Internship interviews are about more than showcasing your academic prowess and raw potential; they’re about demonstrating your understanding of the industry, exhibiting your drive and ambition, and establishing your cultural fit with the organization. So, how do you make a lasting impression, transform your potential into persuasion, and ace that interview?
We’ve got the most common internship interview questions to help you prepare and make a powerful impression!
What qualities and skills are hiring managers looking for in an intern?
While the specifics may vary depending on the industry, organization, and role, there are certain universal qualities and skills that hiring managers tend to look for in prospective interns.
- Enthusiasm and Motivation
Managers want to see that you’re excited about the opportunity, the company, and the industry. They look for applicants who are genuinely interested and motivated to learn and contribute. These are also attributes that will help you make the most out of your internship.
- Relevant Skills and Knowledge
This could include both hard skills like coding, data analysis, or foreign language proficiency, as well as soft skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should have a baseline of relevant skills and knowledge for the role.
- Learning Agility
As an intern, you’re not expected to know everything. However, you’re expected to be capable of learning quickly. Managers look for individuals who are curious, adaptable, and able to absorb and apply new information efficiently.
This encompasses everything from timely communication and punctuality to the ability to take responsibility for your work. It’s all about showing respect for the company’s time and resources.
- Cultural Fit
This isn’t about personal similarities with the team, but rather alignment with the company’s values, mission, and work style. Companies want interns who will mesh well with their team and contribute positively to the workplace culture.
15 Most Common Intern Interview Questions and Answers
1. Tell me about yourself.
This icebreaker question invites you to share a bit more about your background so that the hiring manager can get to know you better and gauge your interest in the internship.
- Do provide a succinct overview of your educational background, key skills, and relevant experiences.
- Do tie your past experiences to the skills or qualities required for the internship.
- Don’t dive deep into personal stories that have no relevance to the role you’re applying for.
- Don’t provide an overly long and detailed account of your life story.
“I’m in my third year at University X, studying Computer Science. It’s truly an exciting field – it’s like a puzzle waiting to be solved, and I love every bit of it. Over the past few years, I’ve sharpened my programming skills, particularly in Python and Java. The icing on the cake was this incredible project I worked on with a group of classmates. We designed a mobile application for managing classroom attendance from the ground up.
This project not only let me exercise my programming skills but also helped me refine my teamwork and communication abilities. Now, I’m eagerly anticipating the chance to leverage my knowledge in a real-world context. I’m particularly drawn to this opportunity with your company because it’s clear that you value innovation and cutting-edge technologies.”
2. Why are you interested in this internship?
The interviewer asks this question to not only understand your interest in the internship but also your overall goals and how the internship could help you as you continue along your career path.
- Do express genuine enthusiasm about the company, its mission, or the work it’s doing.
- Do explain how the role aligns with your career goals or how it would help you develop specific skills.
- Don’t give vague answers that could apply to any company or role.
- Don’t make it seem like you’re only interested in the internship because it’s a stepping stone to a full-time job.
“Why am I so keen on this internship? Well, it’s because your company’s knack for environmental sustainability has always struck a chord with me. The way you blend innovation with impactful projects is truly inspiring. I mean, you’re literally making the world a better place, which is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of being a part of.
I’m particularly thrilled about the idea of being able to lend a hand to these groundbreaking initiatives. Plus, there’s the added bonus of further sharpening my skills in project management and data analysis. These are areas I’ve been super excited to delve deeper into. In my view, this internship seems to be the perfect cocktail of challenge and learning, and it’s just what I’m looking for at this point in my journey.“
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Do be honest and self-aware about your strengths and weaknesses.
- Do ensure that the strengths you mention are relevant to the role, and that you frame your weaknesses as areas of growth with steps you’re taking to improve.
- Don’t simply list strengths without providing examples to substantiate them.
- Don’t share weaknesses that could severely compromise your ability to perform the role effectively.
“One of my main strengths is my analytical ability. I have always enjoyed working with data and finding patterns and insights. This was particularly useful during my academic project on machine learning, where my analysis helped improve our model’s accuracy.
On the other hand, one area I’m working on is public speaking. I can sometimes get nervous when presenting to large groups. However, I’m actively addressing this by taking a public speaking course and seeking out opportunities to present in my classes. I’m making progress and becoming more comfortable and confident with each presentation.”
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Do demonstrate that you have career goals and aspirations, and that you’ve thought about your future.
- Do align your long-term career vision with the role or company you’re applying to, showcasing how this internship fits into that trajectory.
- Don’t be overly specific to the point of seeming inflexible or unrealistic.
- Don’t give the impression that the internship is just a short-term stopgap without any connection to your longer-term career goals.
“In five years, I see myself in a role where I can continue to apply and grow my skills in data analysis and project management, ideally in the environmental conservation space. I’m passionate about utilizing data-driven solutions to tackle environmental challenges.
You know, I see this internship as a big leap forward in the direction I’m heading. With your commitment to sustainable initiatives and the way you harness data to make informed decisions, it’s like a perfect match for my aspirations. So, here’s what I’m really excited about – it’s not just about bringing what I have to offer to your fantastic team, but it’s also about learning, growing, and shaping my career vision in ways that truly resonate with me.”
5. Can you describe a time when you had to overcome a significant challenge?
Challenges are inherent in every job. With this question you should be able to illustrate a challenge and frame it in such a way as to highlight your experience and your problem-solving ability.
- Do share a specific, relevant example where you faced a real challenge.
- Do highlight your problem-solving skills, resilience, and the steps you took to overcome the challenge.
- Don’t provide an example that makes you look unprofessional or unreliable.
- Don’t avoid mentioning the learning outcomes or how the experience has influenced your approach since then.
However, rather than panicking, our team decided to treat this as an opportunity to be innovative. We quickly brainstormed alternative data sources and decided to gather data by conducting surveys and combining publicly available datasets. It was a time-consuming process, and it required us to adjust our project timeline and reconfigure our model. But ultimately, we were able to complete the project successfully. This experience taught me the importance of agility, innovative thinking, and teamwork when facing unexpected hurdles.”
6. What relevant coursework or projects have you completed that are related to this internship role?
This question is designed to understand how your courses or projects tie into the internship and how these experiences have strengthened your knowledge.
- Do mention coursework or projects that have helped you develop the skills and knowledge relevant to the internship role.
- Do provide a brief description of the work done and how it aligns with the role.
- Don’t list all the coursework or projects you’ve completed. Stick to the most relevant ones.
- Don’t fail to highlight what you learned or how the experience prepared you for the internship role.
“One course that’s particularly relevant was my Advanced Data Analytics class. We used tools like Python and R for various data analysis tasks, including data cleaning, visualization, and predictive modeling. For our final project, we worked with real-world datasets to predict consumer behavior, which I understand is a key part of this internship role.
I’ve also completed a project in my Project Management course where we had to plan and execute a small event from scratch. This involved budgeting, risk management, coordinating with stakeholders, and monitoring progress – all skills that I believe would be useful in this role.”
7. How do you organize and prioritize your work?
The hiring manager wants to ensure that you can properly prioritize your work and stay organized even in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.
- Do share your specific strategies for organizing and prioritizing your tasks.
- Do demonstrate how these strategies help you manage your time effectively and meet deadlines.
- Don’t provide a generic answer without explaining your personal approach.
- Don’t suggest that you prioritize tasks without considering their urgency or importance.
“I’m a big proponent of planning and organization. At the start of each week, I usually list out all the tasks I need to accomplish, from class assignments to personal commitments. Then, I prioritize them based on their urgency and importance.
When it comes to tackling big or intricate tasks, I’m all about breaking them down into bite-sized pieces – makes them a lot less daunting, don’t you think? Plus, I’ve got Google Calendar and Trello as my sidekicks for keeping my schedule in check and managing tasks. These tools are lifesavers when it comes to meeting deadlines and steering clear of those dreaded last-minute scrambles. What I love about this approach is that it doesn’t just keep me organized, it also lets me channel my energy into the tasks that really move the needle.”
8. Tell me about a time when you had to work in a team. What was your role and how did you contribute to the team’s success?
This question is designed to help the interviewer understand how well you work within a team and the role you play in guiding them toward achievement of a goal.
- Do provide a specific example of a team project or task you’ve been involved in.
- Do highlight your role within the team, the skills you contributed, and how your actions positively influenced the team’s success.
- Don’t take sole credit for the team’s success or overlook the contributions of others.
- Don’t neglect to mention how you navigated team dynamics or overcame any challenges that arose during the collaboration.
“It was part of our Software Engineering course, and our mission was to create a web application for a local non-profit. Picture this – a team of four, and I was at the helm, making sure we were all on the same page, keeping the communication flowing, and ensuring that we kept ticking along according to our timeline.
But you know what they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I introduced the team to a shared Google Calendar and Doodle Polls. And voila! Our scheduling chaos was instantly streamlined. And guess what? Our project turned out to be a huge hit, and it was even adopted by the non-profit! We managed this feat because we nailed the teamwork aspect, kept our communication crystal clear, and each of us owned our responsibilities. And these are principles I championed and upheld throughout the project.”
9. Can you describe a situation where you used your initiative to solve a problem?
Interviewers often look for interns that are disciplined self-starters and able to take direction and move forward without a lot of hand-holding or supervision.
- Do share a specific situation where you took the initiative to address a problem.
- Do highlight the actions you took, the skills you used, and the positive outcome of your initiative.
- Don’t overlook the problem-solving process or your decision-making steps.
- Don’t forget to mention how the experience has influenced your approach to problem-solving since then.
“During my part-time job at the University Library, I noticed a recurring issue where students struggled to locate certain resources because of an inconsistent cataloging system. Rather than accepting this as a given, I took the initiative to address the issue. I proposed a streamlined cataloging system to my supervisor and offered to implement it. She approved, and I spent several weekends reorganizing and re-cataloging the resources.
I also created a user guide to make it easier for students to navigate the new system. As a result, we saw a significant decrease in complaints, and several students complimented the new system. This experience reinforced the value of taking initiative and the impact one can make by proactively addressing problems.”
10. How have you handled feedback in the past, especially critical feedback?
Like challenges, feedback is an integral part of the internship and project management process. But this question is not only designed to understand how well you handle feedback, but also criticism.
- Do share an example where you received critical feedback and how you responded positively.
- Do highlight your openness to feedback and your willingness to learn and improve.
- Don’t suggest that you’ve never received critical feedback or that you handle it poorly.
- Don’t neglect to mention the positive outcomes or growth resulting from the feedback.
“In my previous role as a Research Assistant, I was tasked with drafting a report on our findings. After submitting my first draft, my supervisor provided critical feedback on my data interpretation and the report’s overall structure.
Rather than taking it personally, I saw it as an opportunity to learn and improve. I sat down with her to understand her perspective better and asked for specific suggestions to improve my work. Implementing her feedback not only improved the report but also enhanced my data analysis and report writing skills. This experience taught me that constructive criticism is a vital part of professional growth, and I’m always open to it as a way to continually improve my work.”
11. Describe a situation where you had to meet a tight deadline. How did you ensure you met it?
Deadlines are vital to ensuring smooth operation of projects and achieving company goals. When deadlines are tight, shortcuts and slip-ups can occur. How do you manage to stay on-track and focused?
- Do provide a specific instance where you were under pressure to meet a tight deadline.
- Do highlight the strategies you used to manage your time and the steps you took to ensure the deadline was met.
- Don’t imply that you often find yourself rushing to meet deadlines due to poor time management.
- Don’t forget to mention the outcome – whether you met the deadline and what you learned from the experience.
“Last semester, I was in a situation where two major projects were due on the same day. With just a week left, I realized that the time was tight to complete both to a high standard. To tackle this, I first broke each project down into smaller tasks. Then I created a strict schedule, dedicating specific time slots to each task while also leaving buffers for unexpected delays.
I also minimized distractions during these periods to maximize productivity. To ensure quality wasn’t compromised, I finished two days early to have ample time for review and revisions. Ultimately, I was able to submit both projects on time and received positive feedback for each. This experience reinforced the importance of detailed planning, prioritization, and focus when working under tight deadlines.”
12. What technical skills do you possess that would benefit this role?
Technical skills are the icing on the cake of an internship, and it’s a good idea to note any that you have that most closely align with the focus of the internship.
- Do mention the technical skills you have that are most relevant to the role.
- Do provide brief examples or context of how you’ve applied these skills in the past.
- Don’t list skills without explaining their relevance to the role or how you’ve used them.
- Don’t exaggerate or mention skills you aren’t comfortable demonstrating if asked.
“As a Computer Science major, I’ve acquired several technical skills that I believe are relevant to this role. I’m proficient in Python and Java, having used these languages extensively in my coursework and projects.
For instance, I used Python in my Data Analytics course to clean and analyze large datasets, a skill that I understand would be beneficial in this role. Additionally, I’ve gained experience with machine learning algorithms and tools during a recent project, which could be useful given the data-focused nature of your work. I’m also familiar with version control tools like Git, and project management tools such as Trello and Jira, which are essential for collaborative projects and efficient task management.”
13. How would you handle a situation where you were assigned a task outside of your comfort zone?
In the course of your internship, you may be tasked with things that fall outside of the scope of your expertise or experience. How do you approach them?
- Do share a proactive approach to learning new skills or stepping out of your comfort zone.
- Do highlight how you view such situations as opportunities for growth and learning.
- Don’t imply that you’re not open to new experiences or challenges.
- Don’t suggest that you would avoid such tasks or pass them off to someone else.
“I view tasks outside of my comfort zone as excellent opportunities to learn and grow. If I were assigned such a task, my first step would be to understand the task requirements and identify what new skills or knowledge I might need to complete it.
Then, I’d seek out resources, whether online tutorials, books, or colleagues with expertise in that area, to help me upskill. For instance, in my previous project, I was tasked with using a software I wasn’t familiar with. I spent time outside of work learning the software through online courses and practice. It was challenging, but I ended up becoming quite proficient and was able to contribute more effectively to the project. I believe the key is to embrace these challenges with a positive mindset and a willingness to learn.”
14. What do you hope to gain from this internship?
What is your ultimate goal as a result of the internship? What do you hope you’ll learn as part of the process? This question hones in not just on what you hope to gain, but what the company will gain as a result of working with you.
- Do express your learning goals and how the internship aligns with your career aspirations.
- Do show that you’re eager not just to take from the experience, but also to contribute to the organization.
- Don’t give generic responses that don’t reveal your personal motivations or aspirations.
- Don’t focus solely on what you want to gain without considering the value you can bring to the company.
“What I hope to gain from this internship aligns closely with my career goals. First, I’m excited to gain practical experience in data analysis and project management, areas I’ve studied extensively in university and am keen to apply in a real-world context. I also look forward to learning more about how your company leverages data to drive sustainability initiatives, an approach that resonates with my passion for environmental conservation.
I also think that being part of a diverse, professional team will provide valuable lessons in teamwork, communication, and industry dynamics. While gaining these insights and experiences, I hope to contribute my skills and energy to support your team and advance your projects.”
15. Can you share an example of a situation where you had to use your communication skills to persuade someone?
Good communication is vital in your role as an intern, and being able to convince someone to take a specific action is a skill that can be incredibly valuable in the workplace.
- Do provide a specific instance where you used your communication skills to persuade someone.
- Do highlight your strategies, the steps you took, and the outcome.
- Don’t suggest that you used manipulation or coercion rather than persuasion.
- Don’t forget to mention what you learned from the situation.
“Absolutely! In my role as president of the Computer Science Club at my university, I proposed that we organize a coding bootcamp for beginners. However, some committee members were hesitant, worrying it would require too much time and resources. I believed strongly in the idea’s potential, so I used my communication skills to persuade them.
I prepared a detailed plan, showing how we could effectively manage the bootcamp with our current resources and illustrating the potential benefits for our club and the broader university community. I also addressed their concerns individually, providing reassurance and demonstrating my commitment to leading the project. Eventually, they agreed to support the initiative.
The bootcamp was a success, attracting many new members to our club and even catching the attention of local tech companies. This experience taught me the value of clear, persuasive communication when advocating for an idea you believe in.”
In conclusion, an internship is as much about what you can offer the organization as it is about the valuable experience and knowledge you can gain. With a growth mindset, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and effective communication, you can navigate your interview successfully and take a significant step towards your professional growth. As you prepare for your internship interview, consider the insights from Vault-Firsthand’s 2023 Internship Rankings, and our article on how to find the best internship for you.
Your Next Steps
Now that you’re better prepared with these internship interview questions and answers, make sure that you’ve got everything organized and you’re ready to hit the ground running. Take advantage of our 100% free resume builder as well as our career tips on the best questions to ask at a job fair and how to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation. Best of luck!