Recruiter offers advice to students to prepare for your internship interviews
The right internship can be a launchpad into a successful career. Along with teaching critical professional skills, companies frequently draw on their pools of interns to fill open positions.
“Internships commonly lead to fulltime opportunities after the internship concludes and you graduate,” said Zach Yarnell (MAcc 2017), a recruiter for Deloitte. “I would view an internship as a prolonged two-way interview. During the internship, you get to experience the work full-time professionals are working on and see if the role and organization are a good fit. It’s a trial run.”
Whether it’s with a recruiter on campus or a sit-down interview in an office, Yarnell says it’s critical to do your homework and come prepared to ask real, authentic questions to make a good impression—and to make sure the position is the right fit for you.
Advice for creating your own questions
When formulating questions for a formal interview or informational interview, Yarnell shared the following tips:
1. Tailor your questions.
Tailor your interview questions to the person you’re talking to. If the interviewer has been at the company for 10+ years and is in a leadership role, consider asking more high-level questions about the profession, industry, how to succeed, etc. Remember that they may not have worked in an entry-level position for some time.
If the interviewer is less senior, or if they are a recruiter, consider asking questions that more directly address the day-to-day work environment, team structure, office size, etc.
2. Show you’ve done your homework.
Ask a question that’s shown you’ve done your research. For example: “I was looking at your website and noticed a new audit technology that’s being rolled out soon. Are you seeing this implemented on your team?”
Demonstrate to your interviewer that you are curious, passionate and interested in learning more by asking a thoughtful question. Look for tie-ins with current events or browse the company’s website. “You don’t need to be an expert and know everything,” Yarnell said, and you don’t need to spout irrelevant facts to look impressive. Ask a question with a purpose.
3. Take notes.
Bring a padfolio and take notes during the interview! Write down (or print out) your questions in advance and take notes on the responses from the interviewer to make sure you don’t forget elements of the conversation. These notes can also be extremely helpful when writing follow-up thank you notes.
Sample interview questions
To help you get started in devising your own, here are 5 sample interview questions Yarnell says you can potentially use during your next interview:
1. Tell me about your career path. How did you end up in this position or field?
This question allows you to understand a career path in the industry and growth opportunities at the company. The first step toward success, Yarnell said, isn’t which company to select for an internship, but ensuring you are learning as much as you can about the job and industry to be confident that you are excited about the long-term career opportunities.
2. What qualities do the most successful interns possess?
This question can help you understand the expectations you would be held to as an intern while also allowing you to compare the skills needed to succeed against the skills you possess and are likely to use on a daily basis.
3. How do you utilize your interns? What types of projects do interns assist with?
Learning what projects interns are typically assigned to and which teams they work with can shed light on what your daily responsibilities may entail. It may also be helpful to ask if internships typically lead to further opportunities with the company. Even if graduation is still a few years away, Yarnell said, it’s good to think about future job prospects.
4. What does the hybrid workplace structure look like for this team?
In the post-COVID world, it’s important to understand the expectations for working in person at the office vs. working remotely, Yarnell said. Look to understand how many team members are local to the office you will be working in. How often does the team work together in person? How many days do they work remotely? These questions can help ensure you are excited about the work structure of the team.
5. What challenges do interns struggle with? How do they overcome them?
Along with the second question here, this response will bring awareness to common struggles and allow you to prepare accordingly. Additionally, the response to this question will allow you to reflect on if this position is the right fit for your skills and background.