At this time of year, I receive questions about students preparing for internship interviews. That is certainly something we have some experience with at the D’Amore-McKim Graduate Career Center. Our MBA students do a six month corporate residency after their first year of classes and we held more than 450 interviews to kick off the process on February 5.
While all general interview advice on this blog applies to internship interviews as well, here are some specific considerations.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking you can wing it because it is “just an internship.” This is a significant career opportunity and you must take your preparation seriously. Research the company. Practice your answers to typical interview questions. If possible, talk to students who did internships with this company in the past to gain their perspective. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be for the interview.
Identify Questions to Ask the Interviewer
One of the best ways to demonstrate your interest in the opportunity and the company is to identify thoughtful and insightful questions to ask the interviewer. This clearly demonstrates your level of preparation as well. Try to ask questions that are timely and relevant to the position the student is applying to for the internship. Just days before our interviews one employer announced the acquisition of a major competitor. Students needed to be aware of that but those who were most successful asked specific questions about how the acquisition would impact the supply chain strategy since they were interviewing for a supply chain position.
My favorite questions to ask an interviewer are the ones that make them envision the candidate in the job. Examples could include: “What would your primary goals for me be in this six month assignment?” “How would you measure my success in this position.” “What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days in this role?” The answers will be enlightening but the subliminal process of visualizing you in the role doesn’t hurt either.
What Not to Ask
Do not pressure the interviewer about the likelihood of converting the internship to a full-time job. They know that is likely your goal but there are two major considerations: first you have to perform well on the job and fit with the team so they would consider hiring you. Second, they need to have a business need and budget approval for a hire. They may not yet know what their headcount is for next year. Don’t expect them to give you an answer they don’t have. Being too focused on conversion can leave them with the wrong impression. View the internship as a valuable learning experience. Absolute worst case, you have relevant work experience to add to your resume and references to back it up.
Demonstrate your follow-up skills and your professionalism by sending a prompt email thank you to each interviewer, personalized of course. Within 24 hours, send each interviewer a personalized, handwritten thank you note. Thank them for their time and demonstrate your interest in the opportunity. Refer to something you learned from each interviewer. This is a significant opportunity to differentiate yourself from other candidates.