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917 - 470 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1V5
Canada

1.877.795.8403

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

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Internship Interviews

Preparing for a Practicum or Internship Interview


Practicum and internship interviews are usually straightforward and brief.  The company meets you, one key person talks to you for an average of 15 minutes, they explain what their company does, they ask you three or four interview questions, give you a tour of the company – and then it’s over.

Host companies are speaking to you to check your expectations, ensure that your language skills are sufficient, and to see if you are enthusiastic about the opportunity.  The vast majority of students pass their interviews.  The only reason students occasionally don’t pass is because they failed to prepare and that gave the host company the impression that they weren’t enthusiastic or interested.

So read the information below, follow the advice and prepare for your questions in advance – do this and you will have a very easy interview.


Before you start

When your interview is arranged, Experience Education will send you an email giving you details of the practicum or internship you are interviewing for, the date, the time, the name of the interviewer, directions – and finally the web address.  Example:

Hello Sam Pul,

How are you?

Good news!  You will have an interview this Friday, May 14th at 2:30pm.  The interview will be with a company called Ersatz DW Co.  Ersatz DW is located in downtown Vancouver on 483 Granville Street.  Your interviewer’s name is Charlie – he is the company president.

You will be interviewing for an internship in graphic design.  You will help create logos on Adobe Illustrator based on artist drawings.  You will assist with the creation of posters and brochures, and you will edit the work of more senior designers.  You will work under close supervision of a graphic designer named Lola.

Before the interview, we want you to research the company very carefully.  Please visit www.ersatzdw.web.bc .  Make sure you understand who the company’s key products, who their customers are, how they make money, and how long they have been operating.

Someone from our office will go to the interview with you.  Please come to our office at 2:00pm and we will walk to the company together.  Remember to dress formally – no jeans or running shoes.

Good luck.  See you Friday.

Best regards,

Johnny Smith

Practicum Coordinator

Experience Education

You will probably get this email 2 or 3 days before the actual interview.  Please use this time to research the host company website.  It will be important for you later.  A lot of the interview questions require that you know something about the company.  These websites are written for native speakers, so the English can be complex.  That means you can’t research the company at the last minute and hope to succeed – you need to research at least 1 day in advance in order to give yourself enough time to translate parts of the website, and to understand in detail what the company does.

Next – dress nicely.  Notice that in the email, it says – “dress formally, no jeans or running shoes”.  Here’s what that means – these are the kind of clothes you should wear – while some are more formal than others, any of these styles would be suitable:

Even if the company seems casual and relaxed on their website, even if your interviewer is in jeans, 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.

FYI – if you didn’t bring nice clothes with you, try:

  • 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.  There’s a Joe outlet 50 metres from our office.
  • H&M.  Same as in your country, cheap, affordable clothes – there’s one at Pacific Centre.
  • Value Village.  Second hand (used clothes and shoes).  If you want to be super cheap, you can find a suit here for as low as $10.  You can find the best Value Village here.  To get there, take the number 20 bus from directly in front of our office.

Interview Questions 


First off, here are the questions that are asked 90% of the time:

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) :

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.


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:

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.


Do you have any questions? Here 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:

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?

And here are other questions which are asked frequently, but not always – it’s good to study these ‘just in case’:


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:

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.


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:

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.


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:

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.


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:

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.


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 Experience Education 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:

My agency, Experience Education, 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.


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:

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 I would 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.


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:

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.


What is your dream internship? Refer back to your internship goals with this question.  Talk about what you want to achieve 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:

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.


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 achieve that goal.  Model answer:

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.


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:

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.


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:

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.


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 interviewing for.


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:

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.


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:

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.

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:

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.


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 caused 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:

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.


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 bolded 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 prove it with an example?  No?  Then don’t say you’re hardworking.  Do you really pay close attention to detail?  Can you prove that with an example?  Yes.  Great, leave it in.