7 questions you should ask in any internship interview

We just opened up applications for our Summer 2013 fellowship and it got me thinking about what questions I found useful when I was applying for the 15+ jobs, internships and volunteer positions* I’ve had in the past 9 years.

I’ve heard other hiring managers say that they can tell if an applicant is a good fit within the first sentence of the cover letter and the first 30 seconds of an interview. I’ve also heard them say they can make their hiring decisions based on the last 5 minutes of the interview, when an applicant is asking her or his questions. These two statements run against each other, but let’s focus on the last 30 seconds, since fantastic resources exist for prepping for usual internship interview questions.

These are the 7 questions which I wish applicants for the fellowship for which I’m the hiring manager would ask:

  1. What is the best project you’ve seen an intern complete?
  2. How are conflicts resolved on your team?
  3. What is the approval process for new ideas?
  4. What are last term’s interns doing now?
  5. What skills do you expect me to have coming in?
  6. What skills could I expect to leave with?
  7. What project do you think I would spend my most time on?

Hopefully most of these questions will be answered as part of the interviewer’s introduction of the internship, so you would only have to ask 2-3 of them. I think it would be a bit tiresome to work through all 7 in one interview, but if I left an internship interview not knowing what skills I could leave the internship with (stronger writing, HTML, campaign planning, fundraising, technical knowledge of the issue area and knowledge of how our policy team works are some of the ones I try to ensure my fellows get), I would be worried.

Have any great questions you like to ask? Please share them in the comments.

*Here are the first 15 jobs, internships, and volunteer positions which came to mind, all of which required some kind of interview. This is not a comprehensive list:

  1. Babysitter, self-employed,
  2. Intern, Electronic Frontier Foundation,
  3. Interning Developer, Stanford University
  4. Volunteer escort, Planned Parenthood of Western PA
  5. Intern, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco district office,
  6. Greeter, Revolution Cycles,
  7. Web Content Management Intern, World Organization for Human Rights USA,
  8. Posner Intern, Carnegie Mellon University,
  9. English composition tutor, Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar campus,
  10. Social media consultant, self-employed,
  11. New Media Fellow, Polaris Project,
  12. Communication manager, CareerImp,
  13. Student employee, Carnegie Mellon University Career and Professional Development Center,
  14. Intern, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University,
  15. Online Outreach Specialist, Polaris Project,

These don’t include the grants I received or made it to the interview stage for, including Carnegie Mellon’s undergraduate research award, 5th year Scholarship and IMPAQT student ambassadors to Qatar program, Humanity in Action’s summer fellows program (Interviewed), and the State Department’s Fulbright award (Recommended Applicant). It also doesn’t include things I auditioned for, or positions I won through elections, though elections are a form of job interview.

Inspirational Quote:

“My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather.”–Terri Guillemets

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