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I am having a phone interview with the vice president of technology at a company (the head of the tech division) for a programming internship position.

In thinking about how to prepare, I am wondering if I would get technical questions, workplace-life questions, or experience questions. I'm not sure what to expect!

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I am an EVP of Product and Technology, and the first thing I'll tell you is that every company will ask you different questions, and weight the questions differently in the three areas you already noted (technical, workplace, experience). But you can legitimately expect questions in all of those areas.

If I am talking to an intern, I want to walk away from that conversation knowing two things:

  1. What does the intern want to accomplish while working with us
  2. Can the intern accomplish what they want while working with us

Bear in mind that many people -- myself included -- do not look at interns as cheap labor, and instead look at interns as apprentices. That may be an apprentice specifically to move into my company when they complete their apprenticeship, or it may be to move to a company in my network that is a better fit. For example, during your internship you may prove to do a particular task for us very well, but if you have found you derive more enjoyment from doing a different task, you'll get a good recommendation from me and a push toward anyone in my personal network where you might be a good fit.

So, what am I am going to ask you? Anything that helps me understand you and your goals better. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Asking about projects you've worked on and what you liked/disliked about them
  • What you see yourself doing in 3 years
  • What you want to learn in your internship
  • What you think you can contribute to the company and its core products in your internship
  • What are your current weaknesses -- the things you don't know yet but you think you should, for example
  • How you do your best work (individually, collaboratively, etc) -- and not knowing is perfectly fine

I'm not going to give you a technical quiz or ask you to solve a puzzle. You've already made it past minimal screening; I want to know about the person walking through the door, how they may or may not impact the company, and what the company can do for them to help them grow in their career.

Like Dipan said, BE YOURSELF. Also, assume that I can see right through you if you're faking it or trying too hard (by the time you get to my level, you've been around the block enough to know all the tricks -- I'm not hiring tricksters, I'm hiring people, so be a real person!)

Unlike Michael's advice, I wouldn't spend any time trying to research the VP. Sure, make sure you know what the company does, and if you need to put a face or a history to a name, look up your interviewer (any of them) in LinkedIn or what have you, but the interview is not about me, it's about you. Knowing anything about me isn't going to help you answer the questions about you, to help me gauge how you would work as an intern in my company.

So: be yourself, know what you want, and understand that while the stakes might be high for you, they're not terribly high for me, meaning that if you are nervous or need to back up and give a better answer, or whatever, I get that. Don't worry.

Very important note: you could also reasonably expect the complete opposite of what I described (a mean person, a jerk, someone who wants to talk only about themselves, etc). You should still know the answers to the questions I noted above, even if you don't get to answer them.

4

By now, you must have been through tests/interviews, aptitude checks and so on. So what's new that VP Technology will check that others' haven't?

Like me, i have seen many senior management staff tend to gauge your potential rather than many specifics. Essentially, they will ask themselves whether you are worthy of investing time and energy on.

This implies you will be evaluated in aspects such as:

  • how you approach the problem?
  • how open and enthusiastic you are to new stuff or surprises
  • does your engineering skills are really grounded with insight?
  • does your interest really match to position?
  • Are you looking for a longer term relation or is this only a stop gap situation for you? [This last one might not be so specific for interns -but generally important for most positions]

More or less, you should remember is just try to be yourself. This means be cool and de-stress yourself. That is the most important preparation.

In terms of being able to answer well, you should try to pick up best of your projects (that he/she might inquire about) - and study concepts deeper related to the same. The important part is that instead of focusing on a lot of details you should be able to articulate key achievements, important concepts and theory/reasoning behind those topics.

Last but most important point -prepare a lot of questions. This really looks good that you care about the position, role, job profile and work culture you are going to join.

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Research the VP.

Look on StackOverflow, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, etc and try and get a good idea of what the person is 'about', their background, skills, experience, etc. Do the same for the company of course as that will help out with this and also other interviews within this company.

If most of their background is very technical you can expect a lot of technical questions. If they've been a manager for a while workpace questions are likely. If they are a new manager it may be you who brings up workplace question and your input might be valued more as they are 'new to it' and looking to learn.

Experience - technical will be important if their are the technical reviewer, however it sounds like that might be other people in this case.

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