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Experience Education manages the coop, practicum, and internship programs for schools in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

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Interview Preparation - Paid Internship Program

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Paid internship interviews are 50 / 50 affairs - meaning that half the time, they're pro forma, students do well and pass with little trouble.  The other half the time, they are like the Spanish Inquisition and students fail brutally.   It's really hard to predict which kind of interview you will have - but to be on the safe side, best to prepare like it's going to be the second kind.

BEFORE YOU START

First off then is preparation.  This is absolutely essential - companies have a 6th sense about students, they can tell if you're really interested in working with them.  If you aren't, or if you think the position is beneath you, you won't be working there - guaranteed.

One way to prepare for your interview is to research the company on the web.  Definitely start with their home page - but don't end there.  Try and find any news stories or blog posts about the company.  Read these carefully - it'll come in handy later.

Another thing - it may seem silly or not important, but it can be an interview killer.  Find out how you will get to work each day.  Figure out how long your commute will be and either make peace with it or plan on moving.  Nobody in the world wants to be 'the bad guy' - so if you tell a host company downtown that you live in Surrey or Delta and you start complaining about how long it might take you to get to work each day, you're going to make the host feel like a jerk, and so to be kind to you they won't offer you the internship.

In reality there are a lot of express buses you don't know about, which might mean your commute from Surrey or Delta to downtown will only take 45 minutes - or your commute from Burnaby to West Vancouver might take 35 or so.  You'd be surprised.  And if it does take 1 or 2 hours for you to get to work - let your host know that you're planning on moving closer.  This is a 6-month placement and the whole reason you're in Canada.  No matter how nice your homestay is - it's more important to be able to get to your internship in a reasonable amount of time.  So be prepared to move.

Final bit of preparation advice - dress nicely.  Nicely doesn't include jeans, leather pants or shiny shirts.  Nicely means like you're going to a funeral.  Even if the company seems casual and relaxed on their website, even if it only has 4 or 5 workers, dress nicely.  Not doing so, shows carelessness and a lack of respect and the company will notice it.

So before we move on from preparation a few resources for you:

  • Google Blog Search - use this to learn more about your company.  Remember that when you search, you should put your company's name in "quotation marks" in order to sort through the results more easily.
  • Google Maps - in Metro Vancouver you can use Google Maps to find bus and Skytrain routes to your new internship host.
  • Craigslist shared housing listings - if your commute to your internship host is going to take too long, you can find a new closer place to live here.
  • Joe Fresh Style - If you didn't bring formal work clothes with you, you can buy them here.  This is the cheapest place to buy nice clothes.  Joe is located in Superstore.  Not all Superstore's have the same selection of Joe clothes - here are directions to the two best Joe outlets:  Richmond, Coquitlam.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

We attend nearly all paid internship interviews with our students, and at each interview we take notes of the questions asked.  These are some of those questions - real questions asked at real internship interviews:

  1. Tell me about yourself - this is an icebreaker.  It's meant to make you feel at ease, and it's a good way to gauge how the rest of the interview will go.  You have a lot of control at this point.  Exude friendliness and the host will pick up on that and proceed accordingly.  Seem flippant or strict in your answer and the host will be put off for the rest of the interview.  Try using this as a model for your answer (but don't copy this word for word) :
  2. I came to Vancouver 6 months ago to improve my English. Back in Brazil I work as a private banker, but I'd like to move up in my company - and to do that I need to improve my English.  I've always heard that Vancouver is a beautiful and friendly place, so I decided to come here to learn English and to do an internship.  I'm a hardworking person, back home I work long hours, but still I also am the captain of my local soccer team and I help out as a volunteer at a youth centre on the weekends.  I studied finance and economics and I love this industry.  I like to work in teams, but I can also well work on my own too.  During my internship I really hope to learn more about business culture and to learn more vocabulary for my job.

  3. How do you find Vancouver? - this means, what is your opinion of Vancouver.  It could also be asked as 'What do you think of Vancouver?'.  Be positive.  Even if you have grown to hate the city with a burning intensity - keep it to yourself and only talk about the positive parts of being here.  Model answer:
  4. I love Vancouver.  It's such a beautiful city, I love the nature.  I've been kayaking and I visited Lynn Canyon and Stanley Park.  In my city we don't have a lot of nature, so it's amazing to be able to visit it each weekend here.  The people are very friendly and helpful too.

  5. How long have you been here in Vancouver? Students almost always mess up this question for some reason.  They get confused on the grammar.  The interviewer is asking about the amount of time from the date you arrived until now.  They aren't asking about how long your total stay in Vancouver WILL be - from the date you arrived until the date in the future, when you leave (that question would be: How long will you be in Vancouver? or How long are you in Vancouver?).  And they aren't asking about how much time you have remaining in Vancouver , i.e. from now until the date you leave (that question would be: How much time do you have left in Vancouver?).  No, the question is - how long have you been in Vancouver - and it sets up the follow up questions (numbers 4 and 5 below).  Model answer:
  6. I've been in Vancouver for 6 months. I arrived here in September just before winter started.  It was the first time I saw snow, it was amazing.

  7. What have you been doing here in the city? Talk about school and your social life.  Explain how you've been studying hard, and how you've also been working outside of school to improve your English.  Model Answer:
  8. I've been studying English at a school called Zerolingua.  I studied general English and Business English and learned about vocabulary for the workplace and writing business letters and emails.  In my spare time, I've travelled around BC and saw the Rockies, Vancouver Island and Whistler.  I also bought a bicycle and I like to bicycle around Stanley Park.

  9. Why did you choose to come to Vancouver? You can answers this in two ways.  First explain why you chose to come here and improve your English, then explain why you chose to come to Vancouver - instead of some other city.  Model answer:
  10. I came to Vancouver to improve my English.  I thought that I could improve my English faster in an English-speaking country like Canada.  My friend travelled to Vancouver last year and he said it was very beautiful, so I chose to come here.

  11. How did you find out about our company? Be honest.  Companies don't want insincere flattery.  Your English may be good, but it probably isn't good enough (yet) to lie convincingly at a job interview.  Tell the interviewer that your counsellor at VancouverInternships presented the company to you.  They want to know that you're not applying to them randomly, but have some interest in their line of work.  Model answer:
  12. My agency, VancouverInternships, told me about your company.  They told me about some different companies and I researched them.  I thought your company was very interesting because you work in the same industry I did when I was back in my country.

  13. What do you know about our company? We hope you've done your research, because it will matter here.  There is a 100% chance your host company will ask this question.  Be specific, talk about departments or products of the company you are most interested in.  Model answer:
  14. I read your website and a few blog articles about your company and I saw that you were founded in 2002 and have three offices in Canada and one in Mexico.  I saw that you are selling some products to my country.  I am interested in marketing and I really think I can help with your marketing to my country and to other new countries in South America.

  15. What do you think you can do for us at 'COMPANY NAME'? What do you want to do here? This is a real question, the company wants to see what you are interested in doing at their company, what type of job duties you think you'd be best suited to and what department you want to fit in to.  There are two ways to answer this question incorrectly: you could either say 'it doesn't matter, I can do any kind of work', or you could say: 'I am a manager in my country, so I expect to work in a job at the same level here'.  This is how you answer the question correctly - model answer:
  16. I am a very flexible person.  In my working life I have done a lot of different jobs like receptionist, bookkeeping, human resources and sales.  I am very interested in your marketing department.  I studied marketing as part of my MBA and Iwould like to put that to use.  I am able to write marketing plans, contact new customers and evaluate and refine the success of marketing plans to these new customers.  I know how to use graphic design computer programs and so I am able to create advertisements on the internet and for print and I can also communicate with suppliers and work with team members to sell new products.

  17. What is your internship goal? Why are you doing this internship? This is one of the first questions Vancouver Internships staff ask you when they meet you - and it's one of the first questions interviewers will ask you as well.  They want to know what you hope to achieve by doing an internship with their company, here in Vancouver.  Talk about specific immediate achievements, and not long term effects.  So don't say 'I want to get a good job when I return to my country'  Instead, say this - model answer:
  18. My job back in my country requires us to communicate with our American office a lot and I want to have more confidence in doing that.  So my first objective here is to improve my English.  I want to talk more on the telephone and become more confident writing business letters and emails.  I hope to learn more about Canadian ways of consumer marketing and I want to see about web marketing as well.

  19. What is your dream internship? Refer back to your internship goals with this question.  Talk about what you want to acheive on your internship, daily duties you would be happy doing, a project you would be interested in, and the social environment you are looking for.  Model answer:
  20. My dream internship would be at a company like this one of course.  I want to work as a marketing assistant, with a supervisor who can show me new online marketing techniques, I want to have the chance to help them and also to create and run my own marketing project to sell your new product in Chile.  I hope to be in a company where the coworkers are friendly and everyone talks to each other and helps each other.

  21. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Be honest, explain what your 5 year career goal is, and then explain how you think your internship will help you acheive that goal.  Model answer:
  22. In 5 years I will be back in my country and I hope to be working as a marketing manager at a consumer electronics company.  I hope to be supervising a team of marketing assistants and creating and supervising nation-wide company marketing plans.

  23. What do you plan to do after your internship finishes? If you really do want to stay in Canada long term, this is the time to say that.  Otherwise, talk about what your short term career plans are once you return to your country.  Model answer 1:
  24. I want to stay in Canada long term.  So after this internship finishes I hope to find a job with a company that can sponsor me to stay longer.  I am very interested in Canada, and I have always wanted to live here.  It's a safe country and I think it will be a good place to grow my career and raise a family.  I think this internship experience will be very helpful for me when I go looking for a new job, because I will already have experience with a Canadian company and hopefully a local reference.

    Model answer 2:

    I plan to travel across Canada and visit Toronto, Niagara Falls and Quebec.  After that I will go back to my country and find a new job.  I want to find a job in advertising.  I think my internship in Canada will be very helpful for me to find a job in my country.

  25. What is your dream job? This is different from dream internship.  But it wouldn't hurt to clarify it with the interviewer (i.e. 'You mean when I return to my country?'.  In this question explain the job you hope to have within 1 year, the absolutely perfect one for you, what your responsibilities will be, and why you want to do it.  Model answer:
  26. I would love to be a personal banking account manager.  I studied finance at university and I work at a bank now, in the loans department.  By I am most interested in working in personal banking.  If I had that job I would be able to recruit my own clients, and manage my client appreciation activities - it would be like having my own company.

  27. Walk me through your resume. This means, discuss the content of your resume from top to bottom - don't read it.  But instead explain it.  Talk about your opinions about your education and work, and mention key achievements wherever possible. If you can, connect your answers to the job your are inerviewing for.
  28. Tell me about your Microsoft Office skills? Don't lie - they will catch you.  But also don't be modest either.  The best approach is to give some details about what you can do with each program, rather than subjectively rating your skills.  Model answer:
  29. I can use Excel very well, I know how to use formulas for adding data together and analyzing it.  I can use Outlook to make appointments and send appointment and meeting requests to my team members.  I know how to do mail merges and regular word processing with Word, and I have made many presentations in PowerPoint.

  30. Tell me about your computer skills? This is similar to the MS Office interview question.  But here you can also add in other programs you know.  Don't mention 'internet' as a computer skill.  Model answer:
  31. I can use Excel very well, I know how to use formulas for adding data together and analyzing it.  I can use Outlook to make appointments and send appointment and meeting requests to my team members.  I know how to do mail merges and regular word processing with Word, and I have made many presentations in PowerPoint.  Besides Microsoft Office, I know how to make logos and fonts with Illustrator, and I can also edit photos and even create documents in Photoshop.  In my old job I used Illustrator and Photoshop very often to make advertisements for our company.

  32. What are your strengths? This is a classic question.  And very straightforward - talk about what you are best at and give examples.  Avoid things which aren't closely related to your working life.  Model answer:
  33. I am very organized and I am good at multi-tasking.  In my old job, I was the team project leader, so my job was to take the project and break it down into smaller jobs for my team.  I coordinated all of their work and checked up on them to make sure that everything was ready on time for our client.

  34. What are your weaknesses? Another classic question.  Discuss something you don't do well, and then explain how you are dealing with it.  In some cases, you may need to give an example of when that weakness casused problems for you and how you overcame those problems.  Don't say you're a 'perfectionist' - that's not considered to be a valid answer.  If you want to discuss language problems here, that will be ok.  Model answer:
  35. I have had trouble with English writing.  I think I don't know a lot of important vocabulary.  In my old job, I had to write business letters to our New York office and it was difficult.  That's why I came to Canada.  I've been learning English for 6 months, and it has helped a lot.  I still have some difficulties, but I have a tutor 2 times per week in the evenings and they help me to improve my writing.

  36. Do you have any questions? Don't ask about money, benefits or vacations.  You can ask about dress code, company expectations, you can ask if they've ever had an intern before.  Whatever you ask though, please prepare your questions before the interview, and discuss them with a Vancouver Internships counsellor in advance.  Sample questions:
  37. What do you expect from an intern?

    Have you ever had an intern before?  What did they do that impressed you?  What did they do that you thought they should improve on?

    What personality do you think fits best with your company?

One thing to remember about each of these questions.  For every one of them, there are potential follow up questions.   For example, look at the model answer for question 1 - pay particular attention to the underlined text:

I came to Vancouver 6 months ago to improve my English. Back in Brazil I work as a private banker, but I'd like to move up in my company - and to do that I need to improve my English.  I've always heard that Vancouver is a beautiful and friendly place, so I decided to come here to learn English and to do an internship.  I'm a hardworking person, back home I work long hours, but still I also am the captain of my local soccer team and I help out as a volunteer at a youth centre on the weekends.  I studied finance and economics and I love this industry.  I like to work in teams, but I can also well work on my own too.  During my internship I really hope to learn more about business culture and to learn more vocabulary for my job.

Interviews don't proceed from one unrelated question to the next like some kind of test.  They flow organically, they're more like conversations than anything else - and in a natural conversation you'd likely use that underlined text to ask a follow-up question.  for example:

  • Why did you take up volunteering?  What do you do at the youth centre?  What do you get out of that volunteer experience?  Do you also volunteer here in Vancouver?
  • Why did you choose to study finance and economics?  What did you like best about your studies?  Do you plan on doing an MBA?
  • What do you love best about this industry?

And so on.

There's not really a way to prepare for these follow up questions, other than to make sure that your answers make sense.  The best you can do is look back at your answers and ask yourself if everything in it is true and real.  For example - are you really hardworking?  Can you proove it with an example?  No?  Then don't say you're hardworking.  Do you really pay close attention to detail?  Can you proove that with an example?  Yes.  Great, leave it in.

SAMPLE INTERVIEWS

Before you start working out your own answers, take some time to look at these videos of other people answering interview questions. NB: some advice in the videos may be slightly different from what you see above.  If there is a conflict, please defer to the advise above as it is specifically tailored for your internship interview.

Tell me about yourself

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1bu5s3zGQs]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR-IhZJOq3U]

Why should we hire you?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZjN6EMO55U]

What is your ideal job?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi1YTgiW9Yk]

Why do you want to work here?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mplUDRL3aBI]

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJgZUC34k-c]

Tell me about a weakness

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBe5otF5oAE]