6 tips for interviewing interns

Interviewing applicants for an internship isn’t easy. They most likely don’t have any work experience. And their references and portfolio are all from their studies. There’s no way to know for sure how they’ll behave in the workplace. How are they with deadlines? Do they work well with others? What’s the quality of their work like? Hiring interns is a gamble. Often, all you have to go on is your gut feeling. Which is why the interview process is so important. You have to make sure to ask the right questions in order to get an understanding of who they are and whether they’ll fit into your organisation. So, to help you out, here are some tips for interviewing interns – what to ask, what not to ask and what to take note of.

Timing matters

You obviously don’t want someone who arrives 20 minutes late for a job interview. At least not without a valid excuse and having tried to contact you. But you also don’t want to hire someone who shows up far too early for an interview. While five to 10 minutes early is perfectly acceptable, half an hour early is actually a tad disrespectful. Why? Because it shows that they believe your time is flexible according to when it suits them. They don’t respect that your time is worth a lot and when you make an appointment, they need to adhere to the time that you set aside. If they arrive early, they can drive around the block or go for a cup of coffee.  

Research questions you’re not allowed to ask

You need to know exactly what you’re allowed to ask and what you’re legally not allowed to ask. For example, you may simply be making conversation by asking about their birthplace, but that’s a question you’re not actually allowed to ask. There are many questions that may seem harmless but you can get into trouble for asking. If you can, have someone who has studied human resources and legal courses in the room with you. If that’s not an option, thoroughly research what you can and cannot ask.  

Are they reasonably nervous?

Confidence is good. But too much confidence is definitely not. You want someone who can walk into your office, make eye contact and shake hands. However, you don’t want someone who is going to walk in and start stepping on toes almost immediately. Overconfidence is generally not a good sign. You want someone to be a little bit nervous. It means they really want the job. If they’re too confident, they likely think they’d be a blessing to your company and you don’t want that quality in an intern.

Quiz them about the company

Internships are valuable work experience and everyone wants one. So, make the interviewee earn their possible position. If they really want the job, they should know about your company. They should have spent hours going through your website, social media and any online material they can find about your business. Don’t be surprised if they’ve even stalked you a bit online. If they haven’t done any research into your business, this means they simply view this opportunity as any old internship and aren’t invested in your company in particular.

Ask them exactly why they want to work for you

Quizzing them about your business will show whether or not they did their research. However, asking them why they specifically want to work for you will help you find out for sure if they really want the job. Any experienced interviewee knows how to answer that question as soon as they walk into the room. But young potential interns don’t. That’s why putting them on the spot and asking why they want to work for you will help you find out what you need to know. If they “um” and “ah” too long, you know they’re just applying for every position out there.

Test them

Since they have no real world work experience and therefore no references, you need to give them a test. You can either give them a verbal or written test, depending on how much time you’re willing to invest and the particular job they’re applying for. Outline situations they’d be faced with every day and then ask them how they’d react and solve problems. Base the test on both the type of job they’re up for and the industry as a whole. Hiring interns isn’t an easy task. But if you find the right people at a young age, they could do wonders for your business. So, keep the above in mind when interviewing recent graduates for internship positions.

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