You have extra work that needs to get done, and your top performers are in need of leadership training. It’s time to hire an intern.
You set out on the hiring process as you would for any position — but interns are different. They don’t have much experience in the workplace nor the job search, so you’ll need to evaluate their application materials accordingly. Skills and experience, for instance, may be less important than personality traits and the potential to learn and grow.
When it comes to the interview, the questions you typically ask experienced professionals won’t make sense for intern candidates. You need to ask these candidates questions that are relevant to their experience and that will assess the qualities most important to the position.
Ask intern candidates these interview questions to find the perfect match:
1. “What do you hope to gain/learn from this internship? What skills do you wish to develop?”
Most internships offer little to no pay, so an intern must gain something from the experience to appreciate it. Also, it’s unethical and illegal. You can’t just hire interns for free labor!
I can then tailor the internship to the candidate’s strengths and talents, when possible, or know when it’s not a good fit because I cannot offer what they are looking for. Like a full-time, permanent position, it has to be a good fit for both the intern and the employer.
2. “What do you know about us as a company?”
The reason this is such an important question is it separates the candidates who really want to work for us from those who simply want an internship.
A candidate who is serious about joining us will have done their research and will be able to provide a well-thought-out and comprehensive response to this question. These are the candidates who are much more likely to put the extra effort in to help the business achieve its goals.
The depth of their answer also demonstrates their ability to research a topic and pick out the most important bits of information.
3. “Do you draw happiness from this work?”
I’m always interested in if interns are able to not only answer yes, but give an engaging answer as to why. I’ve found that interns who love their work and can draw happiness from the work are more engaged, more productive, and more likely to push hard, stick with the job, and develop into an impressive employee.
On the flip side, interns pursuing jobs primarily for money or simply to have a job don’t work out nearly as often.
4. “What is a strength and a weakness you can bring to the internship and how do you think this internship will help you to improve upon both?”
If the student gives you an honest answer to the weakness like, “I have a tendency to procrastinate,” then it tells you that they are self-aware, honest, and ready to improve.
If they give you some prepared response, then you are likely to have someone that is a game-player. While that works in some organizations, we are a tech startup, and we need people that are open and ready to improve themselves and the product on a daily basis.
The strength answer tells us a bit, but the answer is not as important as their weakness.
5. “What do you know about the industry? Can you explain it to someone else?”
I always ask interns to explain what pay per click advertising is. I’m not so much interested in the candidate’s coursework in school, but rather relevant experience.
Once I have their response, I confirm if it’s correct or educate if it isn’t. I then ask how they would explain what I said to someone like themselves, who does or does not know the industry.
If they can reiterate what I said in an easy to understand manner, they’ll understand the concepts I’m looking for them to write about. This shows me that they not only can grasp a new concept, but can teach others about it in a clear manner.
6. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Interns, more than any other candidates, are going to be asked this perennial question. When people are taking internships, they’re still figuring out what they’d like to do in life.
A great many interns won’t have a good answer to this question. Some will still be figuring out their career path. What I listen for is if this job is a logical fit for them in their path of discovery.
What do you look for when you’re hiring an intern? Let us know in the comments below!