Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by a US company for an internship in web development, so I thought to share the questions asked by them. It might help you if you are coming to the United States for an internship.
Questions over the Skype or telephonic conversation
(with some advice I felt to share)
Tell me about yourself
Here, try to wrap up all your life in 30 seconds or less. Example: tell how your life flowed. You can start with your name, then touching about the schools you attended with your interests, add your passion and interests, and last thing, lightly touch why you want an international internship. Remember most of the things you say should align with the company’s motive, culture, your position, and work.
Honestly let them know when you are available. Also discuss about your exams and the breaks you might need to take during the internship. Communication is the key to negotiation. For an internship in the US, you need a J-1 visa which is maximum for 12 months. It generally takes 2-3 months for the documentation to get done and get your visa sticker on your passport. This involved works done by the internship company, visa sponsor organisation, and the embassy of United States in your country. So, at the earliest, count at-least two months from now if you willing to commence an internship in the US.
What attracted you to this internship at our company?
Be honest and professional but first be professional 😉 You might think to impress them by telling them your emotional attachment with the US, or just a reason to earn money or some complicated statements. Being too much honest can be harmful for your interview process. This is because you are being interviewed by human resources department not the owner of the company and they make sure you are professional before you are honest.
Projects you are proud of
Here you can tell them about one or two projects which you feel you are confident about. Don’t talk about more than two and if possible, just choose one to discuss in detail. The main thing here to notice is that why you feel proud over it. Just because you build it does not make you proud. Try to think of challenges you faced during the projects and how you overcome it. Try to show them that you didn’t break down when you were full of fear “oh, will it complete or not”. Other point you can add is that the project ran according to the plan I or our team drafted.
How the internship will help you in your career?
Here don’t be too honest. Just let them know the usual answer what they want to listen. If you feel it might be irrelevant to the topic, don’t push it forward. Common words such as “it will help in better opportunities, growth, prepare me for the career ahead, and bla bla bla. Google it.
How you secured your previous internships?
Yes, they want to know what strategy you applied for getting an internship. Tell them you applied online or offline. Whom did you speak, how did the process go? If you are an average student like me, failing in some subjects, recruiters might even get shocked, how did this student happen to do several international internships!
How did you manage between school and internships?
If you have done multiple internships, be ready to have a great-great answer otherwise they will counter-question you with this question. They might fear if you missed classes to do an internship. If you did this like me, it’s not a problem unless you explain it in a bad or confused way. Share a topic related to ‘time management’ and how good you were at managing yourself at the school as well as the internship.
What are the challenges you might face here?
List them a few challenges you might think you will be facing but be sure to be positive. Try to add something motivational like “my recent experience has prepared me for this battle, so I am confident to handle all these challenges.”
Honestly, after nailing the interview, your biggest challenge would be to get the visa. I don’t have practical experience of getting the US visa as of now. Stay positive. If you have a passport from Europe (except East region), Canada, Australia, it might be easy. If you are coming from gulf or middle east countries, South East Asian countries (except Singapore), African countries, Latin America, you might have to press hard.
Rate your skills experience on a scale of 1 to 5. (5 is the highest)
For example, how would you rate your experience and knowledge in HTML, CSS, PHP, SEO respectively. Keep in mind, if you say higher number, you might have to prove it. So, analyze your current state and then tell the number.
Screening Test Questions
Do you have a portfolio?
If whatever you make or build or develop can be seen with human eyes, you should have an online portfolio. I personally use three mediums to show my projects- LinkedIn, Behance and personal website. LinkedIn is generalised as it can be used for any project with more emphasis on text, Behance is more like graphic works oriented with more emphasis on images, a personal website is great but requires a lot of time to maintain. If you are a graphic designer, I would advice to have Behance on your side.
How long would you be available for the internship?
Plan your timings- semester timings (if it’s while you are doing your degree). Make a list of events which might be important for you such as practicals, exams, family functions (yes they are important too, you can’t leave your sister’s marriage 😀 or yes)
What is your preferred start date?
Minimum 2 months. Average 3 months which would be safe. Don’t book your travel unless you receive the visa. A lot of my friends have complained that they failed to get the US visa for the first time even though they had all the documents. This is true that getting the internship visa in Europe is pretty easy as compared to the United States. I just had to do an internship contract with my Danish company. I just filled the visa form which was available online. Paid the fee. Attached some documents and submitted at the embassy. That’s all. For US, it’s different.
Is this internship a requirement for your college and university?
Yes, they ask this when they need to award credit points to your academics.
Are you aware what our business does?
Be sure to go through their website and learn about them through different channels like website, social media, press, groups etc. This is the most important question because here you have a chance to be on the top of the list.
To be on the top: provide them a bit of feedback on their products or services they are offering but the solutions in mind.
Which languages do you speak and how fluent are you in these?
English is primary in the US but due to the influence of latin America, a lot of businesses might be dealing in Spanish, Portuguese etc. So if you know them, it’s a good advantage. In tour and travel business if you know famous European languages like German, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Turkish etc., I am sure you would have a great advantage.
How do you work in a team environment? Do you have experience in a teamwork setting?
Tell them your strategy how you manage yourself when being in the team. Try to use some fancy words, Google them. Then about the experience, tell them your recent experience, but frame it with qualitative words or which reflects your personality and strength.
Do you have problem solving experience? Please provide an example of a work
experience problem and how you resolved it?
If you would have gone through a professional or academical problem, then you won’t be thinking a lot. Try to make the sequence, the steps you did in the beginning to diagnose the problem, then to solve it and what was the strategy. Keep your answers ready. Recruiters might be judging your whole internship strategy or your working style in just mere less than a minute.
Do you have experience in multi-tasking? Please give some examples.
This is a confusing, because multi-tasking has a lot of meaning. What we understand is doing more than one work at a time is multi-tasking, but on the other side it might be doing work in multiple departments. So, if you are not sure of what it means, ask them. If due to some reason, you are not able to ask, just create an honest balance between the two.
What was your most difficult challenge or problem to confront at work or in
Again, it’s up to you personally.
Name some projects you are proud of.
Here try to list the projects which are big ones for example professional customer projects, semester projects, or thesis should work great. This is because you have already spent a lot of time on that, you have experience with it, you know a lot of things about, you know how you fooled your examiner when they asked a lot of questions about it, so yes, that’s it. The main thing to notice here is that you just don’t have to list, you have to make them believe what is that thing in the project which makes it ‘proud’ to yourself. A good strategy would be to touch something like the challenges which you faced during the project during some phases like analysis, designing, or whatever and how to tackled them with positive attitude.
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
I don’t know much about it. Google it.
How would your fellow students or past co-workers describe you?
This is straight forward question, just put the testimonials or recommendations given by your friends, colleagues, management or even professors here. If you don’t have them, ask for them now because it will take generally 2 weeks if they are not proactive or are lazy. You can ask them to write directly on your LinkedIn profile.
Shift hours are 40 hours per week and may involve a revolving roster of early and late shifts. You might also be required to work weekends and in other departments of the company. You will have 2 days off per week. Are you ok with this roster?
Indeed you have to say yes if you don’t want to put the opportunity on a stove burner. Always understand the timings, and in case of confusion be clear. Here in the question you see they are saying “you might also be required to work on the weekends, you will have two days off per week”. A little bit strange right, or full of confusion, so better clear it.
Payment for this internship is $xxxx/month (performance based) and a monthly MUNI travel pass for public transportation within San Francisco. Are you ok with these payment terms?
Research online how much is the cost of living at the destination you are going to live. A great source would be to ask your friends there, if you don’t have friends there, then make online one, ask in internship groups, post something somewhere, use Google. In San Francisco, the minimum you should have at your disposal is $1,500 per month every time. Like every location, most of your money would go to the rent. Again, research to see the options available for students and Europeans are the best at this.
Is there anything else you would like to share or let us know?
Here you can write down anything you would like to share. I would recommend something that puts you off the crowd like do something related to your field and the position you are applying in the company. Any suggestion, improvement strategy, a prototype of something, risks they might be encountering in future and the solutions. It won’t be easy but you have to dig up the facts and research the company.
A killer tip (applicable when you are sure you are going have an in-person interview): make a professional report for your to-be’s company improvement of product or services, print it on nice quality A4 papers (yes, the same which we do for the final projects :D), use graphs, some stats, research, properly formated, with index, graphics, with footer having page number listed and stack them into a nice paper folder. Don’t use their logo. Hand them over to the person who is taking your interview after your interview overs. Then just see the magic. One more tip: make two copies. One should go to the recruiter and request them to send one to the department manager under whom you might be working. You can also request the interviewer to handle that extra copy to the manager by yourself as this would give you an opportunity to talk to him or her and communication will help.
*there might be some grammar mistake, so don’t do ‘control c’ stuff 🙂
Hope you guys enjoy this article. I wish everyone a good luck who is applying to the US for an internship. Thanks to @Ieva for this article. She boosted me a bit to write this.
If you would like to get in touch with me, feel free to shoot an email at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂 or just post your comment. Thanks
An article by Anvar Jamal, student, www.anvarjamal.com