With warmer months just around the corner, the summer internship hunt is now in full swing for college students across the US.
You've done your research, hunkered down in the library to crank out the applications, endured the agonizing wait, and now you've finally heard back.
The only thing standing between you and that coveted internship is the interview round.
You want to prepare for the questions the interviewer will ask you, but don't overlook the importance of the questions you should ask to improve your chances of landing the job.
"Asking questions is one of the very best interview strategies you can employ," says Bill Cole, author of "The Interview Success Guide" and founder of the International Mental Game Coaching Association.
"It demonstrates interest in the company, and hiring managers find it refreshing," he says. "They notice that many younger candidates tend to be either overly polite, waiting to be asked questions, or shy about asking questions since they view the hiring manager as the 'authority figure' and don't want to rock the boat."
While it may feel more natural to leave your questions for the end of the interview, Cole recommends asking questions as you go. "By doing this, you can turn what can seem like an interrogation into a collegial, interesting conversation," he says.
Here are five questions you can ask to set yourself apart in your next internship interview:
1. What are some of the key skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this position?
If you ask this early in an interview, it can guide your entire strategy, Cole says. You can tell the interviewer how your strengths match up with what the company is seeking.
2. If I get the internship, how do I earn top marks on my performance review?
This marks you as eager to reach for excellence. Everyone wants an ambitious new hire.
3. Now that you know more about me, how do you think I can best help the company?
You want to know what the interviewer thinks about the fit, Cole says. The question also potentially reveals what he or she sees you working on in the position.
4. Is there anything else I can answer for you? I want to be as complete as possible.
You ask this to gauge the interest level of the interviewer and to get feedback, Cole explains.
"They may say, 'There is one thing ...' and then you'll have a chance to respond to it in real time," he says. "As you ask this question, watch their facial expression and body language. That will tell you how they really feel about you."
Debra DelBelso, director of the career center at Siena College, told Business Insider that if your interviewer is smiling and maintaining eye contact, there's a good chance your interview is going well.
However, if the interviewer is crossing his or her arms, leaning away from you, or looking at the door, that might mean they're not impressed, career expert Lynn Taylor told Business Insider.
5. What can I do or provide for you when I follow up?
By asking this wrap-up question, you appear thorough, helpful, and willing to make sure nothing is left to chance, Cole says.
What not to ask
Cole says it's wise to refrain from asking any questions about benefits, time off, schedule accommodations, or other things that could be perceived as picky during an internship interview. "These 'custom requests' can seem presumptuous and be off-putting to the hiring manager," he says.
Instead, focus your questions on the company.
"If you do some research and ask unusual questions that others won't ask, this will mark you as clever, industrious, and willing to go the extra mile to get to know the company," Cole says. "You will be memorable."
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