal is to succeed in the corporate world and you’re a smaller business, he or she would likely be better off at a larger company.
Is this part of an official college program?
You need to know whether the candidate will be accountable. If a student isn’t working for college credit, he’s a volunteer, not an intern. He may not be as responsible as an intern who knows he’s going to be evaluated at the end of the semester.
What would make this internship successful for you? What are you looking to have learned by the time you’ve completed the internship?
Use these internship interview questions to be fair to the interviewee. If a student tells you his ideal outcome is a permanent job, but you don’t offer an internship leading to a hire, he needs to know the situation. But don’t fret if the student’s answer is all about what she wants. “Expect to hear answers that are a bit more self-serving than with a prospective employee,” Gavigan says.
What single quality attracted you to this organization (or position)?
Good interns should do their homework about the company before interviewing. “If it’s a single quality, you can see what the student’s priority is,” Gavigan says.
What skills do you have that will help you in this internship and where did you get them?
If people can make the connection between learning and doing, they are likely capable of seeing how a small project fits within the business. It’s an indication you’ve found the right intern to hire.
Have you ever been part of a team where someone didn’t pull his weight? How did you deal with that?
These are behavioral questions that can tell you how a person works with peers. The best answer is the one that shows the intern can manage the situation and isn’t a tattletale: “I talked to the person, and when they still didn’t do the work, I picked up the slack and didn’t partner with him again.”
Tell me about a time or situation when you’ve had to teach a concept to a peer or another person.
If you’re hiring an intern to work with customers, the best answers include patience, reading a peer’s level of understanding without judgment, and addressing the learner’s needs at that moment.
Are you happier with structure or with a more fluid environment? Do you enjoy doing a lot of different things or one thing really well?
If you have a small business, your intern needs to be happy working where employees are flexible multi-taskers. When recruiting interns, look for entrepreneurship majors. “They’ll be happier to join you because they want to see how a small business is run,” says Debbie Young, director of internships and applied experiences at the Craig School of Business at California State University, Fresno.
How well do you handle disorganization and does it bother you?
It’s important for interns—and employees—to bounce from one project to the next without getting frustrated. “The entrepreneurial mind has to have a certain level of ADD to see opportunities and jump on them,” O’Keefe says. “You have to be able to set things aside and work on the immediate need.”
How would you rate your job skills on a scale of 1 to 10?
By rating themselves, interns will tell whether they have confidence in the skills you need. “If someone rates themselves a 9 or 10, I’ll follow up with a couple of questions to double-check them on that,” O’Keefe says.
When you offer the job, you can ask interns to think about what and how they can contribute. “Ask them to think of three projects they can accomplish: a small one, a personal one, and something that will benefit the organization after they’ve left,” Gavigan says.
Do you know who might want an internship?
Interns are a great resource for referrals—and branding. Asking the right internship interview questions to find your perfect intern will result in even better campus ambassadors for your business once the position ends. Another great resource is Monster Hiring Solutions, where you will find expert guidance on recruiting, hiring trends, and other employment matters.