We’re hiring fall interns — what are the key tips for interviewing interns?

August 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

Just like hiring fulltime staff members, there are methods for making the most of the intern interview as well. Some tips stem from traditional interviewing principles, while others are specific to interviewing interns:

  • Identify the three primary position-specific skills and direct questions toward these qualifications. Abandon the old, “What do you consider your three greatest strengths?” Instead, tailor questions toward determining whether the intern possesses the specific skills necessary to succeed in the position.

To do so, you must first clearly identify these traits or talents. So it’s worth a short brainstorming session with the parties involved in your internship program. Decide on your top three picks; then format questions to assess intern capabilities in each area.

  • Ask open-ended questions. The open-ended question is intended to solicit additional information and spark conversation. Therefore, in the intern arena, where work experience is likely to be limited, you have to weight personality and willingness to learn more heavily. The open-ended question gives you a closer look at how the intern interacts and thinks about things.

  • Ask for details and examples… but stress they need not be career based. As when interviewing fulltime employees, you want to ask for specific examples to back up claims of skills or experience.

For example, if the intern asserts that he or she is an excellent problem solver, you might ask for an example of a situation in which they devised a successful solution. Essentially, for any claim, think in terms of, “How do you know?” And when applicable, let facts (and especially figures!) speak louder than a candidate’s own opinion of competency.

However, keep in mind one caveat: When asking for examples, emphasize that they need not be based on job performance. Many students won’t have professional work experience; so stress that their evidence can come from real-world or education-based examples.

  • Don’t leave with lingering questions. If an intern says something interesting—or that raises a red flag—dig deeper for more information. For example, if you find yourself wondering, “What does that mean?” or, “Why would she say that?” follow up.

This will help you avoid making incorrect assumptions that might lead to a mis-hire or overlooking an intern who could be a real asset. Remember, most of the time, you can’t get a complete answer in a single inquiry.

  • Ask about personal interests and leisure time. Again, because of the lack of professional experience, intern interviews depend more on assessing personality and transferrable skills.

Therefore, learning what an intern is interested in will help you round out their personality profile. And abilities gained through hobbies and volunteer work can be extremely valuable. Questions might include, “What leisure activities are you most passionate about?” or, “What do you lose yourself in?”

Stay tuned for additional intern interview tips in an upcoming post!

Entry filed under: Interviewing Interns.

Tips for Intern References Guest Post: How Can a Small Business Owner Create an Internship Program?

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About this blog

This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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