9 July, 2018
By Mike Simpson
Everyone knows that the best way to get the job of your dreams is to have as much experience as possible in related fields and have a resume that highlights and showcases that experience.
Of course, this is easy if you’ve been working in your chosen field for years, but what about people with little to no experience…people like students and recent college graduates? How do you make the leap from no experience to the right kind of experience?
An easy way to kickstart the process towards the job of your dreams is to begin with an internship.
But what exactly is an internship?
What Is An Internship?
By definition, an internship is an opportunity for a student or trainee to gain valuable career experience by working within an organization, either for pay or for educational credit…but they’re so much more than just that!
Internships are an excellent way for you to gain real word experience, network with potential future coworkers and managers, and are an excellent way for you to build your resume and ultimately help lay the groundwork you’ll need to build the future of your own career.
On top of that, many hiring managers use internships as a great way to gauge employment potential. This means you want to make sure that you are ready to nail that internship interview process, score that invaluable experience, and lay the foundation for your chosen career!
Unfortunately, not all internships are legitimate, which is why, before we go much further, we’d like to remind you that you should do just as much research into a potential internship as you would into any job. Internships are meant to be first and foremost an educational experience, which means you should be actively engaged in tasks that are targeted towards helping you gain the experience you need in order to obtain a paying job in the near future.
Some internships have come under fire recently as a way for unscrupulous employers to maintain a staff of unpaid employees, which is why you should also make sure there is some sort of legal compensation for your work, be it either a fair wage or an exchange for school credit.
Doing your due diligence before you agree to an internship and making sure whoever you do your internship for is following all the specific conditions is just as important as making sure you’re properly prepared for your interview.
Now that those warnings are out of the way, let’s move forward with how you would prepare for a legitimate internship interview starting with five tried and true tips for answering internship interview questions.
Top 5 Internship Interview Question Tips
Here are our top 5 tips for preparing for an internship interview and how to answer internship interview questions:
1. STUDY GUIDE
As a student (or a recent student) this should be the easiest part of the whole process. Pretend your internship interview is a test (which, let’s be honest, it pretty much is.)
The best way to hit a home run with a test is to study ahead of time and the same holds true for an interview. That means making sure you have a proper resume prepared that highlights your related skills and education, as well as your accomplishments.
You also want to make sure you have done your research into the company, not only to verify that the internship being offered is legitimate, but also to make sure that the company and the opportunity align with your long-term goals.
2. S.T.A.R. STUDENT
Speaking of your education and accomplishments, make sure you are prepared to talk about them and have stories ready that will help illustrate your strengths as a potential intern.
Really read the requirements for the internship carefully and then go through your own personal experiences, education and skills and find examples that you can use from your own past that illustrate how you can fill those requirements. Highlight these both in your resume and the interview itself.
Don’t worry if you don’t have actual work experience to draw from when you highlight your answers with related stories. A hiring manager is going to know your actual work experience is going to be minimal. What you want to make sure you’re focusing on is any experience that is related to the skills and knowledge they’re asking about and making sure you are highlighting it all in the most positive way you can.
We have a great blog (or two) that cover the S.T.A.R. method in depth along with practice questions and answers and we strongly suggest you check it out before the big day!
3. HEAD OF THE CLASS
Make sure you’re ready to make a solid first impression by having business appropriate interview clothes ready to go, showing up early to your interview, and by being an enthusiastic participant in the interview process.
It takes just 60-seconds for a hiring manager to decide whether or not they’re interested in getting to know you further and showing up looking professional and serious with a firm handshake and a genuine smile is a great way to start a successful internship interview.
If you have question about what to wear to a job interview, check out our blog article on the topic here.
4. THE 3 R’S
(No, not the typical ‘reading, riting’ and ‘rithmitic’ r’s. We’re talking about rehearse, relax, and rhythm:)
- Rehearse: This is perhaps the most important part of the 3 R’s for internship interviews! The best way to burn through interview nerves is to practice before the actual big day. We’re including a list of 5 practice questions you might encounter in an internship interview in this blog. Have a friend or a career guidance counselor at your school help you with a mock interview (or two) before the big day. A little rehearsal ahead of time can make a big difference when it comes to the real thing.
- Relax: Make sure you’re paying attention during the interview. We get it, interviews can be nerve wracking and sometimes stress can make it hard to listen to those around us, even with rehearsal and mock interviews ahead of time! Do your best to wrangle those nerves and take the time to really hear what the interviewer is saying… You’ll get things during the interview like their names, informational tidbits they might pass along during casual conversation that could help you really target your answers, and most importantly, you want to make sure you’re really listening and paying attention to the interview questions they’re asking you so you can ensure you’re properly answering them.
- Rhythm: When we say rhythm we’re not talking about music or dancing, but about the natural rhythm of conversation. Make sure when you’re giving your answers to the interview questions that you’re speaking clearly and calmly. Pausing between when the question is asked and starting your answer is ok, especially if it means you’re really thinking about the answer. An interviewer is going to be more impressed with an intern who takes a minute to gives a thoughtful answer than an intern who fires off a barrage of information before they’ve even had a chance to finish the question entirely.
5. TEACHER’S PET
Last impressions are just as important as first impressions. Remember as you’re wrapping up your interview to close it out on a strong note. This means making sure you’re asking your own questions (don’t worry, we’ll get to those in a bit).
You also want to thank the interviewer for their time and for the opportunity. Don’t forget to send a personal thank you note to your interviewer within a day or two of your interview summarizing key points you discussed as well as any follow up information you might not have passed on during your interview. Finally, tell them once again just how much you appreciated their time.
Now let’s focus on the potential questions you might be asked in an internship interview. Be prepared for a wide range of types of questions, ranging from behavioral to traditional and even some situational questions. We highlight each of these different types of questions in our blog and strongly suggest you review each one to get a feel for how best to answer them.
For the sake of this blog, however, we’ll be looking at five internship specific questions you may be asked. We’ll also give you example answers you can use to help guide your own answers.
5 Common Internship Interview Questions (And Answers)
Here are five internship interview questions that you might face along with a great example answer for each question:
1. Why are you applying for this internship?
Hopefully this is a question you’ve asked yourself long before you started the actual internship application process and before you ever agreed to an internship interview.
An internship is an amazing opportunity to get hands on experience in your chosen field, network with peers, meet people who might be invaluable mentors and guides and ultimately might lead to a permanent paying position. Of course, if the internship has absolutely zero to do with your ultimate goals in life, then you’re not just wasting your time, you’re potentially taking this opportunity away from someone who really wants/needs it. Make sure you’re choosing internships that align with your long-term goals.
2. What do you hope to get out of this internship?
Yes, we all know that a job is the ultimate goal, but that’s not the answer the interviewer is looking for. Focus on the other aspects of an internship and make sure your answers are honest. Too much BS is just going to come off as ingenuous.
3. What are your long-term goals?
Again, this is a question you should ask yourself before your interviewer asks you! Interviewers who ask this question want to know that you’re there for the right reasons. An easy way to tackle this question is by breaking it into two parts; short term goals and long-term goals. Start with the short-term first and then work towards the long-term.
4. Why should we consider you for this internship?
For an unprepared intern candidate, this can be a heartbreakingly hard question to answer because the first thing you’ll be inclined to say is “because I really want this internship!” Unfortunately for a hiring manager, that’s not a good enough answer…which is why you need to prepare for it ahead of time. Make sure your answers are targeted directly to the internship you’re applying to and include concrete examples of your skills and experiences and how they relate to the internship overall!
5. Why are manhole covers round and not square or some other shape?
Be prepared for absolutely off the wall questions like this! It’s become common practice in the past few years for interviewers to ask potential interns questions that might seem a bit…odd…for the job.
This isn’t because they actually want to know why manhole covers are round (it’s because round covers can’t fall through circular openings, don’t need to be rotated to align when replacing, and can easily be moved and rolled in case you were wondering), how many jelly beans it would take to fill up a 5 gallon bucket (if V = (pi)(r^2)(L) ~ (3.14159)((1.5/2)^2)(2.5) ~ 4.4179 cm^3 each jellybean and 5gal(3785cm^3/gal) = 18,925cm^3, then divide 18,925cm^3/4.4179cm^3 = 4283.7 and take into account packing and distribution with 0.80(4283.7) = 3246.9, round up to the nearest whole number and it’s approximately 3247 jellybeans, thanks Yahoo Answers!) , or what the meaning of life is, they want to see how you react to a question there’s absolutely no real way to prepare for.
They want to see how you recover when you’re thrown off your game and how well you think on your feet. For questions like these, the best answer isn’t “I don’t know.” Go ahead, really honestly think about what the answer might be! An interviewer is going to have far more respect for someone who takes time to really think about what the answer could be then someone who just immediately gives up.
5 Questions To Ask The Interviewer
Now that you’ve answered all their questions, it’s time to ask your own. DON’T FREAK OUT! It’s absolutely appropriate for you to ask your own questions, and in may ways, it’s strongly encouraged.
An intern who asks questions is an intern who truly cares about the position and is one who is more likely to get hired than one who says “No” and goes home. Asking questions is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the internship and the company overall.
To help get you started, here are 5 example questions you can ask your hiring manager.
1. If hired for this internship, what would my duties and responsibilities be?
This is a critical question!
Remember, an internship is all about gaining valuable hands on experience for a future career, and you want to make sure that’s what you’ll be getting. If your ultimate goal in life is to become a high powered attorney and the intern experience you’re applying for ends up being nothing more than fetching dry cleaning and picking up mail, then it might not be the right fit for you.
Go into your internship with open eyes.
2. What are your expectations for me in this internship in relation to my school and homework requirements?
Remember, if you’re a student first and an intern second…any internship that requires you to sacrifice school time is one you should be cautious about! A good educational internship is one that will give you the experience you need without asking you to compromise time you should be spending in class.
3. How exactly will my performance here evaluated?
Asking for feedback on your performance shows the hiring manager that you’re truly interested in the educational aspect of the internship. Hiring managers want interns who are interested in long term professional growth and who are open minded about fixing weaknesses. It’s also a good idea to ask about what skills and tasks you’ll be evaluated on as well as who specifically will be doing your evaluations.
4. Who will I be working with if I’m selected for this internship?
A huge part of any good internship is the ability to connect with peers and mentors in your chosen field. An internship that partners you with departments outside your chosen field might be just looking for free labor.
5. How often do you hire former interns?
Finding out as early as possible what your future employment odds isn’t a bad idea, but it also shouldn’t be a deal breaker if the answer is never. If the company does hire former interns, it’s not a bad idea to see if you can connect with them and hear what they have to say about their experiences. If the company has a policy of not hiring former interns, take a good hard look at the internship itself. If it’s one that will give you valuable experience you can leverage in the future towards a job, then it might still be worth it.
Putting It All Together
Just remember, no matter what, an internship today is a stepping stone to a career down the road. Treat each internship opportunity like a potential job and prepare as much as you can ahead of time so you can shine during your interview. Remember to highlight your experiences and your skills, focus on your accomplishments, your abilities and the value you bring to the internship, be calm, be collected, be yourself…and as always…
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