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A week ago, landing an internship interview seemed tough.
Now that you have one lined up, however, it feels like a cakewalk compared to actually facing the interview. What can you even talk about in your interview if you have no work experience?
You must be doing something right to get an interview invite, so pat yourself on the back! And don’t worry:
You’ve got this.
With a bit of preparation and lots of research, you’ll ace your interview. Especially since you’re about to learn the questions ahead of time!
This guide will show you:
- 30+ common internship interview questions with answers guaranteed to help you get hired.
- Tips and techniques on how to answer typical internship interview questions to impress the recruiter.
- How to use your academic experience when answering summer internship interview questions.
Looking to land even more interviews?
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Need more job interview advice? Check out these guides:
- Most Common Interview Questions & How to Answer
- Phone Interview Questions & Answers
- Second Interview Questions & Answers
- What to Wear to a Job Interview
- What You Should Bring to Your Job Interview
- Illegal Job Interview Questions That Employers Can’t Ask
- Best Informational Interview Questions to Ask
- How to Follow Up After an Interview: Email Examples
Here are the most common internship interview questions and answers:
1. Tell me about yourself.
This one seems easy—
But think about it for a minute, and you’ll see the problem. What does the recruiter want to hear?
The purpose behind this question is to get a feel for your communication skills and find out more about you in terms of your goals and priorities.
Here’s how to answer:
- Talk a bit about your background
- Mention what you’re interested in within your area of study, keeping it relevant to the internship and the company
- Show enthusiasm and excitement at the prospect of the internship
Here’s an example from a growth marketing intern:
I’m originally from Minnesota, I came to California specifically because of the excellent standard of the marketing degree at UCLA. I’m fascinated by the intersection between marketing and business development, I love exploring data-driven marketing ideas and running simulations to see how they’d perform. So far, my best result was a 270% ROI on a social media campaign. I can’t tell you how eager I am to finally get some hands-on experience in a real-world setting!
With little or no work experience, passion is your greatest asset. Don’t be afraid to use it—and avoid answers like this:
I’m 20 years old, I’m majoring in marketing, and I’m looking for some professional experience in this field. I’m also a huge basketball fan, and I enjoy listening to music and traveling.
The first half of this response is obvious, and the second doesn’t add anything to the conversation. You only have one chance to get this right, so try to use every answer to your advantage!
2. Why are you interested in this internship?
Also: How will this experience help you meet your career goals? and What do you hope to gain from this experience?
The employer needs to know you’re not just doing it for the credits, or for a line on your resume.
When answering this question:
- Show you’re passionate about your future profession.
- Mention a couple of skills you want to develop during the internship.
- Focus on what you can learn.
- Drop in a compliment or two.
Here’s an example:
My mind is set on becoming a marketing analyst in the SAAS niche, and it would be incredibly exciting to see how a leading firm like yours conducts its research and stays ahead of the competition at every turn. I’d love the opportunity to put my predictive analysis and Salesforce skills to the test and learn as much as possible from top experts in the field. I’m also hoping I’ll be able to further develop my presentation skills and gain more experience with STATA, as well as identify areas on which I need to focus my studies in my final year.
Conversely, avoid answers that show you’re not all the way convinced this is the right choice for you. Yes—an internship is an opportunity to see if a profession suits you, but your interview is not the time to bring up those doubts.
I’d like to get some hands-on experience and get started on my career. Also, I’m not completely sure that this field is what I want to stick with after I graduate, so it’d be a good opportunity to find out if it’s the right job for me.
3. What attracted you to our company?
This question does several things:
- Checks whether you’ve done your research
- Gets you to talk about your interests within the industry
- Measures if you’d be a good cultural fit
- Tests your motivation to join this company over any other
If you’ve written a great cover letter for your internship, you shouldn’t have any trouble with answering, but just in case—
Here’s how to answer:
- Talk about the qualities that make this company unique—don’t be afraid to throw in a few compliments!
- Mention how the company’s goals and/or values align with yours.
It’s been an ambition of mine to join an internship program at your company since junior year. Your reputation as the leading architecture studio in California is second to none, and no project ever impressed me more than your SkyGreen building—it opened my eyes to so many ideas on creating cost-effective solutions. Also, your focus on sustainable alternatives to traditional materials aligns perfectly with my long-term goal of specializing in environmentally friendly designs.
See? A powerful combination of passion and well-informed flattery!
Read more: How to Answer: Why Do You Want to Work Here?
4. What skills can you bring to the company?
This one’s pretty straightforward:
The interviewer wants to know how you can contribute to the company and how well you understand the role.
Also, it’s a good idea to mention your willingness to learn and your positive attitude—both are among the top qualities that employers look for when hiring interns.
Alongside having an open mind and being eager to learn, I already have extensive coding experience. I’m particularly proficient in C++, with straight A’s to prove it. My troubleshooting abilities would also come in very useful, as would my excellent communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills developed during college group projects.
5. Do you work better alone or with a team?
What’s the right answer? If you say you work better alone, you’ll come across as a poor team player. If you say you prefer teamwork, you might seem unable to take responsibility.
So, the best way to answer this question is to say “both” and talk about the advantages of each.
Here’s an example:
I’m equally suited to working as part of a team and solo projects. Teamwork is great, because it gives me an opportunity to connect with others, brainstorm, share and receive feedback, and learn from others. At the same time, individual projects are a chance to test and prove my skills, as well as practice creative problem-solving.
With an answer like this, you cover all the bases and show you can handle any kind of project. It follows that you should avoid answers like this:
I’m definitely more of a solo project kind of person. I don’t work very well with other people constantly looking over my shoulder and criticizing or influencing my ideas.
6. How would others describe you?
This question is designed to get a measure of your most prominent qualities—
But you should still use it to your advantage and show your suitability for the internship.
Here’s how to answer this question:
- Mention a few of your soft skills, choosing ones that also make you a great fit for the job.
- Validate them by inserting them into the context of your relationships with your peers.
- Include an explanation of how these qualities help you achieve your goals.
My friends often joke about how I plan and prepare for everything, so I think they’d describe me as organized and efficient. I’m also the designated proofreader in my study group, so detail-oriented and reliable are other terms that come to mind. It’s true that I like keeping organized—it helps me set realistic goals and always find ways to achieve them, and I think it’s a large part of how I’ve managed to meet every deadline and keep a consistent 3.9 GPA over the past two years.
Notice how the context in the first two sentences makes this person’s claims more believable? If we remove it, we’ll end up with a dry, unrealistic answer like this:
I think others would describe me as organized, efficient, detail-oriented, and reliable.
...and a unicorn who’s able to levitate. Without a story to back up your claims, your answer just won’t be convincing.
7. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Despite appearances, this isn’t a trick question:
It’s designed to simply check whether you’d be a good fit with the team.
To answer this question:
- Think about what circumstances make you most (and least) productive. Work environments can be creative, structured, laid-back, fast-paced, collaborative, competitive, flexible, busy, quiet, and a host of other things.
- Adapt your response to the environment of the company to which you’re applying. If you want an internship in a banking firm, for instance, it’s probably unrealistic to expect a creative, laid-back environment.
- Explain why you prefer your chosen environment(s), focusing on how it makes you more productive.
I think I can adjust to most circumstances, but I’m at my most productive in fast-paced environments guided by firm deadlines—I found this out while working as an editor for the college newspaper. Consistently meeting deadlines gives me satisfaction and helps me stay motivated. I’m fine with flexible hours, but I prefer to have a more structured schedule.
8. Why did you choose this university?
Do they really care?
Your answer will give the interviewer a series of insights into the priorities that guide your decisions.
So, to answer this question:
- Focus on objective advantages, like the details of the university’s program or a lecturer who’s an industry expert.
- Show your passion for your field of study and your understanding of the industry.
- Avoid trivial things, like the short commute or the fact that your friends went there.
Here’s an example:
I did a lot of research before graduating from high school, and this university’s business management program has consistently been ranked by THE as the best in the country. Also, Susan Cofield is one of the lecturers here—her brilliant column in IBT was part of the reason why I wanted to go into business management in the first place. So, that made me even more determined to study here and learn from the best.
A mature answer that shows informed decision-making and enthusiasm for the field. Unlike this example:
It has a good business program with some interesting choices for minors, plus I only live 30 minutes away, so it was possible for me to continue living at home and save money on rent.
So, who would you hire?
9. What are/were your favorite and least favorite classes?
Classes relevant to the internship were your favorites.
Here’s how to answer this question:
- Pick classes that will be most useful for the internship.
- Talk about the skills you’ve gained and how they’ll help you reach your career goals.
- For your least favorite classes, avoid being too negative and give a good, professional explanation of why you didn’t like them. Your safest bet is to imply they didn’t meet your expectations.
I really enjoyed the Predictive Analytics for Business class, as it provided me with the tools and knowledge to create actionable, data-driven insights that can easily be applied to improve and grow any business. I got a 3.9 in that class and can see plenty of practical applications for the skills I gained. However, I was a little disappointed with my Statistical Computing with R class, even though I achieved full marks on every assignment. I don’t feel I learned anything new beyond what I’d already known from my own research and practice with R.
I liked the Predictive Analytics class because I got to practice my skills and I learned a lot. I wasn’t so keen on Statistical Computing, though, I found it pretty boring, and I can’t see how it will be useful.
10. What are your plans after graduation?
Did you know that according to studies, 56% of interns secure a full-time job with the company after graduation?
An internship is not just for you to see if it’s the right profession for you:
It’s also a common method companies use to find top talent for permanent opportunities further down the road.
So, in your answer, make sure to highlight that you’re determined to continue on the same career path and actively work towards earning a job in your field of study.
I plan on staying in the San Francisco area and applying for entry-level business analyst positions after my finals. In the meantime, one of my short-term goals is to gain advanced admin and CPQ Salesforce certifications to increase my employability and appeal to companies that use the platform. In the long term, I’d like to work my way up to a management position within business analysis and gain an MBA.
It’s okay if you don’t know this for sure—few people are 100% certain of their plans. However, if you want to give yourself an opportunity to keep working for the company, avoid giving away your doubts:
I want to take the summer off to rest after my finals and to consider my options. At the moment, I think I’d like to continue gaining professional experience in business analysis, but I’m also considering a Master’s degree in data science.
11. Why are you the best candidate for this internship?
Now’s your chance to really sell yourself to the interviewer and secure your internship. But how can you do that if you have no way of knowing how you stack up against the competition?
Here’s how to answer:
- Show your understanding of the role and of the company’s goals.
- Mention a couple of skills or areas of expertise that you can bring to the company.
- Position yourself as a good cultural fit—show that your professional values align with those of the company.
- Describe yourself as someone who’s enthusiastic, passionate, and dedicated
That’s a lot to fit into one answer, isn’t it? Well—good thing you’re practicing ahead of time!
Here’s an example to help you craft your answer:
I’m a proactive fast learner with a solid understanding of research project design and data disaggregation, all of which will come in highly useful in assisting your team with performance management. As someone who values constructive feedback, communication, and trust, I believe I’d be a great fit with the team and with your company culture. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity, and I’d be thrilled to fully apply myself towards making the most of it for the company and for my own professional development.
See? This example incorporates all of the above elements, with just the right amount of confidence.
Conversely, avoid vague statements like this:
I think I meet all of the criteria you mentioned in the job description, and I’m a good team player, so I guess I’d fit in well with the team. I’m eager to learn and to prove myself and I really care about this opportunity.
Telling the interviewer that you care won’t help much: it’s far better to show that you know what you’re in for and you’re determined to succeed.
12. Tell me about a time you had to quickly learn something new.
This one requires little explanation:
An internship is all about learning, and recruiters need to know you’ll be able to handle the pace.
Notice the question starts with “Tell me about a time…”—
This tells us it’s a behavioral question. Behavioral questions focus on how you behaved in specific situations in the past to get an idea of how you’d deal with similar situations in the future.
The best way to answer these types of questions is by using the STAR method: describing the situation, task, action taken, and result achieved.
In my second year, I had to spend some time in the hospital and missed out on a month’s worth of classes. Once I got back, I only had two weeks to catch up on Python fundamentals before the exam. I came up with a study schedule and set daily learning goals for myself. Alongside borrowing notes from several classmates, I arranged to meet with my lecturer to clear up some issues I couldn’t solve by myself, plus I signed up for a quick Python course online. It was difficult, but it paid off—I got a top grade in the end.
A solid answer and proof this person’s a motivated fast learner! You can use the STAR technique to easily answer every behavioral question. It’s equally useful for situational questions: those asking how you’d behave in a hypothetical situation in the future.
Now for a bad example:
One time, I only had two weeks to learn the basics of Python for an exam. I read through my friends’ notes from class and practiced a bit, and I did okay in the exam.
See the difference?
13. Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback on your work.
Are they trying to catch you out on your mistakes?
With this question, the interviewer is just trying to find out how well you deal with feedback and whether you take steps to learn from senior or more experienced professionals.
So, focus the majority of your answer on how you use feedback to grow and improve your skills.
Like in this example:
In my junior year, one of my professors pointed out that my writing was difficult to read and didn’t flow well. Until then, I hadn’t paid attention to sentence length, assuming that academic papers were naturally complicated. I started to work on making my writing clearer, I even took an off-campus class on nonfiction writing. I’m glad I took this advice to heart because I soon noticed that I was getting much better marks on my papers and lots of positive feedback on the quality of my writing. One of my A-grade papers was even used as a case study in a writing workshop in my language class.
See? Only one sentence here deals with the shortcomings of this person’s work. The rest is all about how they make the most out of constructive feedback. Here’s a bad answer for comparison:
One of my professors once told me that my writing was difficult to read and that I used sentences that were too long and complicated. But I was getting good grades anyway, and no other teacher ever commented on my writing being too complex.
Other Common Internship Interview Questions
By now, you should have a good understanding of the types of questions to expect and how to answer them. Here are more internship interview questions you can practice on:
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Tell me about a challenging project or assignment you completed recently. (Hint: behavioral question = STAR method.)
- Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult team member. (Hint: focus on how you achieved a positive outcome despite challenging circumstances.)
- Tell me about a time when you successfully led a team.
- Tell me about the biggest challenge you’ve had to face. (Hint: focus on the steps you took to overcome the challenge.)
- Tell me about a tough decision you’ve had to make.
- Why did you choose your major? (Hint: talk about it in relation to your career goals. You can include a personal story of what sparked your interest in your field of study, but remember to show that there was a thoughtful decision-making process involved. See #8. Why did you choose this university? above for ideas.)
- What motivates you to achieve your goals?
- What do you know about this company? (Hint: give a long, detailed answer based on the research you did before the interview.)
- What's your biggest achievement? (Hint: talk about a time when you had to work hard and overcome obstacles to achieve something—it’ll show you’re determined and goal-oriented.)
- What are your strengths?
- What's your greatest weakness?
- How do you prioritize your tasks?
- What are you passionate about?
- What are the most important elements of successful teamwork? (Hint: communication, respect, trust, and constructive feedback work well for just about any industry.)
- Can you walk me through your resume?
- How do you manage busy schedules? (Hint: prioritizing against deadlines and setting goals are good starting points.)
- What are your hobbies? (Hint: Check out this list of resume-worthy hobbies and interests to get ideas on how to use hobbies to your advantage during an interview.)
Take some time to prepare your answers to these questions, and nothing will surprise you during your interview.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Which internship interview questions did you find most difficult to answer? Perhaps you can offer some advice of your own? Drop us a line in the comments, we’d love to chat!