14 October 2019

Common Internship Interview Questions

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If you’re worried about interviewing, don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Preparation is everything, and we’re here to help you do just that…

…This is your guide to the most common internship interview questions. 

Internship interviews are very similar to interviews for normal jobs. There are no hidden laser-tag rounds or cake-related challenges like The Apprentice. 

And although that is admittedly sad, doing an internship will increase your chances of getting a graduate job after university. Across all the companies that feature in RateMyPlacement’s Best Student Employers, 46% of their placement students were offered graduate jobs. This could be you!

This is why it’s so, so important that you’re prepared for an interview for an internship. So read on and on to discover what questions you might be asked, how to answer them, and some tips and tricks for phone interviews.

In a rush? Click below to skip sections…



Do internships have interviews?

Yes. They do. Most jobs you apply for will include some form of an interview during the selection process. 

Internship interviews are not that dissimilar from interviews for placements and graduate jobs. You’ll speak with a single interviewer or a panel, and they’ll ask you questions to gauge whether or not you have the skills, the personality and the aspiration to do the job. 

More and more employers are now using strength-based interviews. This type of assessment is based on what you’re good at (your strengths), rather than your previous experience. Read Preparing for Strength-Based Interviews for more info. 


Common internship interview questions

Of course, you could encounter a particularly weird interviewer, who asks particularly weird questions…

‘Tell me Jason, would you rather be pursued by an angry deer, or a horde of hungry caterpillars?’ 

Or something like ‘If you were a root vegetable, what sort of turnip would you be?’

We can’t prepare you for that, (although if they ask you the turnip question, your answer should be the purple top), but we can run you through some of the most common questions and explore how you can answer them…


Internship-focused interview questions

Expect loads of questions about the actual internship itself, it’s the reason why you’re there – so you’ll need to make sure you know why you’re applying, as well as everything about the job you’ve applied for. 

Here are some examples…

Why are you applying for this internship?

Employers want to see how motivated you are for the internship in question. 

Let them know what you’re looking to get out of it in terms of building on your career and skills. Explore how it could influence your graduate career choices, but steer away from mentioning pay or other job perks.

Instead, you should talk a little bit about the company. We explore this in the next section.

What do you consider to be the top skills for this internship position?

This is where all the pre-interview role research is going to come in handy. Here is your chance to show an employer that you know about the role you’re interviewing for. Don’t forget to use examples. So, if it emphasises the importance of teamwork, for example, expand upon this and illustrate the impact you think that it could have on the company.


placement interview questions

Company-focused interview questions

Internship interview questions that focus on the company are some of the most important you’ll be asked.

Why do you want to work for this company?

This is another example of where your research will come in handy. It’s crucial to do some company research pre-interview. Even before applying for the role!

You can look into…

  • The company’s origins
  • Company values and vision
  • Background of founders or senior members of the team you’re hoping to join
  • Has the company been in the news recently?

Visit their company website, insta-stalk them and keep an eye out for any news stories in which they’re mentioned. 

If you’re interviewing at a small to medium-sized company, they might ask… Why do you want to work for a small company?

Read Why You Should Get Work Experience with an SME for some insight into how you could answer the question above.


Want to know what it’s actually like to work for a particular company? There are thousands of student-written work experience reviews that tell you everything you need to know. It’s the perfect place to start your company research.


Why do you want to work in this industry?

When answering this question, relate the experience you think you’d get from that specific company to the wider industry and the reasons why you want to be a part of it. 

Describe what first interested you in the industry. Maybe you have wanted to be an engineer ever since you were given your first toy car, or perhaps you attended a particularly interesting course about marketing. Give specific examples.


Skills-based interview questions

When talking about your own skills or experience, be sure to focus on being honest first and foremost. 

It’s tempting to exaggerate and make things up during the interview process. After all, a job (or in this case an internship) is on the line, and as a student, you might not have as much previous experience to talk about…but this isn’t a good approach. 

Most interviewers have been around the block a few times, that’s to say, they’ve interviewed a lot of students. They can sniff out bull***t like a truffle pig.

Be truthful about your strengths as well as your weaknesses, what you know and what you don’t. You won’t come across as a weak candidate – instead, you’ll be authentic and self-aware. 

Below are some of the main questions you’ll be asked about yourself…


Give an example of a situation where you dealt with conflict/a challenge

Interviewers are looking to check if you’re adaptable and able to cope with whatever comes your way. 

This doesn’t mean that they’re going to be constantly putting you under pressure or throwing knives at you during the internship (hopefully), but they want to see that you’re a problem solver. 

Focus on a specific example in which you took the initiative to resolve a situation.


What’s the best team you’ve been a part of?

Questions related to teams are some of the most common internship interview questions; while they can come in different shapes and sizes, there are a few main things to focus on.

Be sure to talk about how you work alongside others, describing what you’ve learned from past experiences. Try to show how you’re a good fit for that particular team/organisation.


What are your biggest strengths/ weaknesses?

Answering a question about your strengths is relatively easy… Just remember to relate them to the role in question and to give specific examples.

The weaknesses question can seem like a bit of a trick, but we promise it isn’t. 

Choose a weakness that would not limit you within the role and explore how you’re working to correct it. 

All the interviewer is really looking for is self-awareness and self-improvement.


STAR interview technique

Have you heard of the STAR interview technique? STAR is an acronym. It stands for…

Situation

Task

Action

Results

It’s the best method for responding to competency-based questions, such as ‘Describe a situation in which you took a leadership role’.

The STAR technique helps you shape well-articulated answers based on your previous experience. 

Read our Guide to the STAR Interview Technique to find out how you can put it into practice.


What should I bring to an internship interview? 

Notepad and pen

In case you need to jot something down during the interview. It’s also good for doodling or playing noughts and crosses if you have some time to kill (pre-interview).

CV and application form

The employer will probably print off both your CV and application form, but it’s good to bring them just in case.

Photo ID

Bring your passport or driving licence. The company will need proof that you have the right to work in the UK. Don’t worry if your photo is embarrassing, everybody’s passport photo is embarrassing

Examples of your work  

Bring some examples of your work if you have worked on an exciting project at university or have a side hustle that is related to the internship.

Recyclable bottle of water

Stay hydrated and save the planet at the same time. If you are a rebel, you might consider a fruit juice of the pineapple variety.   

internship interview questions

How do I prepare for a phone interview for an internship?

Phone interviews are used by employers to reduce a large group of potential candidates into a shortlist. 

For this reason, phone and video interviews usually take place before you meet the employer face-to-face.

How to prepare

1. The employer will arrange a time, just make sure you’re free. Politely ask to rearrange if it clashes with something important.

2. It might sound a bit obvious, but don’t eat or chew gum during the interview. Even fruit pastilles. It’s distracting and worst-case scenario, you could get no purple pastilles (the good ones).

3. Find somewhere quiet for the phone interview. Home is best, but a calm cafe will do.

4. Check your phone is fully charged before they call you.

5. If you have a rubbish signal or the call cuts out, don’t panic! Play it cool and treat it as a test of your adaptability.  

6. And don’t be scared to ask the interviewer to repeat a question. If you can’t hear or miss something, just ask! 

7. You can refer to your notes/research, but be mindful that the interviewer will hear if you’re rustling papers or reciting pre-prepared answers.

These tips are also relevant for video interviews. Hurrah!