Avoiding the Internship-Cycle: Questions to Ask When Interviewing For an Internship

by | Oct 5, 2020 | Internships, Student Life

A range of experience is the gateway to job offers. But when fresh out of school, it seems like you’re at an impasse. How do employers expect fresh grads to have work experience when the last 12 years were spent in school? 

That’s where internships come in handy. Securing this important job experience requires an impressive resumé and landing that coveted interview. It starts off with deciding how to stand-out in your resumé and understanding the fact that you will be competing with hundreds of others who are likely using an identical generic format for their documents.

Let’s backtrack to the purpose of an internship to determine how to craft a resumé that gets instantly noticed.

Internships are meant to put learned theories into action, foster skills, and acquire adequate experience that will contribute to jumpstarting your lifelong stable career. 

The standard resumé format is chronological, where it lists your work history and its tenure in descending sequential order. That being said, it’s safe to say “work” experience for hopeful interns is low or limited; therefore, that section of your resumé will come up short. But, not to fret. 

You can create a powerful functional resumé, the ideal format for aspiring interns to use. This format takes away the focus of your work experience and instead highlights your assets and the skills that set you apart from others to make you the right candidate for the internship.

Interviewing for internships needs to be maximized. You want to avoid an internship with a company that fails to help you grow and give you the guidance and mentorship needed to enhance your skill set in order to move toward a lifelong career.

A strong interview can help you avoid the cycle of taking on one internship after another while not gaining any valuable experiences regardless of the number of hours you have spent. The key is asking the right questions to gain insightful answers to help you best decide which company is the right one for your internship program.

You need to delve into these four areas in order to know if you’re talking to the right company for your internship:

Will there be hands-on/real-time experience?

Some organizations would take in interns for merit purposes or to have another set of hands helping out with the mundane tasks. While doing minor and no-brainer tasks such as coffee runs or filing papers are expected at some point during an internship, this cannot be the bulk or focus of your program. 

Ask the interviewer to give you a run-down of the day-to-day tasks of interns and their progressions. This will give you an idea of how the organization manages and mentors their interns, whether or not the organization takes internships seriously, and if they invest in their interns to grow and learn as much as possible in the program’s duration. 

Will professional training be provided throughout the course?

Organizations approach mentoring differently. Some would allow interns to dive in right away while most would have scheduled training before interns get deployed on the field for hands-on experience. Whatever the organization’s approach is, it helps to know if and how they prepare interns and what kind of training is expected. 

Can you tell me about the culture of the organization?

Understanding the importance of an organization’s culture is essential. Whether or not your character and personality are a fit will determine if you will be just merely surviving or thriving during your internship. 

An organization’s culture is the driving force behind its mission, vision, and working environment. While some may brush off the importance of this, it is essential to the success and longevity of your internship.

Do interns get absorbed into the company?

Take the time to ask about the post-internship outcome.

  •   Are there opportunities for interns to continue to work full-time with the organization?
  •   What is the absorption rate for interns?
  •   Where did most interns end up after they’ve completed their internship (if this information is available)?

By including these questions during the interview, you can evaluate the success rate of interns who chose the organization. It also gives your interviewer the impression that you are keen with the opportunity in pursuing a long-term future with the organization, which can make you a valuable investment.

Does the internship come with a stipend or wage?

It may seem like an awkward question to ask, but we all know it is in every intern’s mind. Depending on the region and the field, there are paid and unpaid internships, and it is completely natural to wonder and it is not inappropriate to ask the question during the interview.

According to a survey done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Student Survey Report, paid internships fared considerably in terms of employment outcomes and better job offers in comparison to unpaid internships.

This data certainly makes sense. While monetary value should not be the deciding factor, it is a motivational component to do more and do better. And this does not just apply to stipend or wage; it is useful to know if the organization offers added incentive or benefits to interns.

Internships help make the transition easier from the classroom to a desk job. It’s a win-win scenario for both the organizations who want an extra set of hands and for interns who are looking to cultivate the right experiences in preparation for a career. While your impeccable resumé gets you noticed, the interview will give you a sense of whether the internship is right for you, and if you are right for them. 

Break the dreaded internship cycle by changing your interview approach. Make the most out of the time spent with the organization by putting theories to the test, gauging your abilities, improving your skills while developing new ones, and ultimately evaluate which area or line of the industry will get you into a fulfilling career.

When you know what to ask and are set on your goals, an interview allows you to evaluate which internship and company will be most useful to you. Your time is just as valuable as theirs, so put it to good use. Remember, your goal is coming out with much more knowledge and hands-on experience than you had to go in.