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But once you’ve created that great program – one that ensures a positive experience for staff and participants – how do you go about finding interns who can do the job and offer something unique to your organization?
To start, it’s important to approach the interview process in the right way.
“You have to remember that an internship is part of the learning process for students and new graduates, so there may be a lot of nerves and inexperience on display,” Shawn D’Souza, Workopolis’ talent acquisition manager.
“To help put people at ease, and to make screening as effective as possible, many companies will call applicants in advance to discuss the process and expectations. This way interns can better prepare and feel more confident on the day of an actual interview. And the more comfortable and confident your applicants are, the easier it will be to find that gem,” he says.
To get to that point, though, you still have to ask them the right questions. Here are nine interview questions that will help you find the best interns.
Why did you choose this field of study?
This question opens a lot of potential conversational doors, giving applicants the chance to talk about their background, their passions, and long-term career goals.
“I like this one because it not only covers a lot of ground, it also breaks the ice and gets people talking – without really testing them,” D’Souza says.
Why did you choose to go to this school?
“It might seem inconsequential, but something like moving to a different province to study at a specific program says a lot about a person’s commitment to their career goals,” D’Souza says.
What would be your ideal internship?
This is an important question to ask, if only to be able to set realistic expectations. Does the applicant expect to be working directly with the CEO? Do they want a permanent job once the internship is over? You need to know what they’re looking for, and they need to know what you can offer.
“By laying everything on the table, you’re making sure that you’re making the most of everyone’s time. It will also help you assess if the applicant is a good fit for the internship program you have in place,” D’Souza says.
Why do you want to intern at our company?
Ideally, this question should build off the last one, giving you a greater sense of an applicant’s goals for the future, as well as the kinds of things they expect from you. More importantly, it’s the easiest way to check if the applicant has researched your company.
“The more they know about your company and the industry, the more it demonstrates they’ve spent time defining their long-term goals, and how to best get there. This is also a good way to gauge the state of your employer brand – what the applicant says here can be telling,” D’Souza says.
What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
Asking about extracurricular activities can give you a better sense of a person’s character and interests, especially when it involves volunteer work.
“When you ask a question like this you can see if this applicant is a good fit, both for your overall company values and the workplace culture. If you have an office full of soccer fanatics, for example, and the intern is the founder of the Toronto Real Madrid fan club, you might feel better about their odds of fitting in,” D’Souza says.
Tell me about the last time you worked in a group. How did that go?
You want to understand how an applicant will handle certain situations in the workplace, especially being able to work with other team members. Getting a sense of this, however, can be challenging when you’re interviewing someone that might not have a lot of work experience. Asking this question can provide some insight, all while allowing them to lean on their academic experiences.
“I like situational-type questions like this because a paints a broader picture of a person’s approach to work. It also gives them an opportunity to talk about an achievement that they might be proud of, which is always nice to hear,” D’Souza says.
How do you manage multiple projects at once?
“Internship programs should be set up to provide learning opportunities for interns, but by the same token, you don’t want to have to hold their hands the entire time. This question can help you understand if the applicant can multi-task and prioritize,” D’Souza said.
How would you respond to an angry customer?
“This question is especially important for any position that’s related to customer service or client interaction. You want to know that an applicant won’t buckle under pressure, that they’ll maintain a professional approach, and represent the company in the best possible way,” D’Souza says.
Do you have any questions for me?
It might seem like something of a throw-away, but this is one of the most important questions you can ask. Not only does it give the applicant an opportunity to cover anything that might not have been discussed, it also provides further insight into their motivation and personality.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a red flag if an applicant has no questions – it depends on what has been covered already in the interview – but ordinarily, applicants should have questions prepared. This is often an important step in finding their first jobs, and having questions speaks to their professionalism and ambition,” D’Souza says.
There you have it; nine questions that can help you find the best interns. Good luck!
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