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July 20, 2017

7 Qualities To Look For In An Intern

An internship has practically become a prerequisite to getting hired at any company. Companies are now increasingly aware of the ballooning costs associated with hiring individuals who drop out halfway through their training or onboarding process and keen to avoid these types of workers. All in all, companies actually spend about 1.25 to 1.4 times an employee’s base salary in recruitment and training costs. As a result, internships have become a common testing ground and screening measure to determine whether an undergraduate is really prepared to handle the rigor of a work schedule and to contribute practically.

As an interviewer, your primary responsibility is to make sure that the company minimizes the resources they waste on training employees that are likely to quit halfway through. Making sure you have a grasp over the intern’s competence and commitment are two overarching character traits that relate particularly to this effort to minimize company costs. Here’s a closer look at some of the key things you should be looking for in recruiting an ideal intern.

internship interview questions


In his primer on trading interviews, “Heard on the Street”, Professor Timothy Crack speaks about just how important brevity in speech is: “You may be someone who does not realize that time is money, that that money belongs to my clients, or to the firm, and that that money has a heck of a lot of zeroes on the end of it.” When you interview an intern for a position, you want to make sure they get to the point when answering your questions. Brevity and clarity of thought are not only relevant to trading. A simple yes or no question should take about two sentences to answer rather than two minutes.


Vince Lombardi prizes commitment in most endeavors: “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” As mentioned above, commitment is one of those key, thematic qualities that you’ll want to be on the lookout for in an intern. You can get a sense of an intern’s capacity for a commitment by asking some feeler questions about the extracurricular activities listed on their résumé or about the rigor of their classes and previous work experience.

Engagement and Enthusiasm

The stereotypical “why do you want to work for our company” question is the usual clumsy litmus test that interviewers might ask a potential intern to explain or demonstrate that they have at least a preliminary interest. Of course, how engaged and enthused an intern is directly related to how much effort and dedication they are initially willing to put forth: IES research suggests that engagement is more than a passing fad – it brings clear business benefits. In other words, an increased average engagement will give your company a competitive advantage.

Basic Competence

No one likes to be deemed incompetent. But the reality is that some people just have superior skills and understanding in comparison to the general population. It’s natural to expect that businesses should intend to covet and recruit these types of individuals.

Some companies like BP even have a competency-based policy that’s defined outright in their interviewing packet: “BP uses competency-based interviewing to identify capable individuals who can contribute to BP’s success. Competency-based interviewing focuses on how you have applied your skills and experiences to particular work situations.” It’s a reasonable policy for any company to require a minimum level of work competency.

Social Acuity

It’s important to recruit people who can easily empathize with others because this quality will help facilitate teamwork in the company. An intern’s awareness that the success of some company efforts will hinge on team efforts is an important trait to watch for during interviews. Being able to understand the objectives of your team members and relate to their personal styles can greatly enhance the team dynamic in a company.

Technological Familiarity

Bill Gates has remarked that “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” With the ever increasing influence of the Internet, it should be a requirement for interns to have an intuitive sense of how online interfaces work for them to make the most out of the resources freely available to them. Interns who grasp the fundamentals of how to do comprehensive and in-depth research using simple analytics and utilities provided by Google help a business avoid myopic, information-poor decisions.

Emotional Stability

This one might seem like a bit of a curveball, but part of your job as an interviewer is to reduce the number of potential liabilities for the company which your hiring decisions impact. Picking up on red flags during an interview through the applicant’s mannerisms, speech, and presentation of themselves is key to getting a better sense of who they are as a person and how they will behave in the long-term. Often, issues like anxiety or depression can have drastic impacts on the productivity of a worker.

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