Internships are an excellent way for students to gain exposure to the environment and work in an industry of interest to them. For the company, Internships provide assistance to specific staff members or teams on a temporary basis, and can be a valuable way to assess potential candidates for future employment. Some internships last the duration of a school semester or quarter, while others may extend to a year or longer.
The ideal Internship candidate will have goals to pursue a career in your industry after graduation, increasing the chances that the time you invest in their training may be rewarded by future employment with your company. To maximize the benefit of the Internship to both the Intern and the company, look for a candidate who is eager to learn, brings an academic foundation relevant to the work, demonstrates strong critical thinking skills, and appears to be a good fit with your company culture.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Internship interview questions to help you get started:
What are you hoping to learn from this internship opportunity? Why is our company the best option to achieve that goal?
What you want to hear: Promising candidates will have clear learning objectives for their internship. Specific answers are an indication they have conducted industry research in preparation for the interview. For example, a candidate who wants to explore “What makes a brand memorable on social media?” has a more targeted goal than someone seeking “marketing experience” in general. Look for a candidate who can then explain why they believe the activities they will be exposed to during your company’s Internship will help them realize their goals.
Describe some current industry trends that you think are important or interesting.
What you want to hear: Candidates who listen to podcasts, read books, and subscribe to newsletters in an industry can answer this question more easily. Listen to how your candidate stays up-to-date, whether it’s in class or independently. A thoughtful answer will include at least one meaningful industry topic and their perspective on the situation.
Red flag: Students are not yet experts, but passionate candidates will be immersed in what’s going on in their industry of interest. Candidates who struggle to find one interesting trend may lack a personal investment in the internship and require extra attention to stay on track.
Describe a time you encountered a problem with no immediately obvious solution. What action did you take to resolve the problem and what was the outcome?
What you want to hear: This question highlights your candidate’s critical thinking abilities. Resolving issues in a professional environment requires skills such as brainstorming solutions, collaborating as a team, listening to alternative solutions, decision making, and executing a plan. Listen for a candidate who has utilized, or is at least aware of, these methodologies.
When in your academic work or extracurricular activities have you displayed attributes of a leader?
What you want to hear: Whether it’s tackling an academic group project, volunteer work, or involvement on a sports team, a candidate’s ability to envision a goal and lead a group is highly desirable. Listen for a clear example of how their motivation to excel and a team-player attitude had a positive outcome.
Red flag: If your candidate isn’t involved in extracurricular activities, they are still required to work together on class projects. Listen if they sat on the sidelines and took orders, or if their ideas and actions led the team towards a higher project score.
Tell me about a time when you set a difficult goal for yourself. What was the outcome?
What you want to hear: When listening to a description of the stated goal, pay attention to the method the candidate used to achieve that goal. Achieving a difficult goal requires the formulation of a clear plan, effective time management, and a strong work ethic. An insightful answer will explain the outcome, how they felt about it, and how it impacted the way they viewed subsequent challenges they encountered.
Red flag: A lack of initiative is often worse than a negative result. Make sure the candidate indicates a desire to continually learn and improve. Candidates who value personal growth are more likely to gain skills useful in the workplace and make a greater contribution to your team.
What is one personal or professional weakness that you have? How will you ensure that the weakness will not affect your job performance as an intern?
What you want to hear: Everyone has a skill set weakness that would benefit from improvement. Strong candidates are self-aware enough to recognize their own challenges. Look for candor in the response and specifics for how they would overcome or improve on their challenge.
Red flag: A candidate who claims not have any weaknesses is either lacking in self-awareness or the experience to have surfaced their weaknesses. Be cautious of what weaknesses may surface while participating in your Internship program.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Internship position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Have personal goals aligned with the objectives of your Internship
- Display a strong work ethic and leadership abilities
- Demonstrate the critical thinking skills needed to succeed in your Internship activities
Why are you interested in this industry?
How has your academic career prepared you for this internship?
What unique qualities will you bring to our team?
What do you expect this internship to be like in terms of your responsibilities and activities?
What are your career goals after graduation?
What techniques do you use to manage multiple tasks with tight deadlines?
In either your professional or personal life, describe a time when you sacrificed your own goals in order to benefit the team?
Describe your personal working style.
Who is someone in this industry that you admire and why?
Conflict with a co-worker or friend is inevitable. Tell me about a conflict you experienced with a co-worker or friend, and how it was resolved.