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Trick or Treat: Turn Your Internship Interview Questions from “Tricks” to “Treats”

interview questions
Nathan Parcells
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Published on October 31, 2013

We polled our team to find out their “tricks” to nailing tough questions during an internship interview. Some of the trickiest, most difficult questions can be turned into a “treat” – another way to market your skills and experience to a potential employer.

Trick: “Do you have any further questions?”

Treat: You might be tempted to say, “no!” Of course, you’re ready to get out of there! You’ve spent the last 20 minutes convincing your interviewer that you know the difference between SEO and SEM.
You’ve watched their assistant interrupt them twice for a phone call and you’ve seen them check their Blackberry enough times to know that this interview is the last place they want to be. Your stomach is grumbling. Your parking is expiring. However, don’t give up just yet!

This age-old question is the perfect opportunity for you to ask one or two more meaningful, insightful questions. Have you asked your interviewer about their experience with the company? How work is assigned? How your performance will be measured?

Remember: This question is often a last-chance opportunity for you to sell yourself to the company and to emphasize your enthusiasm about working there!

Trick: “What’s your biggest weakness?”

Treat: Your response to this question could be the difference between a cool summer doing cool things and a summer of stocking shelves at your local grocery store. While you may be tempted to tell them about your addiction to reality shows and burritos, this is not that kind of confessional.

This question is code for “what’s something you’re not excellent at, but you’re working on?” Are you interviewing for an internship in web design? If so, tell them about the latest web design software that you’re trying to master.

Remember: Employers want to know that you’re a self-starter
(yes, that word again!). Your response to this question is another opportunity to communicate your sincerity about a chosen profession.

Trick: “Why did you choose your major?”

Treat: This one might seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly a lot of students aren’t prepared for this question. For students with majors like Computer Science, Engineering, or Finance the response may seem more obvious. You enjoy coding, you want to help build software, you want to work in consulting or you want to become an investment banker. For a liberal arts major, the answer may not seem so apparent.

If you’re presented with this question, it is the perfect time to match your academic skills to the skills required of the position. Are you doing research for a thesis? Did you spend a semester analyzing Keats and Plato? Tell the employer how you chose a major that would help you become effective at analyzing, researching, writing, and editing.

Remember: Excellent research and writing skills are an important part of any job – and so is your ability to communicate effectively.

Trick: “The Brain Teaser”

Treat: Let’s face it – employers are developing all types of tricks to weed out potential internship applicants. The “brain teaser”
is not a new interviewing technique and if presented with one – don’t worry! Employers use this question to evaluate your problem-solving abilities, as well as your approach to difficult, complex situations.

There is often no right or wrong answer to this question. What you should do is take a deep breath, focus and quickly examine the question or situation. After carefully considering the prompted question or situation, choose the best method to approaching this scenario. If they ask, “how many golf balls could fill a school bus?” You might not know the exact amount, but perhaps you can guess the length of a school bus and the size of a golf ball to determine the possible number that could fit inside the bus.

What you shouldn’t do is give up or say, “I have no idea how to do this” or “this is too difficult.”

Reminder: Brain-teaser questions can be difficult. If an interviewer presents you with one of these questions, it’s usually to test how well you work under pressure and how you approach difficult problems. Check out this link for a few common brain teasers.

To sum it up, make sure to review this list so that you can turn difficult internship interview questions from “Tricks” to “Treats” – and land your dream internship!

Nathan Parcells

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