If you’ve just landed an internship interview in the United States, congratulations! We know the application process can be lengthy and difficult. It’s awesome that you are making progress toward your goal. Now that you’ve got a meeting on the calendar, it’s time to start preparing to answer some internship interview questions. 

We’ll walk you through the basics and give you plenty of action items to prepare. This piece will cover:

  • How to prepare for an internship interview
  • Top intern interview questions
  • How to dress for an internship interview
  • Questions to ask in an interview for an internship
  • And more internship interview tips

Preparing for an Internship Interview

It can be tempting to stop preparing for an internship opportunity once your motivation letter has been met with a request for an interview. However, now is not the time to stop working. While you are certainly a brilliant candidate, many others are as well. An interview is a chance to show a potential workplace that you would fit well into their team. 

Make a plan for how to prepare for internship interviews, and then commit to it. We’ll provide examples, suggestions, and action items below.

Common Internship Interview Questions

Mid-interview should not be the first time you are thinking about and sharing your answers to  top internship interview questions. If you’re an experienced interviewer, you may require less preparation. However, most candidates completing internship interviews will benefit from practice beforehand.

The first step is to write out questions your interviewer may ask. The University of Connecticut identified a few common interview questions on their website, including:

  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Why do you want to intern at this company?
  • What are your future plans?
  • What do you picture yourself doing in the next five years?
  • How do you deal with conflict?
  • Can you provide an example of a time you demonstrated leadership?

It’s also important to explore questions related to the specific position you are applying for. If you’re applying for a tech internship, your interviewer is likely to ask about what programming languages you are proficient in. If you’re interviewing to be a social media intern, you’ll want to be prepared to discuss how you’ve grown online audiences in the past.

If you are struggling to find examples of interview questions related to your specific opportunity, then consider connecting with your career center or check out some of our J-1 internship resources. You can also reach out to past interns or alumni working in similar fields. These professionals will be able to give you insight into probable interview scenarios. 

Intern Interview Questions and Answers

Once you’ve made a list of potential interview questions, you can start writing out your answers. These answers can draw on various aspects of your life, but you should aim to talk about previous work experience whenever possible. Campus jobs count!

Additionally, your answers should be full of stories. Your interviewer has already seen the basics of your experience on paper. Now, they want to get to know you and learn what you’re like on the job. 

Business consultant Robert Hellman emphasizes the importance of telling stories during interviews in a piece for Forbes. Hellman explains that stories are memorable and can help demonstrate your strengths. 

He suggests identifying two or three stories about previous roles that you can use as answers to interview questions. The goal is to focus on just a couple of stories so that you can fully develop them and tell them well. If you’re stuck on where to begin, try the structure he recommends: Problem-Action-Result.

Start your story by describing a problem you faced at your job (or your campus organization). 

  • Example: When I first started working at my university’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion–a place intended for students to hang out, study, and take a break–the office was frequently empty. No students stopped by. Many of my friends hadn’t even heard of the center.

Next, explain the action you took to solve the problem. This is the important part. Your interviewer wants to know more about how you handle bumps in the road. Do you take initiative? Do you solve problems creatively? Make sure to use action statements and emphasize the role you played in fixing things. (Hint: use the word “I” in your sentences).

  • Example: I saw the value of the space and wanted to make more students aware of it. To do this, I launched campaigns on Instagram and Tiktok. I posted photos and videos of the office staff chatting and reading in the center. In the captions, I invited viewers to imagine themselves studying here. I also included our location and hours so students could find us. At the end of the campaign, I’d produced over 50 pieces of content.

Finally, let your interviewer in on the results. So, you took action to solve the problem, but did you succeed? If you did, use concrete numbers to convey your success. If not, spend some time describing how learning from this experience helped you succeed later. Also, be sure to explain how this experience is applicable to the opportunity you are applying for

  • Example: Both campaigns were successful, but our TikTok page really took off. One of our videos amassed over 30k views (that’s larger than our student body!). When students saw the video, they were intrigued and sought out our office. Some started stopping by to study or chat every day. By the time I graduated, it was typical for over 50 students to pass through the Office of Diversity & Inclusion during any given shift. Growing our numbers online and in person allowed staff members to connect with more students and therefore fill more needs. The number of clubs and organizations sponsored by the office doubled during the two years I worked in the space. I tell this story because growing your company’s online presence is a big part of this internship. Could you share more with me about the team’s current social media goals?
Action Item: Take 30 minutes today to reflect on experiences you’ve had in an organization or job where you stepped up to the plate and solved a problem. Choose one experience and describe it using the Problem-Action-Result structure.

How to Answer “Tell me About Yourself” in an Internship Interview

Besides some of the most common internship interview questions we explored above, you are likely to hear the phrase “tell me about yourself.” Cue the scary music.

When you are unprepared, responding to this question can feel like fishing with your hands. Should you talk about school? Past work experience? Where you grew up?

Lucky for you, there is time to rehearse your response to this question. The job-finding platform Indeed recommends using the following structure to write out what you’ll say:

  1. The Present: Explain what you currently do or study. Highlight achievements or skills relevant to the position you are applying for. 
  2. The Past: Talk about other experiences you have and how it got you to where you are. If you haven’t had many jobs or internships, don’t worry. You can describe roles as a volunteer or leader of a club. Make sure to share how you made an impact and quantify this if possible. 
  3. The Future: Now it’s time to connect everything back to the internship you are applying to. How does your previous experience prepare you for the role? What will you bring to the table? Why are you excited about the position?
Action Item: Take a few minutes today to jot down your present and past experiences and reflect on how they relate to the internship you’re trying to land. When you have time, practice saying this out loud to the mirror or a friend. The goal is to know what points you need to hit on so that you can confidently answer this typical internship interview question.

If you’re stuck on where to start, here’s an example:

Hi, I’m Alex. Making computer science accessible is what I’m passionate about. I’m the captain of my university’s “Coding for Kids” Program, which reaches three dozen local elementary school students. During my first year of college, I wrote a short comic book about computer science basics. We use this material in the “Coding for Kids” Program. I’m working with the head of the Data Analytics Department at my university to develop an illustrated guide for their introductory courses. I’m super excited about this internship because your company’s goal is to make computer science education fun. I’d love to bring my illustration, teaching, and Python skills to the table to support this effort. Can you tell me more about what will make someone successful in this role?

Research Before Your Intern Interview

Make sure you do your research and already have a solid knowledge base about the company to which you are applying. 

While it’s great to ask your interviewer questions and aim for a conversational dynamic, you should not need answers to basic things like “what does your company do?” 

To answer these questions for yourself, you can start by checking out their website and reading their mission statement. It can also be a good idea to do a quick internet search on the organization and see if there is news about them. 

Knowing your stuff about the company will help you decide if the internship is right for you. Plus, it will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are serious about the role.

Action Item: Find out what the mission of the company you are applying for is. What are their values? What are their overarching goals?

What to Bring to Internship Interviews

The main thing you’ll need at an interview is yourself, confidence, and great answers.

Before your interview, sort out logistics. The day before your interview, ensure you know:

  • How to get to the meeting place (whether physical or virtual) 
  • How long it will take to get to the meeting place 
  • What time the interview will happen (pay attention to time zones!)
  • Who will be interviewing you

Knowing these details will help you make it to your interview on time. It will also give you time to review your answers, rather than spend the morning rushing to find the logistics in your inbox. 

man in white dress shirt standing beside man in black suit
Image source: unsplash.com

What to Wear to Internship Interviews

Whether your interview takes place in person, on Zoom, or over the phone, dressing well is a good idea. You want to feel put together and prepared. That’s hard to do in your pajamas.

How you dress communicates a lot. 

UC Berkely’s Career Center recommends dressing slightly more formally than the staff at the workplace you are applying to join. The three main categories of attire are:

  • Professional: This category is likely what you think of when you picture “businesspeople.” Attire includes suits, pantsuits, jackets and dresses.
  • Business Casual: Button downs, sweaters, slacks, and skirts are all acceptable for this type of dress. If you’re worried you still look too casual, add a blazer. 
  • Smart Casual: Nice jeans are acceptable with a button-down. At some companies, employees may come to work in jeans and a T-shirt. However, for an interview, it’s a good idea to dress slightly more formally.

If you’re unsure what to wear, talk to someone at your university’s career center. You can rarely go wrong with a button down and slacks.

Remember that a smile and good posture goes a long way! Even if you are interviewing over the phone, try standing and smiling as you answer questions. Although your interviewer won’t see it, they will hear it in your voice.  

Virtual Intern Interview Tips

For video call interviews, lighting and background are critical parts of presentation. You don’t need an in-dorm office to achieve this, but you do need to follow some standard rules of thumb:

  • Avoid locations that cast your face in shadow 
  • Aim to position windows in front of you rather than behind you
  • Position your camera at eye level (you want to avoid looking up or down at your interviewer)
  • Choose a simple, balanced background 
  • Find a quiet and private spot where you won’t have to stress about background noise

Depending on where you live, meeting the above criteria could be super easy or super stressful. If you don’t think you can cover all the tips above, that’s O.K. Just focus on finding a quiet, well-lit space. 

It’s also totally fine to ask for help. Staff at your school may be able to help you borrow an office or empty room for an hour. This way, you can complete your interview in peace.  

Questions to Ask at an Internship Interview

During the interview, be sure to share the stories you prepared that showcase how you are a good fit for the internship and what you would bring to the team. 

It’s also an awesome idea to prepare questions to ask during an internship interview. This allows your interviewer to know that you’ve done your research and are serious about the position. Plus, it gives you space to learn if the opportunity is right for you.

Good internship interview questions to prepare include open-ended asks that show you’ve done your research, like:

  • How does your team set goals and measure progress?
  • What is your favorite part about working for this company?
  • In what ways were past interns successful? Where did they struggle?
  • How do different teams at your organization communicate and collaborate?

Post-Interview: Thank You Notes

Once the interview is over, there’s still more to do.

Sending a thank you note is a key part of how to interview for an internship. It’s essentially an unwritten rule, so skipping it can hurt your chances of securing the opportunity. 

Fortunately, composing a thank you note isn’t hard. Plus, it’s a skill that will serve you in many situations.

Harvard Law School encourages interviewees to hit a few main points in thank you notes. They include:

  • Gratitude for your interviewer’s time and energy
  • References to things you talked about with your interviewer 
  • Enthusiasm about the internship
  • An invitation for the interviewer to follow-up or ask more questions. 

It’s perfectly fine to send a “thank you” through email. In fact, this is a great option because it will get your note to its destination quickly. It’s important to send thank you notes within 24 hours of your interview. If you are worried you’ll forget, create a template before your interview that you can edit and send directly after.

Let’s say Alex just finished their interview for the computer science education internship. Their thank you note could look something like this:

Dear Yesenia,

Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed learning more about the internship. The information you shared made me even more excited about the role. I’m very impressed by how the organization is filling the gap in computer science education for L.A.’s public schools. I’ve seen how impactful education can be through my university’s “Coding for Kids” program. I would be thrilled to lend the skills I’ve developed there to such a passionate team.

Please let me know if you need any more information from me. I look forward to hearing from you.


Good Luck on your Internship Interviews!

We hope this article gave you valuable insight into how to prepare for internship interview questions. If you are still looking for more internship opportunities to apply to, you can check out  our internship database.

Once you’ve accepted an internship offer, we’d love to work with you as a J-1 visa sponsor. We are passionate about supporting bright candidates through the legalities of global opportunities. Sharing our years of expertise with you would be a delight. You can contact us for more information.

Dec 8, 2021
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