Let me start with good news. Unless we talk about the biggest players in the industry, the most famous companies such as Google, Tesla, Amazon, and similar, corporations struggle with hiring engineers. Not only for internship, but in general. Because the growth of technology and its impact on our everyday lives seems unstoppable (which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but that’s how it is) and the demand for engineering graduates still surpasses the supply. What does it mean for you?
It means that unless you say something outright stupid, or remain silent when hearing the questions of your interviewers, they will typically let you in. In many cases they need you more than you need them. Now, it doesn’t mean that you should underestimate your interview preparation. There is a lot to fight for–for example the internship with the best companies, or paid internship, with a decent wage of $20-$30 per hour, something students from other field than engineering and IT can only dream of. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face, and what should focus on while answering them in order to make the best possible impression on the hiring managers.
Why did you decide to apply for an engineering internship with our company?
Do your research. Check the products, services, and applications the company works on at the moment, and pick something you find particularly interesting. It can be a product, but also a technology they use, or some special equipment they have in place. You should connect this with your own professional interests and future goals. Perhaps you would love to work with that technology, or in this or that field in the future. You can say so, and add that you hope to get a chance to interview for a normal full time job with the company, once your internship ends, and once you earn your degree (if it has not happened yet).
The more specific you are in your answer, the better. You can even pick a specific area of engineering, something highly specialized they do, or a certain product line or even just a process from their production. Show them that you did your research, and do not apply for engineering intern positions with them just because they offer a paid internship–though it definitely helped you with your choice.
What do you hope to get from this engineering internship?
Internship (even for engineers) is mostly an educational experience, and you shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations, such as leading some fascinating engineering projects, or building your first spaceship as a part of your internship.
Sure enough, you may participate on interesting projects, and work under mentoring of someone who leads such projects, but you will take care of simple duties, such as helping with some reports, analyses, and taking care of administrative work. You may get a glimpse into real engineering work from time to time, but most of the time you will do the most boring and repetitive work in the office. So, what do you hope to get from the internship?
Educational credits (if that’s the case), ability to see how things work in real working environment, opportunity to network with managers and HR people, and a valuable experience for your resume, something that will give you an edge once you finally get your degree, and apply for your first “real job”. Such things you can realistically gain from any engineering internship.
What field of engineering would you like to specialize in in the future?
Two things to remember here. First, you should have some vision of your future. That means what you’d like to work on, what products you’d like to specialize in, and so on. Nobody says that the visions should eventually turn to reality–it definitely doesn’t have to. Life is unpredictable and you may eventually devote your time to something completely different (or you may die in a car accident and never even finish school; anything can happen). But it is important to have some vision.
Second, your vision should at least somehow correspond with what they do in the company. As I’ve already said, considering the current situation on the employment market, for many companies internship is actually a form of talent recruitment. It doesn’t mean that they will necessarily offer you a full time job once you get your degree. It depends on many things, especially on how well you will do during your internship. However, they always like to keep the door open, and hence you should talk about a vision of your future which you can realistically pursue in their company.
What can you offer us that other internship candidates cannot?
A bribe perhaps… I am joking, but in reality you may find it hard to identify something unique, something you can bring onboard but nobody else cannot. Sure enough, if you’ve won some engineering competitions, and have Elon Musk’s number in your cell phone, you can perhaps offer something others cannot. If that was the case, however, you would not be reading this article. So how should you answer the question?
One option is being honest. You can say that you are ready to work hard and learn a lot, and are determined to try your 100% every day at work. At the same time, however, you know that most other candidates want to do the same, and you do not see it as a big advantage… But, and hear comes your USP, you can say that you are a funny guy, or a great girl to have around in the office, or someone who makes the best coffee in the city. Say something others won’t say. Stand out from the crowd, and show them something personal. It can only help you in this type of interviews.
What is your availability? What hours can you work?
It obviously depends on your study program, the commitments you have at the University, and other things. But the more you can work the better for them, so you should show some flexibility, and give the internship with their company shared no. 1 spot on the list of your priorities. It shares it with school, of course. Or at least that’s what you should say.
Other than that, you should be ready to at least approximately outline your availability. Think about the school year, exam period, lectures and seminars you cannot skip, and so on. Then you should be able to present a meaningful schedule for the year, and clearly specify when you can work and when you cannot.
Other questions you may face in your engineering intern interview
- Tell us about the best engineering project you’ve ever worked on.
- Does your academic record accurately reflect your capabilities?
- What’s the biggest engineering failure of your life so far?
- How would your teachers describe you?
- Tell us one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want us to know.
- How do you imagine a typical day in this company as an intern?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Who do you look up to in your life?
Conclusion, next steps
It is hard to say exactly what will happen in an interview for an engineering intern position, because each company follows different interview processes. However, as I’ve said in the beginning of the article, conditions on the employment market play in your favor, because demand exceeds supply. Companies struggle with hiring engineers, or even “to be engineers”.
Try to learn as much as you can about the employer, prepare for the questions from this article, and do not forget to check also other online resources. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!
May also help you:
- Engineering Manager interview questions.
- Walt Disney internship interview questions.
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