Common Internship Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Amanda Covaleski - May. 17, 2021
Articles In Guide

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Congratulations! You’ve scored an interview after sending in applications for dozens of internships.

Believe it or not, the hardest part is over. Getting your resume to stand out and landing an interview is often the trickiest part of the internship search.

With a bit of practice and familiarity with the interview process, you’ll be sure to impress your interviewer when the time comes. In the meantime, let’s get into some examples of internship interview questions and go over some winning answers.

What Is an Internship Interview?

Much like a job interview, internship interviews are meant for recruiters to understand the person behind the resume and application. It’s also a chance for you to ask the interviewer questions about the position or the company.

Think of it as a meet and greet. You’ll be able to have a productive conversation about the position, the skills you bring, and how you’ll fit with the company. Be prepared to both answer questions and ask them to get the most out of your interview.

Something that can be helpful before entering an internship interview is knowing the format of the interview. Many first-round interviews are phone screens, or phone interviews. These provide both you and the employer with extra background information about the position and your skills before you set up an in-person interview.

Other times you’ll be invited into the office to interview with someone face-to-face. These interviews serve the same purpose as phone interviews, but they’re a little more personal.

Speaking with someone can be intimidating, but just remember that you already passed their first review with your sparkling resume and awesome cover letter. Focus on preparing for the interview and you’ll be well on your way to landing that internship.

How to Answer Internship Interview Questions

Preparing for an internship interview is similar to getting ready for a job interview. Taking the time to prepare and practice your interview answers will separate you from the other applicants and make you stand out. Here’s a few of our best interview tips to get you started:

  1. Show off your personality. Companies ask for interviews because they want to get to know the person behind the resume, so make sure you show off your personality. You don’t want to go over the top and treat the interview like a date, but don’t be afraid to start some small talk or throw in an appropriate joke.

  2. Practice responses ahead of time. Recruiters tend to ask the same questions over and over again, so practice your responses to the most commonly asked interview questions. When they come up in the interview, you’ll tackle them with ease and your confidence will set you apart.

  3. Research the company. Many people forget to look into the company and the position they applied for, but that mistake is easily avoidable. Read about the company and see if anything noteworthy, like a merger or new product launch, has happened recently, or double-check the job requirements for the intern role you applied for.

  4. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you’re good at is key when applying for any role, but it’s especially useful for landing your first few internships.

    Companies aren’t looking for interns with years of experience because they don’t exist, but they are looking for people who will learn quickly and gain skills. Since there probably isn’t much professional experience on your resume, don’t stress; just think of life skills you have that can apply to the role or help the company.

  5. Dress for success. While internship interviews tend to be less formal, dressing in business casual attire will help you make a good impression. Hiring managers like to see that you take the interview seriously and you’re ready to be in a professional environment, which you can convey through your outfit choice.

  6. Brainstorm questions. Interviewers always ask if you have any questions, and you never want to say “no”. Come prepared with a few questions to ask about the company culture or specific parts of the role you applied to, just to show that you’re thoughtful and engaged.

  7. Sell yourself without bragging. There’s a fine line between explaining your qualifications and accomplishments and bragging about yourself. It’s a good idea to answer questions humbly so you don’t come off as self-centered.

  8. Don’t shy away from personal questions. Recruiters want to get to know you in interviews. Learning about you and your personality helps them decide who they want to hire and work with on a team. When they ask what you do for fun, don’t be shy and list a few of your (appropriate) hobbies.

  9. Review your resume. The first thing recruiters tend to ask is for you to walk them through your resume. Make sure you have an updated resume when you apply, and know what experiences you want to highlight, and have talking points ready.

How to Answer Behavioral Internship Interview Questions

Hiring managers and recruiters love to ask behavioral interview questions. These questions ask you to give an example of your past behavior in a professional or academic setting, which helps the interviewer predict your future behavior if hired.

To answer behavioral interview questions effectively, use the STAR method:

  • Situation. Set up the scene by briefly describing the situation.

  • Task. Describe your role within the situation. You can often wrap the situation and task into one sentence.

  • Action. This is the real meat of your answer. Tell the interviewer what actions you took to address the situation.

  • Result. Wrap your story up with a brief description of the result of your actions. Note that the result should always be positive, even if the qusetion is about a negative situation, like conflict or failure.

You can easily recognize behavioral questions during your internship interview, because they often start with phrases like “tell me about a time” or “give me an example of a time when.”

Let’s look at a common behavioral interview question, as well as a great response using the STAR method:

Tell me about a time you failed.

In my sophomore year, I had taken on a full schedule of extracurriculars. (Situation) My debate club asked me to organize and lead an inter-university debate, and I accepted the responsibility. (Task) I put so much energy into finding a venue, arranging for transportation and accommodation, and sending invitations, that I failed to actually prepare for the debate performance itself. While the logistics of the event went off without a hitch, I had to admit to my team that I had no opening speech prepared. (Action) Luckily, my team was empathetic and appreciative of all the organizing work I did, and another team member agreed to deliver the speech to greet the attendants. I learned that drafting a complete to-do list early on is essential to making sure I don’t overlook important details — as well as the value of having good teammates. (Result)

Other Types of Internship Interview Questions

Internship interview questions can be just as varied as a normal job interview, but there are a few categories to be aware of:

  • Internship interview questions about your background. These are your bread and butter interview questions about strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, career goals, work style, etc. It’s your job to enliven the dry details from your resume and cover letter and make them come to life with a winning personality and a unique outlook.

    At the same time, be aware that you want to adjust elements of your background to make them seem perfectly suitable for the internship opportunity. We’re not suggesting lying — just adapting a few word choices to include keywords from the job description.

  • Internship interview questions about your experience. These are tough for many interviewees, because, almost by definition, if you’re applying for an internship, it means you don’t have formal work experience — at least not in the appropriate field.

    Remember that other internship applicants are likely in the same boat. What you do have is a wealth of academic and extracurricular experiences and achievements. And if you’ve worked a few summer jobs, those experiences are also valuable.

    The key thing is to pick out moments where you put your skills to use in an effective way — that’s what hiring managers and recruiters want to hear about.

  • Internship interview questions about the company. This is where your research in the company becomes absolutely vital. Things to learn before the interview include roughly how big the company is, what they do, the company culture, and the company’s mission statement and values.

    You’ll be asked why you want to intern there and what you know about the company at the very least, so you should have a brief spiel prepared for these sorts of questions. Additionally, knowing about the company’s culture and values more broadly can help inform your answers to questions about your work style and values.

Common Internship Interview Questions and Example Answers

The best thing you can do to prepare for an internship interview is to go over some common interview questions beforehand. We’ll give you some of the most frequently asked questions and example responses so you know how to answer them. Remember, make sure your answers are your own since employers want to see what sets you apart from other applicants.

  1. Tell me about yourself.

    I’m a sophomore at City University studying biology, but I’m also a member of the school newspaper, the orchestra, and the film society. I’m interested in exploring how we can use plant cells to improve our health and I hope to be a researcher in a lab dedicated to this after I graduate.

  2. Why did you choose your major?

    I’ve always loved politics and especially political philosophy, so studying political science made sense for me. I think taking a structured approach to learning about the political systems we live in will help me find a way to tie my interests to a long term and fulfilling career.

  3. Why did you apply for this internship?

    I think the work that you’re doing is really interesting and impactful, so I would like to be a part of that while also gaining valuable work experience. Working with a tech start-up provides the opportunity to get to know more people on the team and have more responsibilities across departments. I think I’ll be exposed to many parts of the company which will help me decide what I’m most interested in.

  4. Can you talk about a time where you were a team player?

    In my pre-law society, we did a mock trial simulation where we were placed on teams and had to defend a case. It took all of us working together, dividing up tasks, and creating a compelling argument to win the case. The hardest part was deciding what our argument would be since it wasn’t my first choice, but after working hard to make the case strong, I was proud of our combined effort.

  5. What are your proudest achievements?

    Last semester I was named “most valuable rookie” on the student newspaper team. Even though it’s not a big award, it was so rewarding to hear from my peers that they admired my dedication to the newspaper and my faithful reporting on school events.

  6. Can you give an example of a time you took on a leadership role?

    This semester I’m working as a teacher’s assistant for an intro level Spanish class. In this role I sit in on the weekly lectures, then plan activities for the smaller recitations. I work with the professor to decide what the goal of the recitation lesson will be, then plan exercises to get the students to practice their Spanish skills. Though it’s a lot of responsibility to help the students improve, I enjoy planning the lessons and seeing the students get better over time.

  7. What do you want to get out of this internship?

    I want to get real-world professional experience more than anything. I think that putting my theoretical psychology knowledge to the test as a research assistant in this lab will make my analytical skills much stronger. I want to walk away from the internship with an understanding of how these concepts play out in the real world and how I can apply what I learn in the classroom to professional opportunities.

  8. What are your strengths?

    I’m a hard worker and a good listener. I don’t stop until I have the answers I need or the results I want, so I’m constantly pushing myself to meet my own goals. Being a good listener makes me a good teammate and I’m always ready to hear suggestions or take in a new point of view.

  9. What are your weaknesses?

    I know that I can be somewhat stubborn and once I set a goal or make a decision, I can be pretty set on it. This can help me make sure I get my goals achieved, but it can also make it harder for me to take feedback from others. It’s something that I’m becoming more aware of and trying to improve upon.

  10. What can you bring to our company?

    As someone who’s just starting their career, I think I can bring a willingness to learn and try anything as well as a fresh perspective. I’m a quick learner and I’m ready to act like a sponge to just take in everything I can while working with your company. I also think I can bring a different perspective to the company as someone from the outside and help the team create a really differentiated product.

  11. How much do you know about the Microsoft Suite?

    I’ve been working with Microsoft software since high school so I feel comfortable using Word, Outlook, Excel, and more for daily tasks. I know I have room for improvement when it comes to using Excel for rigorous data analysis, but I have the basics down.

  12. Tell me about a time you had to meet a tight deadline.

    For one of my history classes I had to write a research paper and one of the assignments was to turn in an annotated bibliography. I asked my professor if she would mind reading over my bibliography before the due date to make sure I was on the right track and when she returned it with comments, I knew I had to rework the whole thing. I had 24 hours to do it, otherwise my assignment would be marked late.

    I decided to ask the librarian for help with finding sources instead of tackling it on my own and it was the best decision I could’ve made. He helped me narrow down where to look for sources and even suggested a few books that would help me create my thesis. I got my final annotated bibliography done in no time since I knew when to ask for help.

  13. Which job requirement do you think will be the most difficult for you to meet?

    I know that I struggle with effective communication, so having to work between two department heads may be a challenge for me. I see it as an opportunity to improve my skills and work on facilitating clear and timely communication.

  14. When was the last time you had to learn something new?

    My college requires us to take classes in all disciplines, so when I signed up for a drawing class I had to start from scratch. I didn’t know that there were different ways to hold a pencil, different types of lines, or anything. I made sure to take advantage of the professor’s office hours and ask questions so I didn’t fall behind as a newcomer.

  15. How would you describe yourself in three words?

    I’d start with dedicated since I always want to make sure I complete all my tasks, no matter what it takes. Then I’d pick optimistic because I always want to find the bright side of situations or make people laugh. Finally, I’d say outgoing because I love meeting new people and I want to try as many new things as I can.

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Author

Amanda Covaleski

Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

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