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Common Internship Interview Questions

Below are some questions and how to answer them. If you want to practice (and yes, you do want to practice!) see the link to Standout to the right ➜

How to Answer Interview Questions About Yourself

In general, you want to be genuine, but show them the BEST version of yourself. The one that is enthusiastic, eager to learn, confident, but still humble.

1. Tell me about yourself.

An “elevator pitch” is a 10- to 30-second summation of your life and accomplishments. For this question, that pitch comes in handy.

Interviewers don’t want to know your entire life story, but they do want to know what makes you who you are. If you’re proud of certain accomplishments, now is the time to highlight them.

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to stay work specific, but don’t be fooled. Unless the job description says the company is searching for a workaholic, you want to let the interviewer know that you have a life outside of work.

You’re a well-rounded individual who can balance work and play. Share your hobbies and interests along with relevant personality traits. Openi­­­ng up in this way allows the interviewer to respond likewise.

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2. What are your strengths?

This sample interview question should be answered as truthfully as possible, utilizing a Problem-Action-Result (PAR) story. This technique requires you to speak of a specific incident in which your trait was utilized. Your story should be under a minute, and hit all three points succinctly.

Here’s an example of a PAR story:

  • Problem: One of my co-workers seemed visibly upset with me one workday.
  • Action: I initiated a sit-down conversation with them and discussed any issues she was having. She disclosed that she was having a difficult time in her personal life, and did not realize it was affecting her work relationships.
  • Result: We now communicate effectively with each other.

These are easy and memorable ways to share important experiences you’ve had, and back up what you’re telling the interviewer about yourself.

Try your best to stay away from cliché answers that the interviewer has likely heard a million times already. Think outside the box to experiences where your unique abilities helped a situation in ways another person’s could not. 

3. What are your weaknesses?

Again: stay away from clichés. Perfectionism or working too hard seem like bogus weaknesses. The interviewer knows you’re human and wants an accurate picture of you which includes actual (but minor) weaknesses. Perhaps you aren’t an expert yet in CAD, but you’re working to improve. Or, you don’t always ask enough questions because you want to look smart, but you are working on asking more questions.

As with our question about strengths, PAR stories can be utilized very effectively when responding to this question.

Be honest about your weaknesses, but come to the interview prepared to talk about how you’re improving yourself. Employers want to see that you’re taking action on those attributes you need to work on.

Remember: Practice makes perfect! Have a repertoire of PAR stories that you’ve rehearsed and can relate with ease. Whenever you have an important or unique experience, take a minute or two to write it down for future sharing. 

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4. How would your boss/friends/co-workers describe you?

This can be a difficult question if you haven’t thought about its answer ahead of time. Ponder on feedback you’ve received recently, both positive and negative.

You want to be honest, and now is a time to show more of your personality: Do people laugh at your jokes? Do they turn to you for advice? Are you the life of the party, or a more laidback observer?

Because you won’t have your boss/friends/co-workers beside you while you answer this question, you do have some leeway, but use caution. If you’re hired, your new employer will want to see the sense of humor you talked about in your interview. Any lie or exaggeration you tell will always come to light.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

If the position you’re interviewing for aligns with your future goals, mention it! Your interviewer is most likely looking for someone with potential for long-term employment.

For any future interns reading this, remember that you broaden your horizons if you leave the company on good terms. Many people return to the company they interned with for their careers after gaining a bit more experience.

Remember: Be realistic about where you see yourself, but be sure to show that you’re ambitious. Unless you have legitimate plans to become President of the World by 30. Best to keep that one to yourself.


How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Experience

These are the questions that bring up past jobs, and can be difficult if you have limited or no work experience. Remember that it’s okay to be new to the workforce, but prepare yourself with an answer to each of these questions before the interview. Examples from other areas (school, volunteer work, etc) are perfectly acceptable.

6. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

There are a couple of points you’ll want to hit when answering this question:

First, set up the situation that you’ll be describing and include the task given to you (e.g., “In my last class, I was assigned the task of managing the schedule for a big project that was due”). After this brief introduction, go into detail about your actions and their results (e.g., “I created a Gantt chart that kept everyone on task and on time”).

This is called the Situation-Task-Action-Result (STAR) method. Along with your PAR stories, be sure to practice a couple of these scenarios before the interview.

These methods will also be helpful when answering this next question:

7. Tell me about a difficult experience you’ve had while at work or in a class, and how you dealt with it.

If you haven’t had any difficult experiences at work, respond as such, but branch out to other areas of your life. For example, if you volunteer and had a challenging experience while doing that, talk about it.

Interviewers want to gauge how you react to difficult circumstances, so make sure you use the STAR method to share an experience of some sort with them. You want to have an answer for almost every question an interviewer throws your way, so think outside the box.

How to Answer Interview Questions About the Company

At this point in an interview, you’re being tested on how well you know the company. Someone more qualified but who didn’t care enough to do some research will not be hired over someone with less experience who did look into the company.

Pro tip: This is one part of the interview where inexperienced applicants can stand apart from the crowd.

8. What do you know about our company?

This question is one where you don’t want to respond with an answer along the lines of, “Um, I don’t know.” The interviewer wants to see that you care about your potential employer.

Most companies that are worth working for don’t want to waste their time with people who are uninterested in the work they do. At the very least, research the company so you understand what you are getting yourself into.

Adding personal touches when answering this question can go a long way: something along the lines of, “I appreciate this company’s mission because…” or “I believe in these aims because…” will make you more memorable. You obviously understand what things are important to the company.

9. Why did you decide to apply for a position with us?

Never say to the person interviewing you that you’re just looking for something to pay the bills. As far as they’re concerned, you could pay the bills by flipping burgers at any fast food restaurant.

Even if your primary motive for applying for the job was to earn a paycheck, focus on other factors that inspired you to choose that job in particular. Include specific attributes of the company you picked up on while researching it, and highlight how you relate to them as a potential employee.

Interns, almost as a rule, don’t have large amounts of experience in the field they’re trying to break into. If nothing else, say that you applied for the position to gain experience in that specific field of work.

Regardless of how you decide to answer this question, prepare to answer the follow-up question as well:

10. Why do you consider this to be a good opportunity?

This question can be mutually beneficial if answered appropriately. Potential employers want to know what you see in them, and they want to know what you’re looking for more specifically.

Answer honestly, and be prepared to smooth out any details you’re unsure of. If you’ve heard that the company is great to their interns and teaches them while they work, mention as much and ask if that information is accurate.  

Return to your weaknesses or strengths. Highlight how the company could help change you and vice versa. One of your strengths may coincide with a new project the company is working on. You won’t know until you talk about it.

  • Show that you’re a problem solver: Tell of a specific difficult instance you’ve had with another person and what you did to resolve the situation. Remember PAR stories and the STAR method.  

11. Who was the worst coworker/classmate you have ever worked with?

When answering this question, be cautious:

The company you’re interviewing with doesn’t want to hire someone who is petty. Make it clear that while you did have problems with the coworker/classmate, you don’t hold a grudge. Even if there was no clear resolution, show that you did what you could for the situation and have learned from it.

12. What is one of the most difficult conflicts you’ve been able to resolve?

A word of caution:

Try to stay clear of personal stories with this question. Giving too many personal details will give the interviewer a sense that you can’t separate your personal and professional life.

Focus on experiences where you showcased leadership skills in professional settings. If you don’t have much work experience, it’s completely acceptable to respond with instances from school or social encounters.

13. How well do you work with other people?

If you love people, this question will be easy for you. But if you’re introverted or shy, an answer to this question may be slightly more difficult.

More likely than not, you’ll be required to work with other people in some sort of team setting. Describe past experiences you’ve had while working as part of a team and how you handled them. If you’re not a natural leader, mention that you enjoy taking on the role of supporter for most situations.

Be sure to make it clear that you’re willing to be either in a given situation, and drive for results regardless of your position in the social hierarchy.  


How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Work Style

Your answers to questions in this category are important because they should show the interviewer how you actually perform on the job. You’ll obviously want to paint yourself in a positive way, but just keep in mind that honesty is always key.

If you respond to these questions in ways you think the interviewer will want to hear, you’ll be doing both yourself and them a disservice.  Remember that there are no wrong answers to these questions, just responses which adhere more closely to what the interviewer is looking for.

14. Do you work better under pressure or with time to plan and organize?

Again, you should be as honest as possible during this question. Both parties should have a realistic view of the other’s expectations. If you hate stress, but the job you’re interviewing for is extremely fast-paced, neither party will be happy in the long run.

15. Describe how you allocate your time and set your priorities in a typical day.

A response about schoolwork is completely relevant in response to this question. It’s safe to say that the person interviewing you has been through some form of higher education, and can understand the stresses of college life.

Describe how you use your time and determine which tasks receive priority. Be sure to show that your method is universal and could be applied to a workplace setting as well.

16. What are you looking for in your ideal position?

Hint: Tailor your answer here to the job or internship you’re interviewing for.

Responding with something that follows the lines of the job description is a good idea. But remember: Interviewers are intelligent people. If they realize you’re directly quoting the job description, then it might lower their opinion of your answer.

17. What is more important—completing a job on time, or doing it right?

This question can vary based on the industry you’re interviewing in. Focus on the priorities within the job. Those that are time sensitive will expect you to complete the job on time over all else, while others understand sacrificing punctuality for quality.

Be sure to mention that you do your best to ensure all your tasks are completed promptly and correctly. This lets the interviewer know that you rarely have to choose between completing a job on time or doing it right.

18. What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you?

There are a multitude of responses to this question, including: decisions involving others, decisions with a large impact, or decisions which involve large sums of money.

It’s acceptable to say that you’re more cautious with any difficult decision, but you want to show the interviewer you’re willing to make difficult decisions (and do so logically). Nobody likes to hold another person’s hand in the workplace, so the person they will hire is someone who they can trust in tough situations.


Bonus Interview Questions

19. How many jelly beans can fit in an 8-inch x 10-inch x 12-inch container?

Questions like this are given to candidates as intentional curve balls. They are the most asked interview questions for STEM related positions. Most of the time, you won’t be expected to give an accurate answer. The interviewer mainly wants to see how you problem solve and think through unique situations.

These are common among jobs that require creative thinking, so be prepared to show your brain power. If you’re blindsided by one of these questions, do your best to stay calm and formulate a best-guess answer instead of just saying, “I don’t know.”

20. If you were an animal, which one would you be?

Questions like this are honestly sometimes because the interviewer is bored and wants a fun response! Or they just want to see a bit of personality. Feel free to provide a light-hearted answer.


Source: adapted from Internship.com

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