Interview questions you should ask your internship candidates

interview questions for internSo my journey of Entrepreneurship is moving ahead slowly. I have already discussed about the kind of questions you should ask if you are recruiting for your startup. While that was from previous experience and gut developed with HeadStart; I think I should address it with an additional post on what to ask when interviewing interns.

Interview questions for interns at times can really confuse you. Since the candidate is an intern you can’t expect much from him, however it is important to do a sanity test. How much would be enough to separate the wheat from the chaff ? I conducted a few internship interviews in the last several days and thought sharing my experience might add value to your venture too.

The academic questions

Applying for internship is at times part of the course that the candidate has pursued and at times is a personal decision. If internship isn’t compulsory and the student still wants to work for your startup – he already has passed the first level.

Before asking any question ask him the kind of projects he has completed at his university, the subjects that he liked the most. Then ask him to cite sources that he used to learn more about the subjects and projects. How did he really explore. These things are important. While some think of an intern as a cheap resource for a startup; all you need is a go getter. Someone who can really solve things with less guidance. If all you end up doing is guiding the intern on how to do things, you better open an education institute rather than a startup.

That’s good with academics apart from that everything is BS (at least in India)

The aspirational questions

More than anything it is the aspiration that drives the intern. I have interviewed a candidate who is already working as an intern in a company and will be readily joining me at half the stipend he currently withdraws. That’s the sign of a go getter. Internship is created to learn more and not to cash out a better pocket money. By the way his name is Jigar (means: Guts/Courage something that a startup always needs).

Ask questions about what they think they will be 10 years down the line (Believe me only interns reply this honestly). Ask them if the industry they want to work for, shuts down where will they hunt their next job. What qualities they believe an ideal candidate should have (This is a subtle question, the answer to this is something they themselves are aspiring for and are open to take challenges on).

Lastly ask them what they are expecting out of the internship. While some think this as a cheaper helping hand better to do secondary tasks (which shouldn’t be the case), the answer to this question will help you analyze your deliverable/s to the intern. Whether it is monetary, learning or any other reason. Understand whether the intern would be able to create rapport with your team for that time.

The intern I have chosen would have direct access to my knowledge first hand and builds a relation if he plans to startup at a later date. I ensure that the intern understands that they are here for a bigger role and a better future.

Lastly the ‘made for intern’ questions

By virtue of their age and responsibility most interns don’t struggle for a job. They are not supposed to run a family. So the most important thing to consider is not to rely much on them for critical activities, right ? That’s simply lame logic. This doesn’t apply to startups since every resource is critical.

So go ahead and ask them what is required. Give them a few problems to play around with. The right answer doesn’t matter, what matters is the way they approach the question. A second intern Niraj, now working with one of my friend Aditya on SwitchMe, will pick things gradually but he has his own knack of solving problems. He was the 3rd alternative but was chosen just for the way he approached things.

These were a few ways I believe you can gauge an intern. Lastly, I would say every company should hire few interns in whatever way they can. If it works well it’s a bonus, if not consider as a CSR by your startup :)

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