Questions to expect
In the main phase of the interview you will be asked questions about yourself, about the job and about the company to determine whether you have the right skills, qualifications and experience or can be trained to do the job. The interviewer will also try to find out whether you are really motivated to do the job and whether you will fit in at the company.
The questions you are asked will depend on the company you are applying to, the style of the interviewer and the kind of job. Internship interviews are not likely to be as rigorous as for graduate jobs. For all question types the following rules apply:
- Never answer a question with just "yes" or "no".
- Keep your answers concise and relevant to the job.
- Try to give recent examples that back up what you say about your skills and experience.
Know how to answer these kinds of questions!
- "Tell us something about yourself."
- "Are you familiar with (company / product)?"
- "If I were to ask you which of your weaknesses has caused you the greatest difficulty at university, what would you say?"
- "What was the most frustrating thing about ...?"
- "What are your strengths?"
- "What are your long-term career plans?"
This standard beginning question is a great opportunity to link your interests to the job and demonstrate your enthusiasm. “Well, I’m very interested in consumer marketing and here’s why. . . .” Then you can briefly describe classes you’ve taken or internships where you learned more about the field.
Don’t bore them with your entire life story or just repeat the information in your CV. Wow them with a positive, high-energy beginning to the interview.
You may be asked factual questions about your education as most English-speaking employers may not be familiar with your educational system. Familiarise yourself with the educational system of the country you are applying for a job in so that you can make comparisons. Be prepared to explain the relevant facts, but don't go into too much detail.
This signals that the interviewer is trying to find out more about your motivation for working for the company. Candidates who have not researched the company show no motivation and will not get the job, so make it clear that you have done your research. On the other hand, do not simply list facts that anybody could read on the website. Instead, pick out some details that are particularly relevant for you and/or the job.
"If I were to ask you which of your weaknesses has caused you the greatest difficulty at university, what would you say?"
Don’t be afraid of the ‘weakness question’. Everyone has weaknesses so be honest and identify something that has been a problem in the past and that you are working to overcome.
“When I first arrived at university, I had a hard time managing my time so I sometimes completed assignments at the last minute. It was a hard lesson, but I did find out that I can work under pressure when I have to. Fortunately, I’ve learned to plan my time better so it isn’t such an issue any more.”
The key is awareness of the problem, willingness to work on it and progress. Just make sure you don’t pick a weakness that could be a big problem in the job you are interviewing for!
With these kinds of questions, the interviewer is trying to see if you will say something negative about former employers, managers, colleagues, etc. Don’t do it. It is a great chance to talk about one of past situation you identified in your preparation. Explain the problem/situation, the action you took, the outcome and what you learned from the experience. Emphasize your solutions, not the frustrations or difficulties.
“During my internship at the institute, I was faced with ... At first I wasn’t sure how to approach the problem, but then I ... Fortunately, it turned out to be the right decision and saved us many hours of ...”
A skill worth learning is how to convert a question you don’t want to answer to one that you do. It takes practice. You can find plenty of examples by listening to politicians answer questions from journalists.
Try to focus on skills that relate to the position. The surest path to a job offer is to identify what the employer wants and convince them you have it. Answering this question takes practice to be able to talk about your strengths without sounding arrogant or cocky.
This is one of those favourite interview questions. If you haven't thought that far ahead yet, make sure you do before the interview! When answering this question, only talk about your career plans in relation to the job you are applying for. Remember that the company will be investing time and money in training you. They are therefore interested in you staying with them, so show your interest in committing yourself to the company.