Hot Jobs on The Muse
Congratulations! Your application impressed the hiring manager, and you’re officially scheduled to interview for the internship of your dreams.
Now it’s prep time. As someone who recently wrapped up hiring the summer 2019 class of interns for the Oakland Museum of CA, I have plenty of tips to offer on this topic.
First, keep in mind that an internship is a two-way street. Yes, there are tasks, and probably a bigger project or two, that your employer wants you to complete over the course of your time working there. You’re expected to be an engaged, productive member of the team. But the company also wants to provide you with an incredible learning opportunity.
That means you’re not expected to be an expert in the space or have a wealth of “professional” experience to speak to in an interview. Mainly, the interviewer wants to get to know you, your experience so far (including professional, educational, and volunteer opportunities), and how you handle (and will handle) different types of work situations.
They also want to understand why you’re interested in this internship. What are you hoping to gain? Is it in line with your career trajectory, or are you just looking for something to do this summer? Hint: They want to hire someone who’s actually passionate about the field!
With all that in mind, here are eight common interview questions you can expect during your conversation:
What’s One Challenge You’ve Faced, and How Did You Overcome It?
This is to check if you’re adaptable, as well as get a sense of your self-awareness level. The way a person deals with challenges, mistakes, and failures can tell an interviewer a lot about the intangible attributes that are going to make them a good intern—and a good culture fit.
Describe a specific example, but keep it high-level. It doesn’t have to be a huge challenge, either—having to solve some small problem or do something difficult works perfectly fine. You definitely don’t want to harp on the negative, but rather spend most of your time talking about what you learned and maybe what you would have done differently. The goal is to show resilience and an eagerness to grow and improve.
For example, I’m always impressed with candidates who share when they’ve had to have tough, direct conversations, like when a team member isn’t carrying their weight and the issue needs to be addressed head on. One candidate I spoke with shared an example like this, where she decided to speak with the team member directly. She asked to speak with them in private, and took the approach of asking pointed questions to understand why the person wasn’t doing what they said they would. Because the issue was addressed thoughtfully and without outright blaming or shaming the person, she was able to learn that they had too much on their plate and the work needed to be redistributed so their workload felt less overwhelming.
What attracted you to our company?
This question does several things:
If you’ve written a great cover letter for your internship, you shouldn’t have any trouble with answering, but just in case—
Here’s how to answer:
It’s been an ambition of mine to join an internship program at your company since junior year. Your reputation as the leading architecture studio in California is second to none, and no project ever impressed me more than your SkyGreen building—it opened my eyes to so many ideas on creating cost-effective solutions. Also, your focus on sustainable alternatives to traditional materials aligns perfectly with my long-term goal of specializing in environmentally friendly designs.
See? A powerful combination of passion and well-informed flattery!