Take a hard look at the experts on your team. Consider how much you lean on them to move every day-to-day detail forward for long-term success. Now focus on your journey as a professional.
At one point, you were all novices. As the old saying goes, “The expert in anything was once a beginner.” And without a continual flow of beginners, we’d have no experts.
One of the top ways to start training new experts at your company is through an internship program. Of course, identifying which interns not only fulfill immediate needs but also have the potential to become potential future employees and leaders is not a cut-and-dry task.
As many organizations debate whether they will offer internships, or even how to create a remote internship program, we’re making an effort to check one internship to-do off your list: the interview questions. We consulted with hiring experts who know how to go beyond experience and education to assess which interns are right for their company today so they can wisely invest in tomorrow.
Here are the top internship interview questions they ask interns to spot potential future hires:
1. Tell me about a time you applied your coursework to a practical situation.
Behavioral internship interview questions, like this one, demonstrate a skill, rather than warranting a hypothetical response like with hypothetical questions. Their answer will tell you if they are able to translate what they’re doing in the classroom into the internship. This is true even if their major isn’t directly related to your field.
Eric Mochnacz, HR Consultant at Red Clover
2. Share with us a time you needed to provide feedback to a co-worker and they weren’t prepared to receive it.
One of our values is honest counsel. So, if the candidate says they avoid conflict and haven’t given feedback to a co-worker, or they responded that they got that person fired as a result, they may not be a good cultural fit.
3. What are your future plans?
It’s important to gauge where interns fit in our company’s long-term outlook. While we never look for a specific answer, and certainly don’t expect anyone to pledge their allegiance to our firm, many people offer thoughtful responses that make them stand out from other applicants.
After all, interns who have a clear idea of what they want their future to look like are, in general, well prepared, goal-oriented, and have a drive to learn. And these are the traits that we look for in an intern.
4. Why do you want to intern here?
Specific internship interview questions, like this one, provide insight into the intern’s career goals and plans. It allows you to discuss more about what they are currently studying in school and the experience(s) they may already have acquired through previous internships.
If the previous internships were in the same industry, you get a clearer idea of the kind of work they’re interested in doing in the long run. If your industry varies from their previous experience, you can discuss why the potential intern hire is interested in exploring a different career route.
5. What skills or experience are you looking to gain and why are they important to you?
Listen for a thorough response and evaluate how much thought has gone into their career choices to this point. Once hired, you’ll also know what kind of skills and experiences to give to the intern in exchange to their commitment and growth.
6. Please share a project you’ve sunk copious amounts of time into.
This is a great way to discover how creative and focused an individual might be. The best part is this isn’t industry-specific and, in many cases, I believe the project doesn’t even have to relate to a business’ primary market.
For example, I’d be interested in hearing how a potential writer addressed weeding their garden. From that story, I’d be able to get a much better sense of their attention to detail, ability to break problems down into solvable components, and their motivation.
7. Tell me about the last time you worked six months or longer on a single project before it was finished.
Boredom and burnout are a threat to getting things done and done well. Demonstrating commitment over time to excellent results is a signal that an intern has what it takes to make it on my team.
Their approach to a senior thesis or other long-term project can indicate their ability and willingness to work toward something without immediate gratification. I find that incredibly valuable and in line with my team’s culture and values.