Hiring interns can be quite a challenging task! Even if you have a lot of experience hiring full-time employees, internship hiring can bring its own set of challenges. Usually the hardest part is screening and interviewing these candidates, since they have little career experience and you’ll have less obvious data to make your decision. It’s paramount to ask the right interview questions to get the best data possible and hire the top interns available.
Interns usually always lack experience and are either in college or recently graduated, so you need to tailor your questions differently than you would for a seasoned candidate. Make sure to focus on the traits that will help interns stand out in the long run: diligence, work ethic, drive, motivation, problem solving skills, passion, goals, and personality. Before the interview, determine which traits are most important for your organization. During the interview, pose questions that will help you determine how a candidate stacks up on each of these traits.
Below is a comprehensive list of interview questions that will help determine which intern candidates will be the best match for your organization long-term:
Ask questions about the candidate’s goals:
- How will this internship prepare you for your future career goals?
- What are your plans following graduation?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What are your long term and short term goals?
Watch for: Answers that show the candidate has carefully considered his or her future career path, and is planning to pursue a career related to your industry. Candidates should be interested in what type of experience the internship will provide.
Ask questions about the candidate’s academic & extracurricular experience:
- What were your reasons for selecting your college or university?
- Which college classes or subjects do you like best? Why?
- How will the academic program and coursework you’ve taken benefit your career?
- Give an example of how you applied knowledge from previous coursework to a project in another class.
- Tell us about your extracurricular involvement. How has that prepared you for this internship?
- What has been your most rewarding accomplishment?
Watch for: Answers that show the candidate’s decision making skills and his or her ability to transfer knowledge from coursework to other projects. Also look for candidates who can transfer skills learned on campus to skills that will help them be a successful intern.
Ask questions about the candidate’s work ethic:
- During your work experiences while attending college, tell me about a time when you demonstrated that you have the ability and desire to work effectively with your coworkers.
- What have you learned for your experiences outside the classroom or workplace?
- At what point did you choose this career path?
- What excites you about this internship?
Watch for: Answers that show the candidate has found value in hard work, as well as characteristics such as responsibility, dedication, and a willingness to learn.
Ask questions that evaluate a candidate’s analytical & problem-solving abilities:
- Tell us about a time when you experienced a problem or obstacle that had no clear solution. What did you do, and what were the results?
- How do you determine or evaluate success? Give me an example of one of your successful accomplishments.
- What will it take to attain your goals, and what steps have you taken toward attaining them?
- What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision.
Watch for: Answers that show the candidate’s ability to problem solve quickly and efficiently, as well as the ability to analyze an entire situation before making a decision.
Ask questions about a candidate’s leadership & interpersonal skills:
- During your experiences while attending college, tell me about a time when you demonstrated that you have leadership ability and skill.
- What are the three most important values you demonstrate as a leader? Tell me a story that demonstrates each of these leadership values in practice within your workplace.
- What type of people do you work best with?
- Give an example of a situation when you had to compromise your own goals/objectives for the sake of the team.
Watch for: Answers that show the candidate’s ability to lead a group, as well as the ability to work well with others.