Published: Dec 12, 2013
Securing the right internship while in school can make or break your career opportunities after graduation. And without a doubt, the most critical part of any internship hiring process is the interview—in which you’ll be tested to see if you’re a good fit for both the company and the team you’re applying to.
While every interview will vary, and you could be asked to field some rather strange questions—for example, Microsoft has been known to ask prospective interns questions such as “How many barbers are there in Delhi?” or “How many BMWs were bought in Germany last year?”—you will mainly receive a handful of basic interview questions. Which doesn't necessarily mean they're any easier to answer than guesstimates or brainteasers.
And so, to help you begin practicing for your interview, below are the five most common internship interview questions, along with basic tips on how to answer them.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This question really means, “Tell me more about you as a person. Are you interesting? Are you sociable? Can you remain cool and calm when in the spotlight?” When answering, briefly talk about relevant achievements, personal tastes, and any interesting facts about yourself, such as the various cities in which you’ve lived, and your interests, passions, and hobbies. Be short, informative, and, most of all, articulate.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
When answering this common question, be honest and informative. Interviewers want to know if you know yourself. Give illustrations of how your strengths are useful, and pick weaknesses that are moderate and won’t impact the work environment—or, better yet, that are quiet strengths such as “I can’t pass a bookstore without going in.”
3. Give me an example or a situation in which you handled conflict or a difficult situation.
Questions like this help an interviewer understand what a life lesson means to you. ALWAYS have a situation or two ready on hand to use to answer these questions—they will come. Try to come up with examples of a conflict or difficulty in school or at work with peers, coworkers, or supervisors, or a leadership opportunity that worked well or not very well. Pick an example with a clear resolution but that’s not too extreme and showcases your work ethic and talent as a team player.
4. Walk me through your resume.
This one is key; you must know your resume. Look at what you’ve included in your resume with a critical eye and practice how to sell yourself from it. This is a great opportunity to pass along details that don’t fit in your resume and to put a positive spin on everything you’ve done. This question can make or break your chances of getting the internship, so make sure you have an understanding of the company you’re interviewing with and the industry in which it operates, and then present yourself as the perfect fit for both.
5. What are your career goals and where do you see yourself in the next five years?
You should have a plan of where your education will take you and where you want to be. But note that your interviewers are not as much looking for highly detailed plans as the fact that you have a plan and that the internship has a place in it. Interviewers want to know that you have a thirst to learn, so you can be an integral part of their company—and make the most of your time there.
Emma Street is an HR manager for a Fortune 500 company with over a decade of HR, management, and recruiting experience. In her spare time, she is a freelance writer for Free Resume Builder.
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