If you are applying for student internships or a university co-op program, it is perfectly normal to feel a little nervous, especially about the internship interview questions you may be asked. But knowing how to have a successful interview is an important skill to learn—and one you will need after graduation, too. Prepare yourself to answer a variety of different internship interview questions so you can approach your interview with confidence.
Keep reading for tips on how to practice, prepare, and ace your first interview.
Common internship interview questions
There is no way to know exactly what you will be asked during your interview, but you can prepare answers to some common interview questions that you will likely be asked. Here are a few to consider:
Interview question 1: why do you want this job? / Why would you be a good fit?
While it may be true to say, “I want to work for a software company after graduation,” consider the perspective of the person interviewing you. They want to know why this internship appeals to you, more than what you will do in the future.
Instead, come up with a few specific reasons you admire the company or are excited about the potential work the internship would require. For example, you could say, “I like the way the company uses social media to communicate directly with its customers, and I would love the chance to bring my marketing skills to this role.” This question can also be a good opportunity to reference anything you found while researching the company or to bring up the main points from your cover letter.
Interview question 2: what are your strengths? / Tell me about yourself.
For a successful interview, your answer should balance showing your skills and enthusiasm with attention to the company and role. Take a minute to focus on your own academic, personal, and professional accomplishments.
Then, relate your experience back to the internship. For example, you might say something like, “During my time volunteering as a mentor for at-risk youth, I realized how important it is for nonprofits to focus on fundraising, which is what led me to apply for this opportunity in the development office.”
Interview question 3: what is your biggest weakness?
This can feel like a trick question, but it is actually a chance to show your humility and self-awareness, as well as your willingness to incorporate feedback. Cliché answers include “I work too hard,” or “I am a perfectionist.”
Try to answer in a more personal and honest way. For example, you could say, “When I first started working in a laboratory, I was more focused on outcomes than processes. Through my experiences, I have learned that some of the most interesting results are realized during the steps of an experiment.”
Interview question 4: how do you deal with stressful situations? / Tell me about a time you faced a challenge.
Just like the previous question, this is another chance in the internship interview to show how your thought process works. When answering, avoid placing blame on external elements, like saying, “I worked on a team project and my classmates did not complete their portion of the work on time, causing us to get a poor grade.”
For a successful interview, it is better to show your ability to be responsive in a potentially negative situation. For example, you could say, “During a group project, a few of the teammates were struggling with deadlines. I worked with them to help prioritize their work and communicate our issue to the instructor so we could adjust her expectations and complete the project on a revised timeline.”
You can research common internship interview questions specific to your field or the type of role you want, so you can prepare for what might be asked about your technical skills, industry knowledge, or similar.
Websites like Glassdoor even post previously asked interview questions that are crowdsourced from those who have already had interviews at specific companies. Remember, these questions may not be up to date, so use them only as general guidelines.
Questions to ask in an internship interview
During an interview, it is important to prepare your own questions to ask your interviewer. This shows that you spent time researching the company and are curious, thoughtful, and prepared.
Ky, a Florida International University student from Vietnam, worked with the Career Accelerator Program (CAP) to get a marketing internship with backpack manufacturer GORUCK, where she will gain first-hand marketing experience while earning academic credit. “My major is international business and I am always intrigued by the idea of developing strategies to sell or promote products,” she says. “Therefore, the marketing department is one of my areas of interest.”
Through my research, I realized the company culture is very open and unique, and the people that work [at GORUCK] are very passionate about their jobs.” – Ky, Florida International University marketing student, Vietnam
Make sure that the interview questions you ask are not ones with answers that can be easily found on the internet, such as the company size, annual revenues, acquisitions, and leadership. You will want to ask more detailed questions that pertain to your potential role.
Here are some questions to avoid, along with better questions to ask in an internship interview:
1. Do not ask: when was the company founded?
This information is easily located online. Asking this shows that you did not research the company beforehand.
2. Do ask: since the company was acquired last year, how has the focus on sustainability changed?
This shows you have done your research and have specific interests in the current state of the company.
3. Do not ask: what is it like working here?
This interview question is too general and does not show that you have given close consideration to the role.
4. Do ask: congratulations on being awarded the Best Place to Work in Chicago last year! How do interns factor into the company culture?
Again, this shows that you have been researching the company and have a specific question that pertains to your particular role.
5. Do not ask: what will I learn during the internship?
Similarly, this question is too general and too focused on what you will gain.
Do ask: what are some ways I can put my coding skills to work as an intern?
This question is more specific—and shows what you will be bringing to the role.
General internship interviewing tips
Prepare for the interview
Chinese MBA marketing student Anthony worked with CAP at Adelphi University to land his first internship. “They helped me learn how to speak and prepare for the interview,” he says.
With CAP, I corrected my resume, improved my interview speech, and more importantly I built confidence before my interview.” – Anthony, Adelphi MBA marketing student, China
Once you have finished researching the company and have targeted a few focus areas, meet with a counselor in your university career department, or ask a trusted friend to help with “mock interview” sessions, where you practice what you will say. If you find yourself saying “I don’t know” during your practice sessions, make a note to revisit these topics before your actual interview.
In addition to practicing your answers, ask for feedback from your mock interviewer about how you are presenting yourself: if you are fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, going off topic, talking for too long or not long enough. Ask for honest feedback during these sessions so you can improve your performance before the big day.
Melody, a Taiwanese University of Illinois at Chicago accounting major, also worked with CAP to get ready for her big interview. “The career advisor helped me work on my resume and cover letter,” she said. “He told me how to highlight my strengths. We also worked on mock interviews, which helped me practice. I got many good tips from the career advisor to secure a tutoring job.”
Consider these pro interviewing tips
Even at companies with an informal dress code, it is better to be overdressed for the interview than underdressed. When in doubt, wear a suit and tie or blazer.
It is always a good idea to bring breath mints, a small bottle of water, and extra items like hair ties and lip balm.
If you are bringing a portfolio or samples of your work, present them neatly in a case or folder.
Carry a notebook and pen to write down anything you want to remember.
Many buildings require a photo ID at security. Give yourself extra time to check in before the internship interview.
And please, do not forget to shut off your phone!
After your interview, send your interviewers a brief email to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Many interviewees also send a handwritten note, preferably sent within a day or two, to reiterate their interest in the role and to reference something discussed during the interview.
Interviewing is a skill: the more you practice, the easier it will become. Remember to breathe, remain calm, and focus on what you practiced. This is your chance to show your interviewer your personality, passion, and skills. Be yourself, and best of luck!
Learn more about Shorelight’s international student services and how we can help you prepare for your co-op or internship interviews >