The hunt for internships continues (check out our blog on getting your foot in the door)!
So you’ve sent out dozens of resumes and cover letters, each one taking a solid chunk out of your sanity during the semester. You’ve been monitoring your inbox for weeks, even months on end. Finally, an email populates: a response. Not from a professor but from a real-life employee working for a real-life company!
Getting contacted for an interview can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You love the opportunity but don’t want to get your hopes up. When you walk into the room or hop on a call/Skype with your interviewer, you want to be as prepared as possible.
By the end of the interview, it’s likely you’ve been so concentrated on giving strong answers and not saying anything crazy that you overlooked a crucial part before you leave:
Do you have any questions for us?
If your mind blanks, they may misconstrue it as disinterest on your part. Here’s how to make sure you’re asking the right questions.
Are there opportunities for intern development?
Any company can ask you to make copies and coffee runs all day; but a company with a strong intern program will provide external opportunities and a structure of “extracurricular” activities.
These things include but are not limited to mentorship programs, public service activities, field trips to other offices, and brown bag lunches with staff. Having enrichment programs outside of daily tasks is a great benefit, but not all offices put so much thought into their internship structure.
Do you require academic credit?
Some internship programs require that you receive credit through your school for completing the internship. This may carry unexpected tuition fees along with some administrative work required on your part, so make sure to check with the coordinator. Additionally, you may want to ask what educational opportunities there are within the company. Getting academic credit towards your degree while getting professional experience is killing two birds with one stone.
What is the management culture here?
This question covers two crucial aspects of the “who” and “how” of an intern’s role in that specific workplace. Who you would be corresponding with and reporting to on a daily basis? Do interns interact with senior staff and are they allowed to sit in on meetings?
Also, how freely do interns work there? Some managers are very hands-on and interactive throughout the work process; others hand you an assignment and only evaluate the end product you give them.
As you progress through your professional life, you develop a better idea of what style works best for you. Inquiring about management now shows that you’re an introspective worker who is aware of your own surroundings.
Anticipate through research
Spend most of your preparation time researching the company: not just their overall operations but the specific department for which you’re interviewing. A good strategy is to anticipate what your interviewer will say while describing their office’s role, make a note of their wording, then when it comes to your question time, you say:
“I noticed you said your company does ____, and I’ve actually heard ___. Where does the intern’s role fit into this scheme?”
Asking this will put you over the other applicants. It shows you are curious not only about the office but about how you’ll play a part in reaching the company’s goals.
Where do we go from here/whom could I contact?
This should be your last question. Often your interviewer will end the session with a vague, “we’ll be in touch shortly.” That doesn’t leave the ball in your court. Be sure to ask about a time frame for notification so that you aren’t aimlessly sitting by your computer again. Also try to get a point of contact in the office, someone who you could call if you have any more questions or decide to take another offer.
These are strong suggestions from where to start, but the best questions come from being a very close listener. You will do most of the talking, but don’t let that stop you from learning as much as you can while you’re there. Interviews should be more about two-way evaluations, allowing both the interviewer and interviewee to make an evaluation about the best fit.