Acing Internship Interview Questions

An internship interview is likely one of the first interviews you will have. Are you ready?

Interviewing for an internship can sometimes feel like an impossible challenge. You likely don’t have much work experience, which is why you are seeking an internship in the first place. However, you still need some experience to get the internship that you need, in order to gain experience.

Frustrating, right?

What can you do to help overcome this oxymoron? Even without a lot of work experience, you can make a good case for why you are the right person for the position and learn how to ace internship interview questions.

Utilize Your College (or Life) Experiences

The first hurdle to overcome in an internship interview is getting beyond the mindset that your resume needs to wow them with huge, shining examples of your competencies. At this stage in your career, your main goal is to show your potential to do great work for them. No one expects you to have the resume and experience of someone who has been in the workplace for years.

However, there will be some expectation that you made time during your studies to develop skills in the areas you were hoping to gain employment in. If you were a late bloomer, had trouble focusing in school, or bypassed college altogether, there are still experiences you can draw from that will translate into marketable job skills.

Experiences you should mention:

Clubs and Organizations

What clubs or organizations have you been involved in? 4-H? Boy Scouts? Future Farmers of America? FBLA? Dig deep into your past experiences and spend some time thinking through how being a part of these groups helped you gain relevant skills and experience.

Translate those skills into talking points that will showcase your values and priorities during your internship interview.
For example, maybe serving as the social chair in your sorority gave you the opportunity to plan and manage group events, honing your project management skills and attention to detail. Perhaps the many public speaking events at various FBLA conferences taught you how to write excellent speeches and captivate an audience.

Volunteering

Have you ever volunteered at a soup kitchen? A church nursery? A homeless shelter? A holiday food drive, or anywhere else?

Volunteering teaches skills like organization, teamwork, leadership, time management, and work ethic. These are very valuable qualities to have in the workplace. Your volunteer history gives a demonstrable track record of your employability and marketable skills.

Your volunteer experience also gives some insight into your values and personality and this can help you stand out during your internship interview. Are you committed to making a difference? Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and do hard work? You can demonstrate this with the volunteer work you have done in the past.

Athletics

Many employers look favorably on candidates with sports and athletic achievements. They tend to love people who have excelled in team sports — what better way to show that you know how to be a team player?

Athletic accomplishments can also demonstrate commitment, work ethic, ability to perform under pressure, and the ability to juggle multiple priorities (sports, academics, etc.)

Do mention the athletic activities you have been involved in, for example, during college or high school, and describe how it taught you skills such as dedication, focus, strategy, and teamwork. All of these soft skills translate into the workplace, so use your athletic achievements as examples to showcase them.

Hobbies

Hobbies can also be launchpads for acquiring many useful abilities. Do you enjoy photography? Building models? Auto maintenance? A skill learned while you were having fun is still a skill.

Some hobbies also demonstrate commitment and work ethic. For example, you don’t become great at playing an instrument without a lot of work. Likewise, it takes real dedication to train for and complete a triathlon.

If your hobbies have resulted in learning software such as Photoshop, InDesign, PowerPoint, Excel, or any other program, be sure to make mention of it. Being self-taught in any skill is twice as impressive and shows the interviewer that you have initiative and problem-solving skills.

Coursework & Certifications

Your coursework is not just a hoop you must jump through to get your degree. If chosen wisely, your classes can be very helpful to you in your internship search.

Your chosen school and major can give you great credibility, showing a long-term interest in your chosen field. If you chose your major before settling on your future career path (like many of us), you will want to be prepared to talk about when and why you decided to switch paths from Art History to Data Analytics.

Being intentional about your electives can help. For instance, if your major is Philosophy, but you later become interested in interning with an insurance corporation, filling your electives with business classes will be a big help to you.

Additionally, spend some time thinking through why your studies are relevant to the industry you are hoping to enter and why they make you such a great candidate for an internship. Many fields are open to non-traditional candidates. The key is to be able to talk about how your background has prepared you well. For example, maybe your liberal arts degree prepared you to think critically and write persuasively.

Certifications and certain memberships can also be a distinguishing factor for you. Be sure to mention any special proficiencies you may have that make you especially valuable, and help you stand out from the crowd.

Work Experience

Think through your past working experiences (if you have any). Consider the skills you learned while performing those jobs. It is highly likely those same skills can be utilized in the workforce.

Many typical college jobs require working with people, problem-solving, and communications, to name a few competencies that are important in most internships. Most employers will respect the patience and work ethic it requires to wait tables, work in retail, or corral a group of 8-year-old campers.

Don’t sell yourself short, you likely have more experience than you realize. Even if you have never had an “official job, it does not mean that you have no work experience. Think about what you have done in the past that required work and the use of your skills. Use it to your advantage.

Prepare

An internship interview is still an interview and will likely include common interview questions along with some that are more internship-specific.

Big Interview’s curriculum is specifically designed to help you answer tough internship interview questions across a broad range of industries and experience levels. We have sets of internship and entry-level practice questions designed for this stage in your career.

If that sounds like something you’d like to explore, you can learn about how to prepare for your internship interview questions here. 

How to Answer Internship Interview Questions

To begin your preparation, take a moment to research the most frequently asked interview questions to get a feel for the kinds of things that will be asked of you.

Three internship interview questions you can almost always expect to encounter are:

· Tell me about yourself
· What are your greatest strengths?
· What is your greatest weakness?

It can be tough to know how to answer these questions without rambling, becoming rattled, or giving a bunch of information that is not relevant to the question.

To help you prepare answers to these common internship interview questions, we recommend the STAR format for building your responses.

STAR stands for: Situation/Task, Approach, and Results.

For instance, if your interviewer says:

“Tell Me About Yourself”

You can build an answer that looks like this:

Good Answer to Internship Interview Questions: STAR Format:

“I’m a Marketing and Brand Management graduate with a passion for digital marketing. Over the past year, I’ve built up my personal blog to 10k followers and scored some solid brand collaborations.”

And avoid one that looks like this:

Bad Answer to Internship Interview Questions:

“Well, I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. As a child, I originally wanted to be a teacher, then later became interested in theater. I excelled in the social sciences from early on, placing first in my eleventh-grade FBLA public speaking contest. Funny story about that…”

The STAR format can also be applied if asked these tricky internship interview questions:

What are Your Greatest Strengths?

Good Answer to Internship Interview Questions: #1

“One of my strengths is my strong work ethic. When I commit to a deadline, I do whatever it takes to deliver. For example, during our finals week we had a report due and I got some numbers back late from my classmate. I pulled an all-nighter to finish the spreadsheet because the professor had to receive the report on time.”

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Good Answer to Internship Interview Questions: #2

“I am proud of my writing skills and believe that they will make me a better analyst. I am able to communicate complicated topics to different audiences. I can take a lot of data and information and find the story and themes that clients need to know about.

What are Your Greatest Weaknesses?

Good Answer to Internship Interview Questions: #3

“Sometimes I can be a bit too honest when I provide feedback to others. My personality is naturally very straightforward, and most of the people I’ve worked with really value that, but I have learned that there are times when more diplomacy is required.

I took an elective class on conflict management and it really opened my eyes to the need to communicate differently with different people. So now I am much better at providing constructive feedback, even if it doesn’t always come naturally.”

Bad Answer to Internship Interview Questions:

I used to drive my teachers crazy because I was always asking for deadline extensions, but you can’t rush genius, you know? I always did great work, even if it was a little late.

Practice Answers to Internship Interview Questions

If you are seeking an internship, you likely have not had much experience with interviewing. This makes practice even more essential to having a successful internship interview.

Time and again we have seen the incredible results practicing aloud makes in Big Interview users. Practicing is what makes the difference between completely bombing your internship interview and knocking it out of the park.

Practicing aloud will also help you identify awkward or disruptive vocal tics, such as saying, “um” or “you know” too often.

These types of habits are common and often done unconsciously. Taking the time to record yourself and listen to your articulation can help you be mindful of the vocal tics you may have and correct yourself so you appear as calm and confident as possible.

Join Big Interview

Great interview preparation is about practice. It’s not enough to merely read advice. You have to put it into action. Big Interview’s practice tools simulate live interviews in real time, making you really good, really fast, guaranteed.
Get Instant Access Today

Specific Internship Interview Questions

Because internships serve a particular function in the workplace, it is likely you will be asked questions about your current course of study and why you are seeking an internship in the industry you are aiming for.

You may encounter some variation of the following internship interview questions:

  • Why did you choose your major?
  • What are your plans after graduation?
  • What are you hoping to achieve with this internship?
  • Why do you think you are the best fit for this internship?
  • What is your favorite class?
  • Who is your favorite Professor?
  • Why do you want to intern at our company?
  • In what way can you contribute to this company?

As you can see, answering these common internship interview questions will require some introspection on your part. Take some time before your internship interview to think through your academic choices and how you would like to present yourself and your career goals.

Sometimes the interviewer will include an oddball interview question to see how well you think on your feet. An example may be, “What color is your brain?” or “What is your favorite breakfast cereal and why?”

There is no wrong answer here necessarily. The idea behind these kinds of internship interview questions is to get a feel for your personality and how you handle pressure. Don’t allow yourself to be rattled. Calmly consider the question and give your honest answer.

To Conclude

Good preparation is the solid foundation for any good interview, especially an internship interview. Preparing well boosts confidence, which will become apparent in your body language and articulation.

Preparing for anticipated internship interview questions, practicing aloud, and doing some introspection will give you the best possible chances of landing that internship and being well on your way to accomplishing your career goals.

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