Image courtesy of Xtra Inc.
Fifty-nine percent of employers make a full-time job offer to interns following an internship. In other words, an internship can be an extremely important gateway to your long-term career goals, so take them seriously. The next step after sending in your resume and cover letter? Your internship interview.
How to prepare for an internship interview
A lot of internship interviews happen over the phone. Refrain from taking the call in your pajamas while lounging in bed. You should get dressed and sit at a table or desk during the call—you’ll feel much more ready and professional—and this will come across in your answers. Have a notebook by your side with points you want to hit and questions to ask. Print out a copy of your resume and have it handy in case you need to reference a specific experience or project you’ve worked on.
Read more: 14 Tips for Skype Interview Success
If your interview is in person, great, this will be awesome experience for future job interviews—treat it like the real thing.
Here are some resources for nailing your internship interview:
Another way to prepare? Researching the most common internship interview questions. Luckily, we’ve done most of the research for you.
Tips for answering…
1. Tell me about yourself
This open-ended question is usually the first question you’ll be asked in an internship interview. Your interviewer doesn’t want your whole life story here—they’ll fall asleep if you describe summers at grandma’s house when you were in elementary school and how you’re allergic to orange peels. Stick to what’s relevant to the position. Speak to your education, relevant academic projects, previous job or internship highlights, and career goals.
2. What are your strengths?
Be as truthful and straightforward as possible when answering this question. To stay on the safe side, prepare three different strengths that relate to the position. Backup your strengths with evidence—specific stories, metrics, awards, etc. Think outside the box and communicate the strengths that make you a unique candidate.
Instead of saying, I’m really curious, elaborate. Say, I’m very curious, so I carry around a notebook with me everywhere I go. I write down quotes I see, advice I hear, questions and ideas that pop into my head. It boosts my creativity and awareness of what’s going on around me at all times.
Read more: How to Answer: What Are Your Strengths?
3. How would your professors/bosses/friends describe you?
Think about any feedback you’ve received in the past from bosses, coworkers, professors, etc. Did they tell you that you were a good listener? Extremely detail-oriented? Very personable? A fast-learner? Relay that to your interviewer.
As for what your friends would say about you, you don’t have to be too honest. For example, if your friends would describe you as loud and the life of the party, those might not be the best adjectives to use in an interview. Frame it differently—you’re confident, willing to voice your opinion, outgoing, friendly, etc.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Your interviewer wants to understand how the internship fits into your career plans, and whether they might be able to hold onto you in the future. This is your chance to show off your ambition and passion, even if you don’t know exactly where you want to go in your career. You don’t have to draw a specific path to a specific position, but you should emphasize what excites you about this internship and how it’ll help you launch your career.
5. How do you deal with stressful situations?
With this question, your interviewer just wants to gauge how you’ll react under pressure at work. In other words, they want to ensure that the natural pressures of a job, like multitasking and juggling various projects with the same deadline, won’t send you screaming and running for the hills. If you don’t have a ton of previous experience in internships or jobs, talk about a stressful class you conquered or a project that required you to take a ton of initiative to complete. Use the STAR method and share a specific anecdote of how you stayed cool as a cucumber under stress.
6. Why are you interested in this position?
Be honest, but not too honest. Don’t tell your interviewer you just want another bullet on your resume or just need a gig while you look for the job. If you’re lost on what to say, you can tell them you’re interested in gaining more experience in [X industry or field] or want to become proficient in [X skill].
This is also the time to show off all of that research you did on the company. Bring up a recent project they worked on that you admired or an award they won last year that drew you to working with them.
7. Tell me about a time you failed
Everyone makes mistakes, and your interviewer wants to see how you deal with making them. Tell a story, and emphasize that you’re always eager to learn, grow, and improve. For example, you could talk about a time you slacked on a class project, it affected your grade, and you learned to take more initiative next time and step up as a group leader.
8. What’s a recent accomplishment you’re proud of?
Now is your time to brag a little bit. It doesn’t even have to be work or internship related—maybe you just completed your first marathon or came back from a two week mission trip in South America. Whatever it is, show that you’re a go-getter, passionate, and committed.
9. What is your greatest weakness?
Do. Not. Say. You. Are. A. Perfectionist.
You don’t always have to construe a strength into a weakness. Think about what you actually struggle with. Do you fear public speaking? Are you working on your time-management skills? Do you struggle with sharing responsibility? Elaborate on your weakness and (most importantly) talk about the steps you’re taking to improve.
10. Do you have any questions for me?
Yes. The answer is always yes.
Here are some good questions to ask your interviewer:
What’s your favorite part about working here?
What are the most valuable skills for this position?
What’s the typical work week like?
Can you describe the first project I’d be working on?
How do you measure success in this internship?
Are there opportunities to grow within the company following the internship?