How to Answer the Most Common Internship Interview Questions

Two young women in a meeting

Interviews are never easy – especially for those looking to gain some work experience in the form of an internship and take their first steps in their chosen career.

With so much at stake, it’s essential that you fully prepare for what’s ahead, even if you’ve never been in a similar situation before. And although questions can vary based on your chosen company and field, you’ll usually be asked a series of common questions to see if you’re a right fit.

To make sure you stand out from the crowd, we’ve listed the top interview questions below, along with sample answers, to help you prepare for – and ace – your internship interview.

1. Tell Me About Yourself?

If you don’t have an elevator pitch prepared, it’s time to get started! When you’re asked this question, do remember that employers don’t want to know your entire life story; instead, they want a summary of your skills and accomplishments in 60 seconds or less. When done right, this effectively helps them get to know you a little better.

Sample Answer: I’m an enthusiastic fashion student with a passion for creating unique haute couture garments. Although I don’t have much experience, I completed my dissertation by creating a high-end range from eco-friendly materials and had the opportunity to put my design skills to the test. I’m a huge fan of your company and would be really eager to see how a big fashion house like yours works.

2. Why Did You Choose to Study this Subject?

This question opens up the pathway to discuss your interests in the business and to convince the employer you’re passionate about the industry. You ideally want to discuss your background and what led you to your subject choice, as well as any deciding factors.

Sample Answer: Ever since I was a little and spent hours on end reading, I dreamt of writing my own book one day. Although I know what type of narratives I want to write, I didn’t know where to begin and felt like I needed professional training, which is why I enrolled as a creative writing major. What my course has provided me with are the skills to create different types of writing, from political speeches to poems and 500-page books.

3. What Do You Expect to Gain from this Internship?

Although this may seem like an easy question, it’s actually a lot more complicated than you think. Interviewers ask this question to simply determine what your expectations are – if your answer suggests that you expect more than what is offered, you’ll be unlikely to secure a position as an intern.

Sample Answer: During the internship, I’d expect to learn the day-to-day duties and how to carry them out effectively. I’d also like to learn how to plan and execute the necessary tactics to achieve the goals that I was set. By doing so, I can get real-life experience on what it takes to succeed in the specific industry.

4. What Extracurricular Activities Are You Involved In?

This question will give the hiring manager insight into who you are as a person, your characteristics and your personal interests. They will also be able to determine if you’re a good fit for the team – even if the internship is just for a couple of weeks – and whether you learned any relevant skills that the employer can benefit from.

Sample Answer: Throughout my four years at college, I was a member of the cheerleading squad. This helped me develop my teamwork skills as we had to rely on each other to ensure our performance was up to par. If one of us did our own thing, we would have ruined it for the rest of the team. It also taught me to be compassionate towards others and form great communication skills when dealing with different scenarios and personality types.

5. Why Did You Choose this Company to Intern At?

Employers frequently ask candidates why they selected their company as they want to find out what your motives are and what you plan to learn from the company. Essentially, they want to find out why you’re interested in the company and the position that you applied for. Let’s say you applied for an internship with Vogue magazine – you’ll need to explain why chose Vogue and not Elle or Harper’s Bazaar Instead.

Sample Answer: I have great respect for your company and the product that it produces, and I would be honoured if I got a glimpse of how it operates as an organisation and what a similar job would have in store if I decided to follow this career path after my studies.

6. What Are Your Future Goals?

Interviewers usually pose this question because they want to get some insight into your career development plans. No matter what your answer is, they want to see that you’re continuing to develop and expand on your professional skills within the field. If they see that you’re not dedicated enough, they will choose to give the opportunity to someone else who is willing and eager to learn.

Sample Answer: Although I am currently a student, my long-term goal is to qualify as a registered nurse and work within a care environment sector, either privately or in a hospital. This will then give me the experience that’s necessary to excel in an RN programme.

7. Tell Me about a Time Where You Overcame an Obstacle?

Although you might initially think that this question is bizarre, its purpose is to identify what type of problem-solver you are and to see if you have the initiative to think on your feet and find quick solutions to pressing problems.

Sample Answer:  As I was about to submit my assignment at university (12 hours before the deadline), my laptop crashed, and I was faced with a black screen. I lost all the hard work I’d done as I had not thought of backing it up on to hard drive or a cloud system. Instead of panicking, I made my way to the campus library and spent the last 12 hours I had compiling a brand new 5,000-word report – submitting just a few minutes before the deadline was over.

8. How Do You Prioritise Your Work?

As you’ll be doing real work during your internship, the employer will want to see how you can juggle tasks and handle a busy schedule. They may also want to see if you’ll be a hindrance rather than help, as it will take their staff double the time needed to explain the ins and outs of the role. They’ll also want to figure out if they can trust you and let you get on with your duties.

Sample Answer:  The best way I prioritise my work is by making lists. I then look at what’s the most urgent and work my way through the tasks based on my personal numbering system. This allows me to stay on track and feel satisfied as I complete tasks and tick them off throughout the day.

9. What Difficulties Have You Experienced Working within a Group?

Most managers want to know if you’re a good team player before they commit to working with you for a specific period of time, which is why they pose this question. They want to see if you’re a leader or a troublemaker, and they can identify common tendencies through your answer.

Sample Answer: During a group assignment for my magazine course, we were tasked with writing and designing our own magazine from scratch. However, two team members got into a small squabble as they both wanted to write the same pieces. To defuse the situation and get back on track, I suggested that they take different sections and share the byline. And just like that, we were able to proceed with the overall task.

10. What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

The point of this question is to understand what your competencies are and how you can improve on any struggles. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to talk about a weakness, as long as you provide the hiring manager with a solution on how you’ve tried to overcome that weakness.

Sample Answer: One of my key strengths is my meticulous organisation skills. I’ve never missed a deadline, and I enjoy organising group projects as well as my day-to-day duties. On the other hand, one of my biggest weaknesses is public speaking; I am naturally shy and lack the confidence to get up and speak in front of a large group of people. To improve in this area, I enrolled in an acting class and have learnt great improvisation techniques which have helped with my overall presentation issues.

Going for any type of interview can be a scary experience, but by using these sample answers to articulate your personal experiences, you can get one step closer to your dream job.

What other questions were you asked in an internship interview? Let us know in the comments section below.