Interviewing (n.) — a process that makes even highly confident people extremely nervous and scatter-brained. But also, a crucial step in landing any type of internship, and later — a job you love.
So the sooner you get comfortable with doing interviews, the fewer ones you’d have to attend. This jumbo-sized guide goes through the most common internship interview questions (with answers), plus delivers some extra prep-tips!
What Questions Do They Ask in an Internship Interview?
Typically, interviewers during internship ask three groups of questions:
- General ice-breakers, aimed at learning about your background and overall personality.
- Behavioral interview questions that assess your character traits, level of maturity, and soft skills.
- Role-specific questions, designed to determine your hard skills and theoretical knowledge of the industry.
In this guide, we offer a walkthrough of how to answer internship interview questions in all three of these categories. Plus share several sample internship interview questions from a very popular company. 😉
Common Internship Interview Questions
These will come up at every other internship interview with companies across industries.
1. Why do you want this internship?
This is a baseline ice-breaker question employers ask to assess your motivation, interest in the industry, and background knowledge of the company. In most cases, they want to hear a mix of a personal story, plus some reference to the company’s core activities, values, or history.
A sample answer may go like this:
“I’m interested in interning with the HR department of Acme Inc because I’d love to learn more about successful diversity and inclusion practices implementation. I read that Acme managed to improve POC representation at the leadership levels by 15% over the past two years. As a person of color myself, I would also love to keep contributing to this positive trend and see more diverse people in this industry.”
2. What are you interested in gaining from this internship?
Another rather standard interview question posed to determine whether your career vision and aspirations align with what the company is ready to offer. After all, many employers hire interns with the hope of recruiting them back post-graduation for entry-level positions.
Thus, your goal here is to not just explain your present motivation, but also foreshadow how you might use the obtained experiences in the future.
“Accounting is an ever-evolving industry. While my university coursework provides me with a solid theoretical base, I’m also interested in learning about the emerging frameworks top organizations like yours are practicing. In particular, I’d love to learn more about the reporting based on Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) your company does. So that in the future, I could also advise the accounting clients better on sustainability issues”.
3. What are your strengths as a candidate?
The strengths and weaknesses interview question will probably hunt you for the length of your career. So the sooner you’d put your act together — the less stressful all interviews will be.
Remember your goal here is to be:
- Somewhat original
“My two core strengths as an intern are:
- Mental resilience — I’m the youngest of three siblings, so I know how to stand my ground and tactically negotiate.
- High digital literacy — while I do spend an obnoxious amount of time on my phone, I can also do advanced Google research and create no-code automations for repetitive tasks with Zapier and Integromat.”
4. Can you provide a complete walkthrough of a project you’ve worked on?
The goal of this question is to provide the interviewer with a preview of your work style and ethics. Specifically, they’d like to understand how you approach problem-solving, what personal organization systems you use, and how you manage tasks.
In your answer, it’s okay to highlight either an educational, personal, or professional project (if you have one yet).
“Last year, I was on the annual charity school marathon organizing committee. As a volunteer assistant, I was tasked to confirm the list of participants, create a list of sponsors, and print out all the marketing collateral. To prevent any detail from falling through the cracks, I created three separate Excel tables — for participants, sponsors, and marketing tasks. First, I collected all the confirmed sponsor details such as name, address, type of sponsorship, required collateral. Then I created a list of unconfirmed sponsors and asked the faculty staff to send out an email to people on the list with a reminder that the deadline for applications is March, 15th. Finally, for all the confirmed sponsors I have created a list of marketing collateral and freebies they are providing, added specific instructions, and assigned executioners. I then communicated to other students their responsibilities for putting up banners, laying out goodie bags, and handing out leaflets. On the marathon day, I sat at the check-in counter and input details of every participant, assigned them a number, and handed out the goodies bag. The event went great and everyone had a jolly time!”.
5. Can you share one accomplishment you are most proud of?
Your resume for an internship will communicate most of your personal and professional accomplishments. Don’t go into reciting those. Instead, pick just one and provide extra context around it.
“I’m very proud to have volunteered at the NFC Soup Kitchen last year. It might not have been the most professionally astounding experience, but once again it reinforced my idea about the importance of giving back and prompted me towards pursuing an internship in your NGO.”
6. What do you plan to do after you graduate?
By asking this question, the employer attempts to understand if you’d likely stay in the same industry (and thus become a good prospect for hiring) or still not quite sure of your ultimate career path.
Also, this question is a bit of a reality check for you as a candidate. To weed out people who may something unrealistic. Say that you want to get hired for a six-figure salary straight of the bat.
The best strategy is to keep your answer neutral, especially if you are still several years from graduating.
“Since I’m in my sophomore year, I’m still not fully sure how I’d plan to apply my degree in social work as there are different career paths out there. What I am certain of, however, is that I’d like to remain focused on working with minority groups.”
7. What type of leadership qualities do you have?
Gone are the times when companies wanted meek, docile interns. Most employers today seek independent, ambitious, and driven candidates with at least somewhat prominent leadership skills.
To make sure your answer differs from that of other potential interns, focus on highlighting one quality and providing an example of it.
“I’m a good negotiator. How so? Because it’s impossible not to become one when you are growing up with three older, hockey-playing brothers, who also tend to over-protect you. I early learned that if I wanted to get things done my way e.g. get everyone to watch a musical instead of a hockey match, I had to progressively obtain a buy-in from all stakeholders (mom, dad, and at least one of my siblings). Then we’d have the majority vote, which I gently pushed to make the main decision-making model in the household, and get the business done.”
8. Can you name any major trend in our industry?
In this case, the employer wants to understand your level of interest and knowledge in the industry. After all, most expect interns to have at least some ideas of the general business happenings and realistic expectations around the work done. So always do some background research!
“I’d say progressive transition to electric vehicles and then CASE (connected, autonomous, shared eclectic) vehicles. I know that this is still a 10-to-20 year perspective, but the infrastructure, or at least plans, for such vehicles needs to be put down today by city planners.”
Google Internship Interview Questions
As reported by other interviewees on Glassdoor.
9. What makes you best for this job?
This is your prime opportunity to shamelessly tout your own horn. Bring up some of the unique personal qualities and professional experience that other candidates may not have.
“Though I’m training as a UX designer, I also did some part-time summer work at a call center for another tech company. And this experience has opened my eyes to the fact of the importance of user-centric design. A lot of people were dialing in with basic questions about the software tool, which could have been addressed with better UX copy, navigation, or page forms. I’m a strong listener and get obsessive with user research. Given Google’s focus on product-centricity, I believe I could make a good add-on to your team.”
8. Can you describe a time when you had to work with a difficult teammate?
Google tends to hire large batches of interns for different specializations and allocates a lot of time to teamwork and team projects. So it’s understandable that their HRs want to know if you have good interpersonal skills.
“During a recent lab project, I was teamed up with another student who’s known to be pretty opinionated and not always in a good way. During the experiment, they often make rash judgments and felt wounded when I gently disagreed and proposed the alternatives. To prevent a potential conflict, I asked them to step out of the lab with me for a cup of tea and I explained to them that I very much respect their knowledge and ideas, and in no way want to undercut them. But I also highlighted that even the tiniest mishap in the algorithm will botch all our results. Thus, I proposed to take a day to triple-verifying the datasets together and then launching into algorithm training. My partner understood and accepted my position and we moved on to more productive work”
9. How do you react when people do not like your research?
This is a standard example of a behavioral interview question, aimed at assessing the candidate’s level of emotional maturity. No one wants to work with someone whose ego can be too easily bruised.
A good answer to such a question could be:
“Well, that happens. I take no personal offense. Just try to understand what rubbed them the wrong way and collect some constructive criticism to address later on.”
10. Can you tell me about one project off your resume?
This question is your prompt to share a personal or hobby project that didn’t fit into your one-page resume. Be strategic and bring up something related to the position, plus showcasing some of your marketable skills.
Here’s a sample answer for a computer vision intern:
“Last year, I 3D-printed a toy car. Then connected it to a small camera and Raspberry PI computer and tried to codify it for autonomous driving. I draw a track with black borders and wrote a deep learning algorithm that would prompt the car to detect and recognize those borders and drive within the range. I have a video on my phone that I could show you.”
Wrap up: How Do You Prepare for an Internship Interview?
Ideally, you should plan to have at least three days for interview prep.
- Day 1: Do some background research on the company. Pay attention to recent corporate announcements, mission statements, and overall background. Then check if they have any specific resources for interns. Many larger employers publish interviewing/prep guides or “what to expect” type of resources on their website. Dig those out and study ‘em hard.
- Day 2: Focus on practicing your interview questions and answers. Create a shortlist of talking points for those you anticipate and practice speaking them out. Remember: your goal isn’t to sound robotic and rehearsed, but rather fill your brain box with compelling talking points you can bring up during the interview.
- Day 3: Preparee for any possible tests or hard-skills-oriented questions if that’s what the company likes giving out to interns.
FAQs about internship interviews
Below are answers to common questions about internships.
How do you stand out in an internship interview?
Bring some curious personal fact — something that is quintessentially YOU and perfectly sums up who you are as a person and what interests you professionally. For example, you can briefly share about a hobby that led you to pursue this career path; tell a short personal anecdote about your personal background; or share some quick tidbits about your personal values and beliefs, driving you towards a certain aspiration.
How to answer the interview questions about a past internship?
Always answer such questions honestly, even if your last internship didn’t go great. Remember, it doesn’t take much time for an employer to inquire into your background. So trying to conceal matters will make you look shady. Instead, just acknowledge that your past experience was good or OK, you’ve learned certain things and wished that X, Y, Z could have gone better.
Is it OK to bring notes to the interview?
Yes, you can have a notebook with you in the room during an interview. But casting long looks into your notepad after every other question won’t make look great. Overall, using notes during an interview is acceptable when — a) you are doing some interview test/assignment b) you are looking up some of the questions you’d wanted to ask the interviewer.
What questions I should ask the interviewer?
As a prospective intern, here are some good questions to ask the interviewer before leaving the room:
- Can you please describe your onboarding process for interns?
- What qualities do you think made other interns successful?
- What type of resources would I have access to during the internship?
- Do you offer interns any follow-up opportunities e.g. part-time or full-time work?
- Did I answer all your questions? Is there anything else you’d like to know?
How do I get my first internship with no experience?
Be persistent and don’t be afraid to approach different employers, including those without a formal internship program in place. Show that you are enthusiastic and eager to learn in your application documents and explain what type of value you could generate for the business if they hire you. For example, save time during the busy season; assist with an upcoming project; etc.