What To Expect During an Internship Interview (With Tips)
Updated July 21, 2022
You’ve earned an internship interview—congratulations! You have achieved an important step towards securing an internship position. You may feel anxious or stressed before your interview, but these feelings often simply come from not knowing what to expect.
In this article, we discuss the best ways you can prepare to succeed in your next internship interview.
What is an internship?
An internship is an opportunity for students, recent graduates or other individuals to gain industry experience and test out roles on a trial basis. Companies typically offer these temporary positions in the summer or part-time during school semesters, often for school credit or base hourly pay.
Internships can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. The experience often expands your skill set and provides you with knowledge about an industry. After graduation, internship experience on your resume can set you apart from other job applicants. The company you interned with may even offer you a job if you performed well during your time with them.
What to expect during an internship interview
When you arrive for an internship interview, you may feel a little nervous. Knowing what to expect can help you feel confident in the room.
When you meet the interviewer, it is common to shake hands and exchange pleasantries before sitting down for a one-on-one conversation. The interviewer may ask questions about your knowledge of the company, your interest in the field, and your qualifications. During this time, it is wise for you to address any relevant classroom or work experience you may have that applies to the internship duties. Remember that asking thoughtful questions during an internship interview is a good way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and preparation.
You may feel pressure to perform well during the interview, especially if you’re very interested in securing the internship. This is normal, and the interviewer will likely expect you to feel this way. Since companies design internships for people new to the workforce, it isn’t expected for you to know everything about the industry. Place your focus on being prepared, professional and eager to learn.
Toward the end of the interview, the interviewer may want to discuss a possible start date or schedule, so be sure to consider what is ideal for you beforehand. The meeting will likely end with a handshake and a farewell.
Remember to express your gratitude for the opportunity to meet with the interviewer and learn more about the internship. If you feel the company and position are the right fit for you, be sure to express your interest and mention that you look forward to hearing from them. It is normal for companies to take some time before inviting people in for a second interview or making an offer, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back immediately.
Related: Writing a Resume With No Experience
How to prepare for an internship interview
There are several steps you can take in the days leading up to your interview to make you feel more confident and prepared during the meeting:
1. Research the company
An important way to prepare for an internship interview is to learn about the company’s mission, vision and goals. This knowledge will help you answer the interviewer, prepare thoughtful questions and show interest in the company. Start your research by visiting the company’s website and familiarizing yourself with the content. Visit Indeed Company Pages for more details like company reviews and Q&A. Find recent news stories and press releases related to the organization.
2. Gather samples
If you’re applying for an internship in an industry like advertising or publishing, it’s important to provide samples of your work. If you don’t have anything to show, don’t worry. Not all industries require work samples and interviewers likely won’t expect you to have extensive practical experience if you’re applying for an internship. However, if they’ve given you an assignment to complete before the interview, be sure to give your best effort.
3. Practice the interview
While you won’t be able to prepare for every question an interviewer may ask, you can review frequently asked questions and consider your responses. You don’t need to memorize answers—simply develop your main ideas ahead of time. This will help you give clear and concise responses. You can also practice how you present yourself. It’s best to use a confident speaking voice with friendly, open body language.
4. Think of questions
After your research, make a list of thoughtful questions about the company and job description. Asking these questions will help you decide if the internship meets your needs and shows that you’re genuinely interested in the position. For example, you might ask, “What’s the office environment like?” or “What are your company’s goals for interns?”
5. Dress appropriately
Choose your clothing following any direction the company gives before the interview (such as business professional or business casual). If they don’t give you any information, it is a good idea to assume that business casual attire is expected. Consider picking your clothing ahead of time to reduce stress before the interview.
6. Be organized and on time
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your interview appointment. Make sure to account for travel, parking and walking to the interview. Bring extra copies of your resume and materials in case more than one interviewer joins the meeting.
Read more: How To Prepare for An Interview
Common internship interview questions and sample answers
Take some time before your interview to consider these frequently asked questions, and think about how you would best answer them. Preparation can help you feel confident and seem informed, interested and professional.
Can you tell me about yourself?
This is usually the opening line of an interview. Consider providing a summary of your background and focus on your academic and professional experiences or interests. This question gives you a chance to let them know what you’ve learned so far and how you could apply it to the job. You can also include details about your extracurricular activities, leadership positions, volunteer roles and more.
Example: “I’m from Pennsylvania, and I’m currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Delaware. I’m committed to furthering my education, which includes maintaining a high GPA while participating in extracurricular activities like the marketing club and college magazine.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: 'Tell Me About Yourself' (Tips and Example Answers)
Why do you want an internship with this company?
Your answer to this question will be an indicator of how well you have prepared. This is also an opportunity to demonstrate why you are a good fit for the position, so be specific in your answer. Reasons for wanting to work with their company could include the company’s reputation, achievements or culture. You may also consider speaking about how this internship would help you get closer to your professional goals.
Example: “The company’s success in encouraging the next generation of nurses excites me. I look forward to putting all of my classroom knowledge to work for your company, and I am eager to learn more. I’d love the opportunity to work alongside others who are consistently improving our community’s health and well-being.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: 'Why Do You Want To Work Here?'
What makes you a good candidate for this internship?
This question is your chance to address your academic and professional background, as well as other attributes or experiences that your resume may not communicate. Include specifics about your skillset and how it matches the internship requirements. These skills could come from the classroom, volunteer or part-time work experiences.
Example: “This year I worked part-time at the bursar’s office on campus, so I have experience with assisting others with tuition and fee information, billing and loan services. As an accounting intern, I would bring what I’ve learned in the classroom and the office to your company.”
How does this internship relate to your career goals?
The answer to this question allows your interviewer to understand your ambitions. If you haven’t developed a plan, focus on the skills you want to gain, the job role you would like to fulfill and any related goals you want to accomplish in the near future.
Example: “A finance internship with your company would help me sharpen my analytical skills and provide me with real-life experience in investing and accounting. This internship will push me toward my career goal of becoming a financial planner. In five years, I see myself helping others to manage their money and find success with smart investments.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: 'What Are Your Future Goals?'
Prepare for industry-specific questions
Below are some common interview questions that interviewers may tailor to the industry you are interviewing for, as well as suggestions on how to approach them. Consider how each question applies to your field before preparing an informed and honest answer.
Question: What aspects of this industry are you familiar with?
How to answer: This is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the field, but it is also a chance to provide your unique understanding of it. Consider speaking about developing areas of the industry and where you feel the most opportunity for potential is. It is also a place in the interview to show that you understand how this specific company fits within its field.
Question: What is the most challenging aspect of this industry for you? Why?
How to answer: It is important to be honest about the areas that you are seeking to grow professionally. However, it is also valuable to explain why you think those skills are important and how you feel this position would allow you to develop those abilities. If possible, give an example of how you turned a weakness into a strength.
Question: What are your career goals? What you would like to do with your degree in this industry?
How to answer: First, present a thoughtful explanation of your current experience, what you would like to learn and how this background relates to your plans. Then, consider asking the interviewer what their degree was, or what their goals were when they first entered the industry. Asking these questions allows you to learn about the paths of other professionals in the industry, and it also creates a personal rapport.
Question: What experiences have you had with the software and technology used in this industry?
How to answer: While you should provide your levels of proficiency in industry-related software, be sure to review the job description for any software proficiencies they list as required or preferred. If you do not have experience with a program they list, explain that you are interested in and willing to learn it.
Question: What tasks do you think this position performs on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?
How to answer: After explaining your understanding of the position, discuss why you feel qualified for its responsibilities. This is also an opportunity to express why these specific tasks appeal to you, what you could learn from them or why you want the position.
What to do after an internship interview
An important final step to the internship interview process is following up with a thank you note. This type of follow-up is a common courtesy that shows gratitude and professionalism. You can send a thank you note via email or mail, just be sure to do so as soon as possible. Sending an email allows the employer to quickly receive your message, but penning a handwritten note adds a personal touch. Choose the method that you feel is best for your situation.
A thank-you note reminds the employer of your interview and shows your interest in the internship. It also gives you the chance to say something you may have forgotten to mention during the interview or demonstrate your active listening skills.
Your note doesn’t need to be long, but it should contain the following information:
Mention the position you interviewed for and thank your interviewer.
Address a specific point that seemed important to the interviewer. Connect this idea with your own experiences or interests to show that you can fulfill the company’s specific needs.
Communicate your openness to further questions or providing additional information, and give your contact information.
Close by expressing your interest and that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
See examples: Guide to Thank You Notes
Prepare for an internship interview by researching the company and gathering your work samples. Practice answering and asking questions with confidence and clarity. When you’re prepared and know what to expect during an internship interview, you can ease your anxiety and present yourself as a competitive candidate.
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