Friday, May 17, 2013

Interview Impressions

Interview impressions

*Apologies for what might end up being a wall of text:

Well, after an interesting but at times hectic past few days, the search for an internship is over!  It looks like I will be interning with SecEUR, an organization that does research and publishes newsletters to subscribers about civil security within the EU.  As this was one of my top choices and I am really into security issues, this should be great!  It is also located relatively close to the European Parliament, so hopefully I can get lunch a few times with whoever ends up interning there!

I had a total of five interviews in the span of three days.  On my first day, I had one interview with Euro Tasc.  This was a conducted in a group setting that included myself and three other students.  Unfortunately, the interviewer didn’t really ask too many questions specific to each of us (he never even asked us to review our resumes) and the interview kind of devolved into us asking him questions without ever really getting the chance to show what we had to offer. 

The second interview with the Atlantic Treaty Association went well, even though it was a bit hard to find as it was hidden under scaffolding and there wasn’t a street sign.  Luckily I walked over there with Cassandra and we were able to ask a construction worker where the building was and he pointed us in the right direction.  Oddly enough, the ATA is located in a former hotel room, as in we took an elevator to a floor and walked past a bunch of hotel rooms before finding it.   The ATA interview was one-on-one and went really well – they do interesting work there.

The next day I had my interview with SecEUR.  This interview also went really well.  I enjoyed talking to my two interviewers about topics ranging from military history to EU security policy.  I have a lot of experience doing writing and research assignments, especially pertaining to security issues, so I hope and think I will fit in well there!

I also had an interview the second day for an internship with an MEP.  This interview was quite odd – we were taken in as a group and each given an assignment to write a one-minute speech about a topic.  I got tax havens and evasion, something I didn't know much about at all.  I used a lot of generalities and gave a rousing speech about how MEPs have the capability and therefore the responsibility to aid their constituents by stopping it.  We were all also called in for individual interviews.

My final interview on the last day was with another MEP and was again conducted in a group setting, but this time over tea.  Again, as with the first interview, I didn’t think the interviewers got anything substantive out of us.  They basically only asked us why we were there and where we were from in the U.S.  Beyond that, there wasn’t talk about individual qualifications or anything.

Overall, my interview experience is pretty limited as I’ve only had two or three in-person interviews in the U.S.  However, judging from the five interviews I had, the whole process did not seem too different from the U.S. in that there can be considerable variability in terms of what to expect when interviewing at each organization.  I will say that the group interviews did not seem to work very well, but that may have been due to the interviewers and I’m not sure if that’s typical of Europe or not.  Generally speaking, their business culture appears to be a bit more relaxed and laid-back, although I am sure I will learn more about this in the coming weeks.

As a whole, I was very prepared for the ATA and SecEUR internship interviews largely due to the large amounts of writing and wide range of classes related to security and history I took as an undergrad.  In particular, I took a COIN and counter-terror seminar my senior year that was invaluable.  Grad school work has also been useful.  International trade issues are a big theme with the EU now and having just taken an international econ. class I was able to follow the discussions much better than I would have otherwise.  Well, that was my whirlwind interview experience.  Looking forward to travelling around Belgium this weekend and starting the internship on Tuesday!


  1. Grant,

    I'm glad to hear that you experienced a range of interview formats/settings, and that the overall experience was a positive one. I'm also glad to hear that you are excited about your placement. From your SecEUR interview, do you have any sense as to what specific types of tasks you'll have or what work you will be doing?

    1. Judging from my first few days at SecEUR, it looks like I will be going to quite a few events related to security issues and writing up short news briefs about them. I think I will also be expected to conduct research and write about a range of security issues pertaining to the EU. The writing I do will most likely be used at least in some capacity within SecEUR's monthly publications to subscribers as well as other publications my supervisors are involved in. This is pretty much what I expected after having the interview. I am very much interested in all things related to international security, so I think I will enjoy my time there!

  2. For our first MEP interview I also thought it was a bit strange at the tasks he asked us to do but I also think it is an interesting way to quantify someone's talents in such a short period of time. I thought he was funny and although we had to perform these tasks without much of a prompt or preparedness, I still felt the relaxed atmosphere during the interview process. I also liked the interviews at ATA and SecEUR but I am glad that you were a better fit as I was unsure I would be able to fully comprehend the works of these organizations as my academic focus has not had much work on security matters.

  3. I agree with you Rachel, I think that the first MEP interviewer was able to get something substantively from us because he asked us to do a task (i.e. write a one minute speech). It was definitely interesting and different but perhaps a good way to learn more about the talents of a person when you don't have much time and are interviewing a group. I also thought that out of all of my interviews, the first MEP interviewer asked the best questions, questions that really got to know me as a person. None of my other interviews asked me character based questions. As for the second MEP interview, I did not like that format at all. It felt strange sitting around a table with 5 other people who were supposed to be your "competition." I didn't think they were able to get a sense of who I was in this format, because one by one, we answered basically the same questions. I just thought it was a strange way to do an interview and I agree with Grant, I don't think they were able to learn something substantive about us.